Person

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Occupation:

Federal Judge

Location:

Washington, D.C

Ketanji Brown Jackson is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court considered the second-most-important federal court in the United States after the Supreme Court. Jackson attended Harvard University for undergraduate and law school and later worked at large corporate law firms. She was later appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C. before being appointed to the appeals court by President Biden in 2021. Jackson formerly worked as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and was seen as a front-runner to be nominated by President Joe Biden to the Supreme Court following Breyer’s 2022 retirement announcement. Jackson was announced as Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court on February 25, 2022. [1] [2] [3]

Background

Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the Miami, Florida area. Her father was an attorney for the Miami-Dade school board and her mother was the principal of a public magnet school in Miami. She attended Miami Palmetto High School, where she was among a group of students who reportedly “grilled” then Interior Secretary Donald Hodel during a 1987 visit to her high school, criticizing the Reagan administration for permitting offshore drilling in Florida. [4]

Jackson attended Harvard University for her undergraduate studies and worked at Time Magazine as a researcher and reporter before attending Harvard Law School. In law school, she was active in the Harvard Black Students Association and led a campaign against a student who displayed a Confederate flag outside his dorm room window. While in law school, she completed summer associateships at the law firms Kirkland and Ellis LLP and Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin LLP. [5] [6]

Following Law School, Jackson clerked for Judge Patti Saris, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, followed by a clerkship for Judge Bruce Selya on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She then became a full-time associate attorney at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin LLP (which has since merged with Baker Botts). [7]

Following a year in private practice, Jackson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer from 1999 to 2000. Following her Supreme Court clerkship, she worked as an associate for Boston law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, and then for Washington, D.C. law firm Feinberg Rozen LLP. Jackson then worked as an assistant special counsel for the United States Sentencing Commission, and subsequently as an assistant federal public defender. She then returned to the private sector become of counsel at Morrison and Foerster LLP from 2007 to 2010. [8]

In 2010, Jackson was appointed by President Barack Obama to the United States Sentencing Commission, where she was a commissioner until President Obama appointed her to become a federal district judge in Washington, D.C. in 2013. [9]

District Court Rulings

Jackson made several notable rulings in her capacity as a federal trial court judge in Washington, D.C. many of which struck down actions by the Trump administration. [10]

In 2018, Jackson sided with public sector labor union the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which challenged an executive order issued by then-President Donald Trump that attempted to curb the power of public sector unions by limiting the time union officials could spend with union members, limiting issues that unions could negotiate, and limiting the ability for workers disciplined for poor performance to appeal disciplinary actions. Jackson ruled that the executive order improperly “reduced the scope of the right to bargain collectively.” Then-AFGE president David Cox praised Jackson’s ruling. [11]

Jackson also issued a ruling in 2018 that blocked a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to end a $200 million annual grant program to 81 different programs designed to prevent teen pregnancy. While the Trump administration argued that the decision to end the grant program was not a policy decision and did not require further explanation under existing law, Jackson ruled against HHS and ordered the grants restored in a decision that she called “quite easy” for her to make given “HHS’s unmistakable and inexplicable silence” on why the program was ended. [12]

In 2019, Jackson ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn was not covered by “absolute immunity” from being forced to testify before Congress about the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives. Jackson ruled administration officials were not absolutely immune from testifying but did not make a ruling on executive privilege, meaning officials could decline to answer certain questions. [13]

Court of Appeals

In 2021, Kentaji Brown Jackson was nominated by President Joe Biden to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to the seat previously held by Biden administration Attorney General Merrick Garland. Jackson was confirmed by a narrow 53-44 vote in the U.S. Senate, in which all 50 Senate Democrats were joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in voting to confirm her. [14] [15]

Upon her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, Jackson became a frontrunner to be a potential nominee to the Supreme Court should a vacancy occur under President Joe Biden, given that Biden had pledged while campaigning for president to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court if given the chance. [16]

Jackson authored her first appeals court opinion in February 2022 in a case that sided with public sector unions by invalidating an attempt for the Federal Labor Relations Authority to strengthen bargaining requirements for public sector employees and exempting trivial workplace decisions such as office arrangements and seating from union bargaining. Jackson ruled that the agency did not provide clear evidence why the change was made and held that the rule change was “arbitrary and capricious.” [17]

