As we celebrate Black History Month, Cheddar is highlighting prominent Black Americans who are carving their own historic paths and trailblazing in their industries. While Black History Month has become synonymous with reflecting on past achievements of Black Americans, it is important that we acknowledge today's historic feats as they happen.
On Friday, President Joe Biden made the historic announcement that for the first time in 232 years, a Black woman would be nominated to be a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would claim the honor if she's confirmed following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer — the Supreme Court justice she once clerked for during her legal career.
“If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court United States, I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans,” she said during her nomination reveal.
Last year, Jackson was confirmed as a United States Circuit Judge and even garnered the support of three Republican senators, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. At the time, it had been at least a decade since a Black woman was confirmed to an appellate court. This time around Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took to Twitter to decry the pick after having supported Judge Jackson for the federal district court, but two other Republicans, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were less negative in their initial reaction.
"Ketanji Brown Jackson is an experienced federal judge with impressive academic and legal credentials. I will conduct a thorough vetting of Judge Jackson’s nomination and look forward to her public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to meeting with her in my office," Collins stated.
Prior to serving in the DC Circuit court, Jackson sat on the bench of the United States District Court, after her appointment by former President Barack Obama in 2013. A signature moment during her stint there was striking down provisions in an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump in 2018 that would have made it easier to fire federal employees.
"These directives undermine federal employees' right to bargain collectively as protected by the [Federal Service Labor Management Relations statute]. As a result, the president must be deemed to have exceeded his authority in issuing them," Jackson noted in her ruling.
According to the White House, President Biden was impressed by Jackson's "broad experience across the profession," including her time spent as a federal public defender and her role in the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she served as vice chair and commissioner.
Jackson, born in Washington, DC, and raised in Miami, Florida, noted her love of the law came from her father, an attorney, and that much of her family served the law, in law enforcement, or in the military.