A federal judge considered a potential future U.S. Supreme Court candidate will testify at a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday for her appointment by President Joe Biden to serve on a powerful appeal court.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson heads before the Senate Judiciary Committee after being elected to the U.S. District Court of Appeals to succeed Attorney General Merrick Garland on the bench. In the past, the appeal court acted as a springboard for some Supreme Court judges.
Biden, a Democrat, vowed to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court when he gets a chance to fill a vacancy that would be a historic first. Jackson is among the most influential Black women in the federal judiciary and is still relatively young at 50.
Jackson was named by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2013 and confirmed by a non-roll call voice vote by the U.S. Senate.
With the Supreme Court’s conservatives retaining a 6-3 majority, liberal activists urged the oldest member of the court, 82-year-old liberal justice Stephen Breyer, to resign this year while Democrats rule the Senate. An early Harvard Law School graduate, Jackson worked at the Supreme Court as one of Breyer’s law clerks.
Jackson is likely to face Republican Judicial Committee criticism of her judicial background, including several high-profile decisions. For example, in 2019, Jackson agreed to let the Democratic House of Representatives Judiciary Committee submit former Republican President Donald Trump’s then-White House counsel, Donald McGahn. Her decision was appealed and the litigation continues.
Obama considered Jackson to fill a 2016 Supreme Court vacancy before nominating Garland. But Senate Republicans delayed Garland’s nomination and left the vacancy open for more than a year, allowing Trump to make the appointment, not Obama. In 2017, Trump selected Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, the first of his three Supreme Court appointments.
In the 100-seat Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between the parties and is dominated by Democrats, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote, and nominees can gain confirmation of lifetime court appointments.
Biden nominated Jackson to succeed D.C. Circuit Garland. Jackson and another Black female judge, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, are considered frontrunners for Biden to step aside.
Before becoming a judge, Jackson had diverse legal experience, working as a private lawyer, a public defender, and completing two stints at the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent government agency that determines federal court sentencing policy.
Another Biden pick appearing at Wednesday’s hearing is Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a black female lawyer elected to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Zahid Quraishi, the first Muslim to serve as a U.S. district court judge, will also testify at the hearing. Quraishi currently serves as a New Jersey District U.S. judge.
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