Feminists React: Biden Nominates Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court—the First Black Woman Nominee

Advocates urged senators to not delay the confirmation process for Judge Jackson, who has been confirmed by the Senate with bipartisan support three times.

Photo shows Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, speaking into a microphone and gesturing with her hands.
Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2021. (Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images / POOL)

Friday morning, President Joe Biden announced he would be nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s vacancy on the Supreme Court. Jackson’s nomination carries particular weight given that if confirmed, she would be the first Black woman justice to serve on to the nation’s highest court in its 232-year history. 

Feminist groups and lawmakers applauded the nomination, citing Jackson’s qualifications and previous clerkship under Breyer as proof that she is more than qualified for the role.

“The fact that there has never been a Black woman on the Supreme Court means for my students up to this moment there was a door in our profession that was shut tight and locked—because there had never been anyone like them on the Court,” Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of Howard Law School, told Ms. on a recent episode of “On the Issues With Michele Goodwin.” “With this appointment, it really does represent that door opening.”

Breyer first announced his retirement last month. From the outset, the president has expressed his commitment to nominating a Black woman, despite racist and sexist attacks from the right before a candidate was even formally nominated.

“The notion that this is somehow an inappropriate skewing of demographics misses the point that the demographics were inappropriately skewed for most of the Court’s history,” said courts expert and UT law professor Steve Vladeck, who also pointed out that by historical standards of qualifications for appointed justices, Jackson is overqualified. “In many respects, what this is really about is trying to actually bring back some semblance of diversity.”

Advocates and organizations are urging the Senate to not delay the confirmation process, as it has done before for liberal appointees. Jackson has been confirmed by the Senate on three previous occasions—twice for federal judicial appointments and once to the U.S. Sentencing Commission—with support from Republicans as well as democrats. 

We’ve been following along with the nomination and confirmation process on our “On the Issues” podcast — be sure to listen to our latest episode, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to get the latest news on the SCOTUS front!

Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with President Biden as he announces Jackson as his pick for the Supreme Court. (Screenshot from White House)

Reproductive rights advocates celebrated Judge Jackson’s track record of defending personal rights and liberties, noting the importance of this record in the face of increasing attacks on reproductive autonomy.

“This nomination arrives as our freedoms and civil liberties are in crisis. The Court could rule to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent, established by Roe v. Wade, and decimate abortion access in states across the country. Now more than ever, we need a Supreme Court justice who understands the impact of the court’s rulings on people — particularly on reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights — and the importance of protecting individual liberties for generations to come.

Judge Jackson will play a crucial role in the direction the court takes in the future. As the Senate considers her nomination, we must not lose sight of how meaningful this moment is for this country, and for Black women. Far too often, we don’t see ourselves represented in the highest seats of government. This nomination is also part of essential work to rebuild our courts and protect our health and rights.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

“Judge Jackson is both an eminently qualified jurist and someone who understands the disproportionate impact of our laws and justice system on communities of color. Judge Jackson also has a demonstrated record of defending and upholding our constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms—including reproductive freedom. We are confident that she will be a voice for justice, equity, and freedom on the Court in the decades to come.”

—NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju

Racial justice and women’s rights advocates also celebrated the historic nomination, noting the power of diversity in judicial institutions, and the historic lack of representation for Black women in all branches of government.

“Judge Jackson is an eminently qualified public servant with distinguished experience as a federal judge, and her historic nomination promises an end to the erasure of Black women from our most sacred legal institutions. She brings extensive litigation experience at every level of the federal court system. As a District Court judge, she ruled on over 550 cases and is renowned for her careful, methodical approach to ensuring equal justice under law on reproductive rights, disability rights, and workers rights. It is incumbent upon senators to give her a fair and timely confirmation without obstruction, honoring their Constitutional duty to advise and consent and their moral duty to treat her with the respect and dignity she deserves.”

—Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center

“Diversity on our nation’s highest court sends a powerful message to the country that our justice system is informed by a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, which is critical to ensuring the legitimacy of the Court in a multicultural nation. Judge Jackson’s stellar credentials and legal career would bring much-needed diversity of professional background to the Court. 

We now call on the United States Senate, as it fulfills its constitutional duty to provide its advice and consent on judicial nominations, to ensure that Judge Jackson receives a prompt, full, and fair hearing.”

—Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president and director-counsel

Democratic lawmakers also joined in, congratulating Judge Jackson on her appointment.

“I look forward to meeting with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as soon as possible and I applaud President Biden for this historic nomination—I previously voted to confirm Judge Jackson to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and have been exceptionally impressed by her background, impressive credentials and singular dedication to the law. In particular, her background as a public defender, member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and daughter of public school teachers would bring a powerful perspective to the highest court in the land.”

—Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

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About

Oliver Haug is a social media editor and podcast producer with Ms. magazine. They are also a freelance journalist, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and sexual politics. Their writing has previously appeared in Bitch Magazine, them.us, the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit," and elsewhere. You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on Twitter @cohaug.