Appearing alongside Jackson at the White House on Friday, Biden described his nominee as a jurist with a “uniquely accomplished and wide-ranging background.” If confirmed, he said, Jackson “will bring extraordinary qualifications, deep experience and intellect, and a rigorous judicial record to the court.”
Jackson serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a post that Biden nominated her to last year to replace current Attorney General Merrick Garland. Three Republicans — Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — joined all 50 Democrats in voting to confirm her to that post. Jackson had previously been a trial judge in Washington, D.C. for eight years, and before that worked as a public defender. She also was a law clerk to three judges, one of whom was Breyer.
“She is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice,” Biden tweeted on Friday morning.
If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history. In 2020, then-candidate Biden had pledged to nominate a Black woman to the high court in advance of the South Carolina primary, the first presidential nominating contest that relies on a significant African American vote. Following Breyer’s retirement announcement in January, the president reiterated that intention. All but seven of the 115 justices who have served on the court have been white men.
Jackson had been the leading contender among SCOTUS watchers. She earned both her undergraduate and law degrees at Harvard, where she also edited the Harvard Law Review. Her perch on the U.S. Court of Appeals, the second-most important court in the country, is a common credential of those eventually promoted to the Supreme Court. At 51, she could serve as a liberal voice on the court for several decades.
Her nomination satisfies the demands of progressives, who have called for more diverse representation and experience on the Supreme Court bench.
“I am proud to witness the long-awaited, long-overdue nomination of the first Black woman to the United States Supreme Court,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “I applaud President Biden for fulfilling his campaign promise and naming Judge Jackson, a judge with a strong track record of advancing civil rights, as our nation’s next Associate Justice.”
Jackson spent time as a federal public defender and served on President Barack Obama’s U.S. Sentencing Commission, which reduced the sentences for many drug convictions. She drew applause from Democrats for a line in her 2019 ruling that forced White House Counsel Don McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena. “The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote.
That same sentiment drew sharp ire from Republicans, who already began registering the disdain for Jackson’s nomination on Friday. “If media reports are accurate, and Judge Jackson has been chosen as the Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Breyer, it means the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again,” tweeted Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) before the White House made its official announcement.
Graham had favored Michelle Childs, a U.S. District Court judge. “The attacks by the Left on Judge Childs from South Carolina apparently worked,” he wrote.
Childs was also a favorite of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose endorsement of Biden in the 2020 presidential primary has been widely credited with helping the president secure his party’s nomination. While Childs had been viewed as a pick who could potentially draw in Republican confirmation votes like Graham’s, she lacks the high court experience that Jackson has.