Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, is appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week after being nominated by President Biden to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
Much of Judge Jackson’s early career was informed by experiences as a student at Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she confronted questions of race and identity within the most elite circles of higher education. She earned her law degree in 1996.
After graduation, she held three clerkships with federal judges, including in 1999 as a clerk to Justice Breyer, who she is now under consideration to succeed more than 20 years later.
From 2005-2007 she also worked as a federal public defender, a role in which she helped Khi Ali Gul, an Afghan detainee held at Guantánamo Bay, petition for his release. If confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the modern court’s first justice with experience as a public defender.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has spent much of her career in Washington, serving as a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2013 to 2021, and currently the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She replaced Merrick B. Garland, who joined the Justice Department as Attorney General, on the Court of Appeals last year, and was confirmed by a vote of 53-44.
As a federal judge in Washington, Judge Jackson has presided over several politically charged cases. In 2017, she sentenced the gunman who stormed a Washington pizzeria targeted by “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorists to four years in prison. She also ruled in 2019 that Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, would be required to testify before House impeachment investigators considering articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
Judge Jackson is married to Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, a surgeon who she met while studying at Harvard. They have two daughters.
She is also related by marriage to a former House Speaker and Republican vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. His sister-in-law, Dana Little Jackson, is married to Dr. Jackson’s twin brother, William Jackson.