By Emmanuel Nduka
US President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to be elevated to the nation’s highest court for the first time in its 232-year history.
51-year-old Jackson was nominated to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is the most senior jurist in the court’s three-member liberal wing, and is due for retirement at the end of the court’s current session this summer.
“Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation,” the White House said in a statement.
she will sit on the powerful US court of appeals for the DC circuit, after winning bipartisan approval during her Senate confirmation last year, when Biden elevated her from the federal district court in the District of Columbia.
Jackson who clerked for Breyer during the supreme court’s 1999-2000 term, was born in the nation’s capital and raised in Miami, and is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
In its statement, the White House added that Biden has sought a nominee “who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the constitution as an enduring charter of liberty”.
“The president sought an individual who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that the supreme court’s decisions have on the lives of the American people,” it said.
Her nomination fulfils a campaign promise Biden made to supporters when his prospects of winning the Democratic presidential nomination appeared dim.
Meanwhile, her confirmation would not affect the ideological composition of the court, controlled by a conservative super-majority of six justices, including three appointed by ex-President Donald Trump, but it does secure a liberal seat on the bench likely for decades to come.
In January when Breyer announced his retirement, Biden vowed to nominate a jurist with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity”. He said “that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States supreme court.”
Urged by Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina ahead of his state’s primary, Biden made the pledge during a debate, exactly two years ago. Days later, with Clyburn’s endorsement, Black voters lifted Biden to a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary that set in motion a string of successes that ultimately earned him the nomination and later the White House.
The promise however divided Republican senators, some of whom argued that race or gender shouldn’t play a role in the selection process, despite similar commitments from Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Trump.
Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have said they intend to move forward quickly with the confirmation process.
“The historic nomination of Judge Jackson is an important step toward ensuring the supreme court reflects the nation as a whole. As the first Black female supreme court justice in the court’s 232-year-history, she will inspire countless future generations of young Americans.
“With her exceptional qualifications and record of evenhandedness, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a Justice who will uphold the constitution and protect the rights of all Americans, including the voiceless and vulnerable,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said.
Jackson’s will be the first Supreme Court confirmation hearing for a Democratic President since Elana Kagan was nominated by Barack Obama 12 years ago.