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Biden introduces Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Joe Biden has nominated federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first black woman selected to serve on a court that once declared her race unworthy of citizenship and endorsed segregation.

As he introduced Ms Jackson, Mr Biden called her a “proven consensus builder” who has “a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people”.

“She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice,” the president said.

Biden Supreme Court Vacancy
President Joe Biden speaks as he announces Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In brief remarks, Ms Jackson thanked Mr Biden, saying she was “humbled by the extraordinary honour of this nomination”.

She highlighted her family’s first-hand experience with the entirety of the legal system, as judges and lawyers, an incarcerated member and police officers.

Standing alongside Mr Biden at the White House, she spoke of the historic nature of her nomination, noting she shared a birthday with Constance Baker Motley, the first black woman to be confirmed to the federal bench.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court 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,” Ms Jackson said.

In Ms Jackson, Mr Biden delivers on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and to further diversify a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries.

He has chosen an attorney who would be the high court’s first former public defender, though she also possesses the elite legal background of other justices.

Ms Jackson would be the current court’s second black justice — Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, is the other — and just the third in history.

She would replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is retiring at the end of the term this summer, so she will not change the court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

Supreme Court Confirmation Process
(AP Graphic)

Ms Jackson would join the court as it weighs cutbacks to abortion rights and will be considering ending affirmative action in college admissions and restricting voting rights efforts to increase minority representation.

She would be only the sixth woman to serve on the court, but she would join three others already there, including the first Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Ms Jackson, 51, once worked as one of Mr Breyer’s law clerks early in her legal career. She attended Harvard as an undergraduate and for law school, and served on the US Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy, before becoming a federal judge in 2013.

Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority by a razor-thin 50-50 margin with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker.

Party leaders have promised swift but deliberate consideration of the president’s nominee.

The news comes two years to the day after Mr Biden, then struggling to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, pledged in a South Carolina debate to nominate a black woman if presented with a vacancy.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin said in a statement that the panel will “begin immediately” to move forward on consideration of an “extraordinary nominee”.

Senators have set a tentative goal of confirmation by April 8, when they leave for a two-week spring recess. Hearings could start as soon as mid-March.

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