who is Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman appointed to the Supreme Court?

It’s a “historic day”, greeted Joe Biden, the President of the United States. After four days of hearings, the Senate confirmed the nomination as Supreme Court Justice of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African-American magistrate to enter the temple of American law, one of whose missions is to settle the country’s important societal debates, such as abortion or homosexual marriage.

This nomination was greeted by a standing ovation from the Democrats in the Chamber. She was also praised by Michelle Obama, as well as Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights icon, or the charismatic Stacey Abrams, black candidate for governor of Georgia. Back on a flawless career.

A Florida born teacher’s daughter

Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, spent her entire childhood in Miami, Florida, in a family of teachers in the public. His mother, Ellery Brown, became headmistress in public education and her father, Johnny Brown, earned a law degree after returning to school.

By “pride in their heritage” and “hope for the future”his parents gave him an African name, Ketanji Onyika, meaning “the charming”, she told Congress during the confirmation hearing to become a Supreme Court judge on March 21. Unlike them, who “have personally experienced segregation”she underlined her “chance” to be born after the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s which brought down many racist laws in the southern states of the country.

Brilliant student, Ketanji Brown Jackson distinguished herself in eloquence contests and graduated from Harvard Law School. It was at this time that she met her future husband, Patrick G. Jackson, then a medical student. “He is the best husband, father and friend I could imagine”she said.

Married in 1996, Ketanji Brown Jackson and her husband had two daughters: Talia, 21, and Leïla, 17. Both were present during the confirmation hearing of their mother, who addressed them. “Girls, I know it hasn’t been easy as I’ve tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and my motherhood. And I fully admit that I haven’t always found the right balance. But I hope you’ve seen that with hard work, determination and love, it can be done.” reports CNN (in English).

A court-appointed lawyer before becoming a federal judge

Upon completion of his studies, Ketanji Brown Jackson alternates experiences in the private sector, in law firms, and in the public, in particular at the Sentencing Commission, an independent agency responsible for harmonizing criminal policy in the United States. During her career as a lawyer, she was called upon to defend defendants who could not afford their own lawyers, by being assigned to the legal aid service in Washington.

“Anyone accused of criminal behavior by the government, regardless of wealth and the nature of the charges, has the right to the assistance of an attorney.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson

during his hearing before the Senate

She also explained that she was struck by their ignorance of the law and that, once she became a judge, she took “great care” to explain its decisions to the condemned, so that they understand the seriousness of their acts and the imposed sanction.

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In 2013, his career took a new turn. Democratic President Barack Obama appoints her as a federal judge in Washington. Over the next eight years, she rendered dozens of decisions. In 2019, thShe disavows President Donald Trump, who is trying to prevent Congress from summoning one of his advisers in the case of suspected collusion between Moscow and the campaign team of the future president in 2016. “The main lesson to be learned from the last 250 years of American history is that presidents are not kings,” did she writein a long text (PDF in English).

A candidate supported by Joe Biden and elected Democrats

His nomination was a campaign promise from Joe Biden. This is why, as soon as he is elected in 2021, he appoints Ketanji Brown Jackson to the influential Washington Federal Court of Appeals, considered a springboard for the Supreme Court. And when progressive Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, announces his decision to leave the Supreme Court in January, it makes sense that Joe Biden chooses Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace him. She had been his assistant at the start of his career in 1990-2000.

All elected members of the Democratic Party and three moderate Republican senators, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, voted to bring this experienced lawyer into the American temple of law. “You are here because you deserve it” and “No one will steal my joy!” launched the black senator Cory Booker during the hearing, in a flight that tore a tear from the magistrate. In 233 years of existence, the highest judicial institution in the country has never experienced within it only five women, four white and one Hispanic, and two black men, one of whom, Clarence Thomas, was appointed by George Bush Sr. and still sits.

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During his hearing in Congress, Ketanji Brown Jackson took on the role of “model” for “little girls all over the country” and hopes his Supreme Court nomination will increase “trust” African Americans in the justice system. During her previous confirmation process, she had already sworn to keep out, in her work as a judge, “his personal opinions and any other inappropriate consideration”, including skin color. But “I may have a different life experience than my colleagues”she added. “And I hope it can be of interest.”

A judge who aroused Republican opposition

And Ketanji Brown Jackson was a rather popular candidate with public opinion, she had to face attacks from Republican senators during her hearing. The elected Republicans criticized the balance sheet of the magistrate in order to present it as a “militant judge gentle with crime”, lift him up Guardian (article in English). Several have accused her of having imposed too light sentences in several cases of child pornography, underlines the Washington Post (article in English). Republican Senator from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn also pointed to the seat occupied by the magistrate on the board of directors of a school which “pushing anti-racist education program for white families”reports the New York Times (paid article).

Although the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson is memorable, it does not change the political composition of the Supreme Court, which remains one of the most conservative in recent decades. The transfer of power between Stephen Breyer et Ketanji Brown Jackson should take place on June 30.



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