Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will make history as first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court


Libby Kaseta '22

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

In a historic nomination decision February 25, President Joseph R. Biden selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the 116th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  Today, April 7, the United States (US) Senate confirmed Judge Jackson with a 53-47 vote, making her the first Black woman to serve as a justice, according to The New York Times.  Judge Jackson’s appointment will also help to close the gender divide on the nation’s highest court, as she will be one of four female justices.  Senior Angélique Wheeler,  co-captain of the Sacred Heart Greenwich Mock Trial team, believes that Judge Jackson’s confirmation is a crucial first step towards increased representation and equity in the US.

President Joseph Biden nominates Judge Jackson to fulfill the position of 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court February 25.  Courtesy of Shutterstock

Judge Jackson grew up in Miami, Florida, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Government.  After graduation, she worked as a staff reporter and researcher for Time magazine, where she wrote articles on economic policy and rising drug prices, according to time.com.  She later graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996, according to thecrimson.com

Judge Jackson also worked as a clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer from 1999 to 2000, according to The New York Times.  She gained respect and recognition from her colleagues during this period, according to law.com.  One of her former associates, Ms. Erin Glenn Busby, elaborated on Judge Jackson’s ability to maintain her composure, especially during trying times.

“She has always been even-keeled, level-headed, sensible,” Ms. Busby said, according to law.com.  “If everyone is going a little crazy, the person who is calm and figuring out what needed to be done, that’s Ketanji.”

Mr. Biden nominated Judge Jackson to replace Justice Breyer, who served in the Supreme Court for 28 years.  Her nomination and subsequent confirmation fulfill Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge to increase racial and gender representation on the Supreme Court by nominating a Black woman, according to cbsnews.com.

Angélique reflected on the gravity of Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge and commented on the perspective she has gained as a student in Advanced Placement (AP) Comparative Government.

“Her confirmation would raise the male-female ratio of the court to 5 to 4 rather than 6 to 3, it is a large step toward gender equality on the Supreme Court and in lower courts as well,” Angélique said.  “Hopefully, we will see more from political parties in terms of echoing President Biden’s actions of nominating a Black woman to the nation’s highest court. In [AP Comparative Government], I learned about Mexico’s laws that require political parties to have a certain number of women as candidates for office in each election year.  That policy has had an immense impact, Mexico’s legislature has a much smaller gender gap than we do in the United States.”

Judge Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings began March 21.  The committee adjourned after four days of the confirmation hearing.  The United States Senate confirmed Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court April 7, according to npr.org

Judge Jackson first recognized the injustices in the legal system when she was a freshman at Harvard University and her uncle faced life imprisonment for a drug-related conviction.  Other members of her family work in the Miami criminal justice force, according to The New York Times.  Her father, Mr. Johnny Brown, is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and was the attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board.  His work exposed Judge Jackson to the field of law at an early age.  Judge Jackson credits her father’s hard work and passion for his career with sparking her interest in the legal system, according to news.miami.edu.

Ms. Leila Jackson, daughter of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, smiles during her mother’s Supreme Court nomination hearing. Courtesy of The New York Times 

“It was my father who started me on this path,” Judge Jackson said, according to news.miami.edu.  “When I was a child, as the president mentioned, my father made the fateful decision to transition from his job as the public high school history teacher and go to law school. Some of my earliest memories are of him sitting at the kitchen table, reading his law books.  I watched him study, and he became my first professional role model.” 

Angélique hopes to see equal gender representation in law in the future.  As a member of the Mock Trial team, she described how even high school judicial systems mirror the gender disparity in the Supreme Court.

“On many teams, there are gender imbalances when it comes to who has a lawyer role and who does not, and even who gets more speaking time or acts as the attorney for a witness more central to the case,” Angélique said.  “These more involved roles, with more opportunities to practice skills and gain recognition from the judges, more often go to boys.  I think the same is likely of our real-world justice system, but the Sacred Heart team regularly proves that it does not have to be that way; girls can have any role they want in the judicial system, from an expert witness to judge.”

Featured Image by Libby Kaseta ’22