Supreme Court Speculation & Nomination

When Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announced his intention to retire in early 2022, Biden reiterated his intention to nominate a Black woman for his seat. Jackson was seen as a strong frontrunner for the nomination given that she clerked for Breyer and because the D.C. appellate court is widely viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. [18] [19] On February 25, Biden announced he had selected Jackson as his nominee for the Supreme Court to succeed Breyer. [20]

References

  1. “Jackson Senate Questionnaire.” United States Senate Judiciary Committee. 2013. Accessed February 7, 2022.  https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Jackson%20Senate%20Questionnaire%20Public%20Final.pdf ^
  2. “Jackson, Ketanji Brown.” Federal Judicial Center. Accessed February 7, 2022.  https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/jackson-ketanji-brown ^
  3. Wilson, Christopher. “Biden Selects Ketanji Brown Jackson as Supreme Court Nominee.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, February 25, 2022. https://news.yahoo.com/biden-nominate-ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court-pick-135812855.html. ^
  4. Leibowitz, Aaron. “Supreme Court prospect Brown Jackson was ‘star in the making’ at Miami’s Palmetto High.” Miami Herald. January 27, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article257749578.html ^
  5. Marimow, Ann. “Biden’s court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson has navigated a path few Black women have.” Washington Post. April 30, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/ketanji-brown-jackson-biden-dc-circuit/2021/04/29/c0bd2f0c-a761-11eb-8d25-7b30e74923ea_story.html ^
  6. “Jackson Senate Questionnaire.” United States Senate Judiciary Committee. 2013. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Jackson%20Senate%20Questionnaire%20Public%20Final.pdf ^
  7. “Jackson Senate Questionnaire.” United States Senate Judiciary Committee. 2013. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Jackson%20Senate%20Questionnaire%20Public%20Final.pdf ^
  8. “Jackson Senate Questionnaire.” United States Senate Judiciary Committee. 2013. Accessed February 7, 2022.  https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Jackson%20Senate%20Questionnaire%20Public%20Final.pdf ^
  9. “Jackson, Ketanji Brown.” Federal Judicial Center. Accessed February 7, 2022.  https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/jackson-ketanji-brown ^
  10. Barbash, Fred. “The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in court.” Washington Post. March 29, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-real-reason-president-trump-is-constantly-losing-in-court/2019/03/19/f5ffb056-33a8-11e9-af5b-b51b7ff322e9_story.html ^
  11. [1] Vazquez, Maegan. “Judge strikes down sections of Trump exec orders for federal workers in victory for unions.” CNN. August 25, 2018. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/25/politics/donald-trump-executive-orders-unions/index.html ^
  12. Barbash, Fred. “The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in court.” Washington Post. March 29, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-real-reason-president-trump-is-constantly-losing-in-court/2019/03/19/f5ffb056-33a8-11e9-af5b-b51b7ff322e9_story.html ^
  13. Samulesohn, Darren. “Don McGahn must testify about time as White House lawyer, judge rules.” Politico. November 25, 2019. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/25/mueller-star-witness-must-testify-to-congress-judge-rules-073622 ^
  14. “Jackson, Ketanji Brown.” Federal Judicial Center. Accessed February 7, 2022.  https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/jackson-ketanji-brown ^
  15. “On the Nomination (Confirmation: Ketanji Brown Jackson, of the District of Columbia, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit).” United States Senate. June 14, 2021. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_votes/vote1171/vote_117_1_00231.htm ^
  16. Dailey, Kathleen. “Supreme Court Hopeful Tosses Labor Policy in Debut Ruling (3).” Bloomberg Law. February 1, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/bargaining-policy-tossed-in-judge-jacksons-debut-circuit-ruling ^
  17. Dailey, Kathleen. “Supreme Court Hopeful Tosses Labor Policy in Debut Ruling (3).” Bloomberg Law. February 1, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/bargaining-policy-tossed-in-judge-jacksons-debut-circuit-ruling ^
  18. Biskupic, Joan. “Leondra Kruger: California Supreme Court judge breaking barriers in the Golden State.” CNN. February 7, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/02/politics/leondra-kruger-supreme-court-profile/index.html ^
  19. Dailey, Kathleen. “Supreme Court Hopeful Tosses Labor Policy in Debut Ruling (3).” Bloomberg Law. February 1, 2022. Accessed February 7, 2022. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/bargaining-policy-tossed-in-judge-jacksons-debut-circuit-ruling ^
  20. Welker, Kristen, and Pete Williams. “Biden to Nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, February 25, 2022. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/biden-nominate-judge-ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court-rcna15941. ^
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