Ketanji Brown Jackson: Who is the Supreme Court nominee backed by President Biden?

Credit: AP

US Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, faced questions from Senators on Tuesday, as she begun the second day of her confirmation hearing.

Judge Jackson told the hearing on Monday she was "humbled and honoured" to be nominated to replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

She is the first black woman to be nominated to serve on the court, and would become only the third black Supreme Court Justice if she is appointed to the role.

Since it was established in 1789, 115 people have served on the court with 108 of those being white men.

In her opening statement to the hearing, Judge Jackson, who has worked as both a defence lawyer and a judge, thanked her parents for teaching her that "if I worked hard and I believed in myself in America, I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be".

"He's been the best husband, father and friend I could ever imagine"

She also thanked her husband Dr Patrick Jackson, who was clearly moved by the moment, for his "unconditional love".

Introducing him to the committee, she said: "We met in college more than three decades ago, and since then he's been the best husband, father and friend I could ever imagine.

"Patrick, I love you."

Who is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson?

Judge Jackson, 51, was born in Washington DC but grew up in Miami.

When she was in school in Florida, she told a guidance counsellor she wanted to attend Harvard. The counsellor reportedly replied that she shouldn't aim "so high".

She would go on to graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating with distinction.

After finishing law school, she worked for Justice Stephen Breyer - whose seat she will take on the court if she is confirmed as a Justice.

On Monday she praised his legacy, saying he "exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court justice of the highest level of skill and integrity, civility and grace."

Judge Jackson then spent two years serving as a public defence lawyer, representing those who could not pay for a lawyer.

In 2012, she was nominated by President Obama to serve as a District Judge for the District of Columbia - a role she worked in until 2021.

Last year, President Biden nominated her to become a Judge on the US Court of Appeals, which is her present role.

The Supreme Court is dominated 6-3 by conservative Justices but, if confirmed, it is expected she will join the liberal side.

She lives with her husband and two daughters in Washington DC. 

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, which holds Supreme Court hearings, praised Judge Jackson for her record.

Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono told the hearing on Monday: "Let me be clear your nomination is about not about filling a quota.

"It is about time.

"It's about time that we have a highly qualified, highly accomplished black woman on the Supreme Court."

Judge Jackson replaces Justice Breyer seen here second right on the bottom row Credit: Associated Press

What is the Supreme Court?

  • The Supreme Court, which was established in 1789, is the highest court in the United States

  • Nine justices sit on the court, with each nominated by the President at the time

  • Justices have their roles for life, but can resign, retire or be removed from the court

  • The court decides on major legal and constitutional issues such as abortion and voting rights

  • Nominees have to win support from the majority of the Senate to be confirmed, but this has become a politically polarising issue in recent years

Judge Jackson will face critical questions from Republicans on the Committee as the hearings progress.

On Monday Republican Senator John Cornyn criticised her for representing four Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying he was "troubled by some of the positions you've taken and arguments that you've made."

On Tuesday, Judge Jackson hit back against the criticism saying she was "standing up for the constitutional value of representation".

The hearings will last for four days, but Judge Jackson will only be present for the first three of those with the last dedicated to outside witnesses.

The Committee will then vote on the nomination, before the whole Senate votes.

Judge Jackson will need to win the support of a majority of Senators in order to be confirmed.

The current Senate is split 50-50, which may mean Vice President Kamala Harris has to be the deciding vote to secure Judge Jackson's confirmation.

Democrats hope to confirm Judge Jackson by Easter, when the Senate begins it recess.