By Isabel Pulgarin
In a historic win, Miami native Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed April 7 by a 53-47 vote to become the first Black female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
On the Senate floor where Vice President Kamala Harris presided, a standing ovation was given for the future SCOTUS justice as almost all Republicans walked out. Over in the White House with her family, Judge Jackson was hugged by President Joe Biden.
Judge Jackson, who started working as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in June of 2021, was nominated this February and immediately put her Circuit work on hold. She was nominated by President Biden after Justice Stephen G. Beyer announced his retirement Jan. 27.
The justice in waiting will take the bench after the court returns from summer break in October. As she won’t be involved in this term’s big decisions like abortion and guns, she will be weighing in on cases like affirmative action and voting and gay rights.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington D.C. and later moved to Miami. She graduated from Miami Palmetto High School in 1988 then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in government, magna cum laude, and a J.D., cum laude from Harvard University by 1996.
After working as law clerks for different courts for about three years – including Justice Beyer – she rose to work at a few law practices and worked for two years as assistant federal public defender in 2005. She became vice chair/commissioner at the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010.
From there, she became a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013. Then last year moved to D.C.’s Court of Appeals.
“I think it’s about time this happened,” said Jessica Yeboah, a junior criminology major. “Even though she was the most qualified, the vote was still so close. I think this says a lot about our country.”
Though her nomination and confirmation process were not met without push back despite her list of qualifications. Senate Republicans suggested she was soft on child pornography offenders giving a little more than half of offenders a shorter sentence.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who voted among other Republicans to confirm Judge Jackson for her position on the U.S. Court of Appeals last year, said “you are the beneficiary of a lot,” suggesting she got to where she was from affirmative action.
Representatives from the American Bar Association testified to their investigation stating she is “well qualified” and had “no evidence” of leniency on crime as her sentencing was without bias and common in law.
“I think that representation does not equal tangible change,” said Sunita SpencerArcher, an international relations senior. “I think it is an amazing historical moment and I’ll be watching to see what happens.”
From a South Florida family made up of an attorney, school principal, and former Miami police chief, Judge Jackson will be one of four women and five men presiding over the Court.