Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Is Poised to Become the First Black Woman to Serve on the Supreme Court. Her parents told her that her name translates to “lovely one.”
On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden named Judge Jackson to become the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a historic nomination in the 233-year history of the institution. On March 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for the President’s nominee, with Democratic leaders setting a goal of reaching a final Senate vote by April 8, 2022.
As these events unfold, Americans from all walks of life are being introduced to Ketanji Brown Jackson. In the White House nominating ceremony, President Biden introduced Judge Jackson with a focus on her genuine understanding of how the law affects everyday people. In his words, “She listens. She looks people in the eye, lawyers, defendants, victims and families. And she strives to ensure that everyone understands why she made a decision, what the law is, and what it means to them.” President Biden went on to say, “For too long, our government, our courts, haven’t looked like America. I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation, with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications.”
By all accounts, Judge Jackson, a wife and working mom, has a distinguished record of professional accomplishments and is exceptionally well-equipped for the role of Associate Justice. She has broad experience across the legal profession as a federal appellate judge, a federal district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an attorney in private practice, and a federal public defender.
President Obama called Judge Jackson an “unwavering voice for justice and fairness” when he nominated her to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2013.
Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison stated that “Judge Jackson will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Court. Her experience as a public defender will add a vital perspective.”
In introducing herself to others, Judge Jackson tells a heart-warming story about how she got her name. She has said that her mother, a high school principal, and father, a public school board attorney, chose her name after an aunt in the Peace Corps in Africa sent them a list of girls’ names and were told that Ketanji Onyika meant “lovely one.”
At her White House nomination ceremony, after thanking President Biden and Vice President Harris for the honor of her nomination, Judge Jackson spoke of the hope that her life and career could inspire future generations, the way she was inspired by Constance Baker Motley, the first Black female federal judge. She thanked all the former judges she had clerked for, but spoke especially to Stephen Breyer: “Justice Breyer, the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat, but please know that I could never fill your shoes.”
There is a great deal at stake for the country with the appointment of the next Justice and having a Black woman’s voice on the Supreme Court is critical. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is indeed a “lovely one” on a magnificent journey to a historic moment in American judicial history. I am so proud to be a part of this moment.