By: Victoria L. Coman
Words have the power to steer life.
As many say, a person can speak things into existence. That is certainly true for newly confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who recently was green-lighted by a United States Senate vote of 53-47 to be the newest Supreme Court Justice.
President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to fill the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson will be sworn in this summer after Justice Breyer retires.
Justice Breyer announced his retirement on Jan. 27.
“I am the dream the dream and the hope of the slave,” Judge Jackson said quoting the late writer, actress, and activist Maya Angelou during an event at the White House on the South Lawn. She shed tears during the event which included President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the first African American and first woman to hold the second-highest office in the land. “In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Jackson, a 51-year-old Miami native, wife, and mother of two, currently serves as an appeals court judge on the Washington, D.C. Circuit. She is a former public defender who put action to words that she shared in her Miami Palmetto Senior High School Yearbook.
Jhonny Brown, Judge Jackson’s father, and former Miami-Dade County School Board chief attorney said his daughter made up her mind about what she wanted to do in Junior High School.
“Everything she did led to this,” Brown told miamitimesonline.com He spoke about the judge’s yearbook entry. “That was her goal and she never wavered from it one iota.”
Judge Jackson’s mother, Ellery Brown, a former principal of New World School of the Arts in Miami-Dade County, said her daughter had a love and knack for Debate, reading, and writing at a young age. She said the judge also had an interest in music, taking piano lessons for seven years at the Miami Oratorio Society.
“She’s always been a very independent thinker; I cannot remember a time where we had to say, ‘Do your homework,” Brown told the south Florida online news site of her daughter. “In fact, what we’ve had to say is, ‘Go to bed. That’s enough…’ We never had to encourage her to do her best because she was going to do it anyway, even putting in more (work) than what we thought was necessary.”
Jackson attended Harvard University, she has also worked at a private law firm and was appointed as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. During the four days of Senate hearings in March, she told senators she would apply the law, ‘without fear or favor’ and she deflected attempts by Republican lawmakers to “portray her as too lenient on criminals she had sentenced,” AL.com reported.
Judge Jackson will be the third African-American justice, following the late Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Clarence Thomas. She will be the sixth woman. Jackson will join three other women justices including Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett – making the Supreme Court include four women of the nine justices.
While Judge Jackson has broken ground in becoming the first African-American woman to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, she follows in the footsteps of Judge Amalya Lyle Kearse, who serves on senior status with the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Kearse was the first African-American woman judge appointed to an appellate court.
“Kearse was a key figure in paving the way for Black woman judges,” according to 19thnews.org Kearse was considered for a Supreme Court nomination by three different presidents, a first for a Black woman, the news site pointed out.
“Amalya Kearse’s existence on President Reagan’s shortlist over 40 years ago is concrete evidence that for as long as women have been allowed to be on the Supreme Court, there have been Black women who have been qualified to be there, and it is a long time coming to finally have that fulfilled,” Renee Knake Jefferson, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, told 19thnews.org. Knake co-authored the book, “Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court.”