The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial body in the country, and its nine justices have the power to shape the law and the society for generations. Therefore, the appointment of a new justice is always a momentous and controversial event, especially in the current polarized political climate.
In October 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge, to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would become the first Black woman and the third woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court, making history and fulfilling a long-standing demand of many civil rights activists and legal scholars.
But who is Ketanji Brown Jackson, and what are her qualifications, views, and achievements? In this article, we will explore the background, career, and opinions of the history-making SCOTUS appointee NYT crossword clue.
Early Life and Education
Ketanji Brown Jackson was born on September 1970 in Washington, D.C., to Johnny and Elorie Brown, both public school teachers. She grew up in Miami, Florida, where she attended Palmetto Senior High School and graduated as the valedictorian of her class. She was also a talented violinist and a member of the Greater Miami Youth Symphony.
Jackson went on to study at Harvard University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in government, magna cum laude, in 1992. She was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. She then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude in 1996. She was also an editor of the Harvard Law Review and a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
Legal Career and Experience
After graduating from law school, Jackson clerked for three federal judges: Judge Patti Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Judge Bruce Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court. She was the first Black woman to clerk for Breyer, and the second Black woman to clerk for any Supreme Court justice, after Sharon Malone, who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Jackson then worked as a litigation associate at the law firm of Goodwin Procter in Boston, and later as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., representing indigent defendants in criminal cases. She also taught as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and American University Washington College of Law.
In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Jackson to serve as a commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency that sets guidelines for federal sentencing policy. She was the first Black woman and the youngest person to serve in that position. She was also the vice chair of the commission from 2014 to 2017.
In 2013, Obama nominated Jackson to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the federal trial court in the nation’s capital. She was confirmed by the Senate by a unanimous voice vote, becoming the first Black woman to serve on that court since 1980. She presided over several high-profile cases, including a challenge to the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service, a lawsuit by House Democrats to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn, and a criminal case against former Trump adviser Roger Stone.
In 2020, Biden nominated Jackson to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the federal appellate court that is often considered the second most powerful court in the country, after the Supreme Court. She was confirmed by the Senate by a 53-44 vote, becoming the first Black woman to serve on that court since 1999. She replaced Judge Merrick Garland, who became the U.S. attorney general under Biden.
In 2022, Biden nominated Jackson to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, to succeed Justice Breyer, who announced his retirement after 27 years on the bench. She is currently awaiting confirmation by the Senate, which is expected to be a contentious and partisan process, given the ideological and demographic implications of her nomination.
Judicial Philosophy and Opinions
Jackson is widely regarded as a moderate liberal, who is respectful of precedent, attentive to facts, and careful in her reasoning. She is also known for her clear and concise writing, her collegial and courteous demeanor, and her commitment to equal justice and the rule of law.
Some of her notable opinions include:
- In 2016, she ruled that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to temporarily fill vacant executive positions, does not apply to positions that require Senate confirmation, such as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She rejected the argument that the president could bypass the Senate’s advice and consent role by appointing an acting director who was already serving in another position. According to The New York Times, her opinion was “a rare rebuke of presidential authority” and “a victory for advocates of a strong and independent consumer watchdog agency” .
- In 2017, she ruled that the U.S. Postal Service violated the law by discriminating against a deaf and hard-of-hearing mail carrier, who was denied reasonable accommodations and subjected to a hostile work environment. She awarded the plaintiff $229,500 in damages and ordered the Postal Service to provide him with appropriate equipment, training, and supervision. She wrote that the Postal Service’s conduct was “outrageous” and “reflects a stunning lack of respect for and dignity towards” the plaintiff .
- In 2019, she ruled that the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service was unconstitutional, as it violated the equal protection and due process rights of transgender service members and applicants. She issued a preliminary injunction to block the ban from taking effect, pending further litigation. She wrote that the ban was “driven by a desire to express disapproval of transgender people generally” and that it was “not genuinely based on legitimate concerns regarding military effectiveness or budget constraints” .
- In 2020, she ruled that House Democrats had the legal standing to sue the Trump administration for refusing to comply with a subpoena for testimony and documents from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was a key witness in the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possible obstruction of justice by Trump. She wrote that the administration’s claim of absolute immunity for McGahn was “baseless” and “a fiction” that would undermine the separation of powers and the checks and balances among the branches of government .
- In 2021, she dissented from a decision by the D.C. Circuit that upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by two former Guantanamo Bay detainees, who alleged that they were tortured and abused by U.S. officials and contractors. She argued that the majority’s interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign nationals to sue for violations of international law in U.S. courts, was too narrow and inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s precedent. She wrote that the majority’s ruling “leaves these plaintiffs without a remedy for grave harms inflicted by U.S. actors on foreign soil” and “undermines the United States’ commitment to the rule of law and human rights” .
Personal Life and Interests
Jackson is married to Patrick Jackson, a surgeon and an associate professor of surgery at George Washington University. They have two daughters, Eve and Anna, and a son, Peter. They live in Washington, D.C., where they are active members of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jackson is a descendant of slaves and slave owners, and a relative of former President Barack Obama. Her maternal grandfather, Prince Albert Brown, was born in 1895 to a Black mother and a white father, who was the son of a Confederate soldier. Brown’s father abandoned him and his mother, and he grew up in poverty and segregation in South Carolina. He later moved to Washington, D.C., where he became a successful businessman and a civil rights leader. He was also a cousin of Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, making Jackson and Obama distant relatives.
Jackson is an avid reader and a fan of crossword puzzles. She enjoys solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, and has even appeared as a clue in the puzzle twice: once in 2017, as “Judge Ketanji ___ Jackson, possible Supreme Court nominee”, and once in 2022, as “With 38- and 43-Across, history-making SCOTUS appointee” . She is also a music lover and a former violinist, who played in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is a history-making SCOTUS appointee NYT crossword clue, who is poised to become the first Black woman and the third woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court, if confirmed by the Senate. She is a highly qualified and respected jurist, who has a distinguished and diverse legal career, a moderate and principled judicial philosophy, and a remarkable and inspiring personal story. She is also a crossword enthusiast, a music lover, and a relative of former President Obama. She is a trailblazer and a role model, who represents the best of America’s values and ideals.