As the confirmation hearings of what could be the first African American woman nominated to the Supreme Court rage on with tough questioning from both sides of the Aisle, here are seven important facts you may not know about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
- Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. but raised in Miami.
Her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, were schoolteachers. Her father went to law school at night and later represented the Miami-Dade School Board as its chief attorney.
“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,” Jackson said of her father when President Biden nominated her.
Her parents still live in South Florida.
- Her parents named her Ketanji to show pride in the family’s African heritage.
They asked an aunt in the Peace Corps at the time to send a list of African girls’ names. Ketanji Onyika means “lovely one.”
- Her younger brother Ketajh served as a Baltimore police officer.
He is also an Army veteran who served in Iraq, and now he too is a practicing attorney.
- She has a creative and comedic side.
At Harvard as an undergrad, she took drama classes and was in an improvisation group called On Thin Ice. She remembered once working with future actor Matt Damon as a drama class partner.
- She replaced Merrick Garland in the U.S. Court of Appeals when he became AG.
In her current position, Jackson serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She took over seat from Garland last year after he was appointed as Attorney General for the Biden Administration.
Prior to the start of her confirmation hearings, Garland, who has known Jackson since she was a public defender, called her nomination to the Supreme Court “an outstanding choice.”
- She clerked for Breyer in the 1999-2000 term.
When Breyer was consulted by the White House when Jackson was first nominated to the federal bench in 2013, he began the conversation with two words, “Hire her.”
- She was almost nominated by Barack Obama.
When the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left a vacancy on the Court during the Obama administration, Obama considered nominating Jackson as Scalia’s replacement.
Typically, only appellate judges get serious high court consideration. Obama interviewed Jackson in person, but the nomination went to Judge Merrick Garland. Jackson recalled her youngest daughter Leila urging her to apply for the job and penning a handwritten letter to the president, politely asking her mother be considered.
“Dear Mr. President … She can demonstrate commitment and is loyal and never brags. I think she would make a great Supreme Court Justice,” Leila wrote.
Jackson said she and her husband had to explain things to their daughter.
“Getting to be on the Supreme Court isn’t really the kind of job that you apply for,” she said. “You just have to be lucky enough to have the president find you among the thousands of people who might want to do that job.”