Joe Biden Has Made His Historic Supreme Court Pick

The president will nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the high court: The announcement is expected Friday afternoon

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

History will be made on Friday, when President Joe Biden announces that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, PEOPLE confirms.

Jackson's pick — after extensive deliberations and a round of finalist interviews — was confirmed by a source familiar with the matter.

Biden is expected to announce Jackson's nomination on Friday afternoon, the source says.

If confirmed, the 51-year-old Jackson, currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who said in January he will retire from the court.

Explaining the choice, a White House official said Jackson is seen as "one of our nation's brightest legal minds" and noted her career ranges from clerking for Breyer himself to serving as an appellate judge and on the U.S. Sentencing Commission as well as a federal public defender. Biden has made a point with his judicial nominees to draw from those with criminal defense experience.

The official also highlighted Jackson's history of bipartisan support before the Senate, including being confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. That vote was 53-to-44, with yeses from Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

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Perhaps mindful of the slim Democratic majority in the Senate ahead of November's midterms, the White House official urged a "fair and timely confirmation and hearing."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already vowed to do just that.

Born in Washington, D.C., but raised in Miami, Jackson graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She clerked for outgoing Justice Breyer for a term that began in 1999; he called her "brilliant" and praised her "common sense" and "thoughtfulness," according to SCOTUS Blog.

Jackson has said her time as a public defender informed her work as a trial judge because of how little her clients knew about the legal process.

On the District Court in D.C., Jackson recently joined an opinion that upheld the decision of a lower court ordering records from the Trump White House to be handed over to the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court later turned down the former president's request to overturn that ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on January 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine or testing mandate for large private businesses, but allowed a vaccine mandate to take effect for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The U.S. Supreme Court. Alex Wong/Getty

During his presidential campaign, Biden vowed to nominate an African-American woman to serve on the bench, reiterating that pledge once Breyer announced his intent to retire.

"I've made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character experience and integrity," Biden said in January. "And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue in my view. I made that commitment during my campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment."

Leading names on Biden's shortlist for the court also included Judges J. Michelle Childs and Leondra Kruger, among others.

Various Republicans have signaled a reluctance to move forward on confirming Biden's judicial nominee if they retake the Senate following the upcoming midterm elections. GOP senators previously stonewalled President Barack Obama's ability to make a replacement on the court in his final months in office, though their stance on the matter has seemingly changed to suit their political needs.

When conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared it too close to Election Day to consider a replacement, ultimately blocking the nomination of then-President Obama's choice for the high court, Merrick Garland.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Image

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At the time, McConnell, a Republican, said elected officials should "give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy" by waiting until the next president took office.

But after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in September 2020, President Donald Trump picked Amy Coney Barrett as her successor, a controversial and fast-paced decision that was pushed through by the Republican-controlled Senate just before the general election.

During his four-year term, Trump appointed three conservative-leaning justices to the Supreme Court: Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

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