Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Who Is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson?

(Michał Chodyra/Getty Images)

President Biden has just announced his first tranche of judicial nominees. Among them, as has long been speculated, is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the D.C. district court to fill the seat on the D.C. Circuit vacated by Merrick Garland when he became attorney general. That court is widely considered the second-most prestigious in the country and a feeder of Supreme Court nominees, including two of the last three chief justices. So while President Biden’s short list is notoriously opaque, it is a good bet from this nomination that Jackson is on it. Jackson has been on the Supreme Court short list of Demand Justice, to which prospects do not make the cut unless they are far to the left. Demand Justice is part of the Arabella Advisors network

Jackson received her B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992 and her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1996. Upon graduation, she clerked for the district court in Massachusetts, followed by a clerkship in the First Circuit. She then spent about a year as an associate at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin before going on in 1999 to clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court.

Over the next three years, she returned to private practice, working as an associate on mostly civil matters at Goodwin Procter and then The Feinberg Group. Her work shifted to criminal law in 2003, when she joined the staff of the United States Sentencing Commission as an assistant special counsel.

From 2005 to 2007, Jackson served as an assistant public defender in the Federal Public Defender’s Office.  In that capacity, she represented indigent criminal appellants before the D.C. Circuit. She remained there until 2007, when she joined Morrison & Foerster as of counsel. Her practice there consisted primarily of appellate work, which included amicus briefs on behalf of accused enemy combatants in military detention.

Jackson donated to the Obama campaign and was appointed in 2010 to be a commissioner and vice-chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. She served in that capacity for three years before President Obama appointed her to the D.C. district court. She is married and has two daughters.


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