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From Judge to Justice: Kentaji Brown Jackson’s rise to the Supreme Court

WRITTEN BY Annaliese Spielman

Next term, the first African American woman in history will take her place on the Supreme Court of the United States. Despite the fiasco of a senate hearing based on elected officials’ desperation for media attention, on April 7th, 2022 Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson was confirmed in a bipartisan vote.

As a former Supreme Court clerk, public defender, district judge, court of appeals judge, and member of the sentencing commission, Judge Jackson is a highly qualified individual nominated for the Supreme Court.

Judge Jackson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992. Four years later she graduated cum laude from the ivy league university’s law school. During her time as a law student, Judge Jackson served as an editor for the Harvard Law Review, a highly esteemed publication.

In serving as a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Bryer, Judge Jackson has followed the typical pattern of a majority of current justices. However, the distinction ends there. When Judge Jackson joins the bench next term, she will be the first Supreme Court justice with a background as a public defender. 

The job of public defenders is to represent defendants who can not afford representation by themselves. These jobs are not glamorous, but they are essential to the framework of the American justice system and provide a different perspective the Supreme Court should always be searching for.

Along with Justice Sotomayor, Judge Jackson has served as a judge on both Court of Appeals and District Court levels. According to University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck, Judge Jackson has more cumulative experience as a judge than four of the current justices combined. 

Nominated for the D.C. District Court in 2012, she was confirmed with bipartisan support the following year. In 2021, Judge Jackson was one of President Biden’s first nominees; she was confirmed by a bipartisan vote in the senate.

Justice Bryer, who Judge Jackson is set to replace, is the only current justice with experience on the sentencing commission. Judge Jackson served as Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission in 2009 under President Obama. 

Judge Jackson’s resume is beyond well-rounded and shows experience in numerous fields regarding the legal profession and judicial process. Her level of experience goes without question, therefore any complaints to be made regarding Judge Jackson’s confirmation are likely regarding her legal perspective and interpretations. 

Hopefully, her perspective as an black woman and education in different legal institutions will bring fresh ideas to the Court and help its policies better reflect the views of the American people in a branch of government historically controlled by white men.