Thurgood Marshall, a Black Supreme Court Justice was elected in 1967. In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman Supreme Court Justice. Ketanji Jackson, a Black woman sitting on the Supreme Court is now poised.
The D.C. Circuit Judge has been selected by President Joe Biden. According to TIME, Circuit Judge was selected to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. This is confirmed by a source who has been familiar with the White House selection process. Jackson, 51, had been rumored to be the President’s top choice since she was confirmed to the the D.C. Circuit in a 53-44 vote, with three Republican senators supporting her.
Jackson will bring with her a range of experience that is currently missing from the Supreme Court. She has not been a corporate or prosecutor lawyer, but she does have a lot of legal knowledge. From 2005 to 2007, she was a federal public defense attorney. She would become the first Justice since Marshall to represent indigent criminal defendants. Jackson held the position of vice chairman on the U.S. Bipartisan Commission from 2010-2014. Sentencing Commission. This was a time when the Commission reevaluates the 100-to-1 crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity.
These are the most recent weeks Biden had reduced his list.Only a few people were selected, including J. Michelle Childs (South Carolina District Judge) and Leondra Kruger (California Supreme Court Justice). The background check was done by his team on each of the three finalists.
The process now moves to Congress after Biden has officially announced his decision. Former Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has been tasked by the White House to be Jackson’s “sherpa,” meaning he’ll work to help her navigate the Hill in what can be a deeply contentious process. Jones will assist Jackson in arranging meetings with Senators on both sides to garner support for her nomination. One aide to the Democratic Judiciary Committee says such meetings have proven crucial for past nomination processes.
Jackson will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, where she’ll face days of questioning about her career, past rulings and judicial philosophy. Nearly every member of Durbin’s Judiciary Committee nominations team has worked on a Supreme Court nomination in the past. Now that they have the name of the President’s pick, they’ll begin poring over her case records, publications, public statements and rulings—and will give that information to other committee Democrats so they can begin evaluating her record and writing their questions. A Republican Senate Judiciary Committee assistant said that Supreme Court nominees have to complete a questionnaire detailing their professional history. The questionnaire is traditionally tailored for each nominee and agreed on by Republicans and Democrats.
Democratic Judiciary Committee aides tell TIME they’ve been preparing for this moment for weeks, mindful that the speed at which they can move a nominee through the process hinges on whether she’s come before the committee before. Since Jackson went before the Committee just a year earlier—and confirmed with little drama—they expect the process will be swifter than if she was new to the Judiciary Committee.
While a source close to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN last month that Schumer hopes for a timeline similar to the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett—who was confirmed in less than five weeks in the fall of 2020—Democratic Judiciary Committee aides say that “the chair sets the timeline.” Aides say Durbin will ensure Senators on the committee will have the opportunity to speak with the nominee, review her record and “question her thoroughly about that record.” Taylor Foy, the communications director for the committee’s ranking member Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, says he’d expect a timeline closer to 45 days.
Jackson doesn’t need any Republican support to move to the Senate floor to vote for confirmation to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who voted in favor of Jackson being confirmed to the D.C. Circuit just last year, although he’d publicly backed South Carolina District Judge Childs for the Supreme Court spot since Breyer announced his retirement. Graham told reporters on Feb. 2 that Childs is “somebody I could see myself supporting.” He warned that if Biden’s pick isn’t Childs, it could be “much more problematic.”
Jackson will be confirmed if the Senate votes 51 to confirm her nomination after it has been processed by this committee. (Supreme Court nominees used to require the support of 60 Senators, but in 2017 the Republican-controlled Senate created a filibuster carve out for Supreme Court nominations to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch.) Democrats are eager to speed up Jackson’s final vote. If a Democratic Senator retires, falls ill or passes away, they could lose their fragile 50-50 majority in the Senate—the stakes of which were highlighted earlier this month after New Mexico Democrat Sen. Ben Ray Luján suffered a stroke and underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling in his brain. (In mid-February, Luján reported he would be back on the floor of the Senate “in just a few short weeks to vote on important legislation and to consider a Supreme Court nominee.” On Feb. 18, he tweeted that he was in inpatient care.)
While Democrats do not need Republican support to confirm Biden’s nominee, Senate Democratic aides say that Durbin has preemptively reached out to Republican colleagues to discuss the confirmation process, including Sens. Grassley Graham, Susan Collins and Susan Collins in Maine. Durbin may also be relying upon his relationship with Thom Tillis in North Carolina. He has close relationships to Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas and that might help with the smooth running of the process.
While Jackson could win an historic confirmation in the coming weeks, she won’t change the ideological balance of the court. There are six conservative Justices on the Supreme Court and three liberal Justices, and her confirmation wouldn’t change that makeup.