640px Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Wikimedia Commons c3f7f

6 Things You Might Not Know About Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson

by chiara Atoyebi

In a history-making moment, Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson was sworn in on June 30, 2022, becoming the first Black woman judge on the United States Supreme Court. President Joe Biden had formally nominated Judge Brown-Jackson in February to sit on the Court, a seat previously held by Justice Stephen Breyer.  The 51-year-old has already been vetted by the Senate and was confirmed in April. Jackson received her commission in June of 2021 to the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC. Judge Brown-Jakcson is not only the first African-American woman to hold the position, but only the 6th woman in history to serve on the highest court in the land. 

Here are some things to know about this amazing woman. 

1. She was one of Biden’s First Year Judicial appointments.

In March of 2021, Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Jackson as a circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit. In June of the same year, she received her judicial commission.

2. She attended Harvard—and Matt Damon was once her partner in acting class.  

Jackson studied government at Harvard University. She graduated magna cum laude in 1992 with an A.B. Harvard is also where she met her future husband, and sixth generation Harvard alum, Patrick Johnson, a surgeon. According to Politico, she once partnered with Matt Damon in an acting class. After working as a staff reporter for Time Magazine, she returned to Harvard to study law, graduating in 1996. 

3. She’s got family in the Grand Ole Party—by marriage.

Jackson’s husband, Patrick Jackson, is the twin brother of former GOP House speaker Paul Ryan’s brother-in-law. (Did you catch that?)  Her husband’s twin brother is married to Paul Ryan’s sister (Jana Ryan). At her confirmation hearing in 2012 for her to become a judge, Ryan spoke highly of her. “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal,” Mr. Ryan said according to the New York Times.

4. Her 11-year-old daughter once recommended her as Supreme Court judge to President Obama

Jackson and her husband have two daughters –Talia and Leila.  Leila appeared to be following in her mother’s persuasive footsteps at age 11, writing an impassioned letter to Former President Obama, petitioning for her mother to take Judge Antonin Scalia’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  “She’s determined, honest and never breaks a promise to anyone even if there are other things she’d rather do. She can demonstrate commitment and is loyal and never brags. I think she would make a great Supreme Court justice,” Leila wrote in an excerpt of her letter as reported on Abovethelaw.com. 

5. Jackson was the judge who sentenced the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist to four years in prison.

In 2016, a North Carolina man named Edgar Maddison Welch fired his AR-15 rifle into a Washington, DC pizzeria.  At his sentencing, Judge Jackson stated that Welch’s actions “literally left psychological wreckage,” according to the Associated Press. 

6. She brings diverse work experience and perspective to the age-old institution.

Judge Jackson has worked at the private law firm Morrison and Foerster and as a federal public defender in DC. Her unique experience as a federal public defender, a role that the other justices have not held, will likely impact her decision making, especially for Black and Brown communities.

Top photo by WikicagoCC-BY-SA-4.0

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