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Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92, Biden’s Historic SCOTUS Pick, Would be 18th Harvard Law Graduate to Serve on Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson '92 pictured at the Judge James B. Parsons Legacy Dinner on Feb. 24, 2020.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson '92 pictured at the Judge James B. Parsons Legacy Dinner on Feb. 24, 2020. By Lloyd DeGrane via Wikimedia Commons
By Cara J. Chang and Isabella B. Cho, Crimson Staff Writers

President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92 to the Supreme Court on Friday, paving the way for the first Black woman to sit on the bench.

If confirmed, Jackson would be the 11th Harvard College graduate and the 18th Harvard Law School graduate to sit on the Supreme Court, which currently includes four HLS alums. She would be the eighth justice to attend both the College and HLS.

Prior to serving as a Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals judge in 2021, Jackson served as a United States District Judge and as Vice Chair and commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission. In addition to being the first Black woman to serve on the court, Jackson would be the first former public defender to sit on the bench if confirmed.

Jackson currently serves on the Harvard Board of Overseers, the University’s second-highest governing body. Experts say Jackson could face calls to recuse herself from a high-stakes affirmative action lawsuit the court is set to hear in the fall that challenges Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions process. Her six-year term on the board expires later this year.

Biden nominated the Harvard alumna in a speech at the White House Friday.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson '92, photographed at Harvard's Loeb House in 2020.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson '92, photographed at Harvard's Loeb House in 2020. By Rose Lincoln / Harvard Staff Photographer via Wikimedia Commons

“It’s my honor to introduce to the country a daughter of former public school teachers, a proven consensus-builder, an accomplished lawyer, a distinguished jurist on one of the most prestigious courts,” he said. “My nominee for the United States Supreme Court is Judge Ketanji Jackson.”

Following Biden’s speech, Jackson said she hopes to inspire future generations of Americans if confirmed.

“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans,” Jackson said.

Ivy League alumni dominate the Supreme Court. Of the bench’s nine current justices, only one, Amy Coney Barrett, attended law school at an institution other than Harvard or Yale.

If confirmed, Jackson would join three other Harvard Law School graduates on the bench: Chief Justice John G. Roberts ’76 and Justices Elena Kagan and Neil M. Gorsuch. Retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer also attended Harvard Law School.

Earlier this month, over 170 Black Harvard alumni penned a letter to the White House urging Biden to nominate Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Jackson’s nomination comes as the Court prepares to hear a slew of high-profile cases — including the admissions suit against Harvard seeking to strike down affirmative action in American higher education.

She will need all 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris for confirmation. Democratic leaders say they hope to confirm Jackson by the April 11 recess.

Correction: February 28, 2022

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92 would be the first Black justice to sit on the United States Supreme Court. In fact, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the court.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at cara.chang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at isabella.cho@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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