Reuters – A federal judge considered a possible future U.S. Supreme Court nominee is set to testify on Wednesday at a Senate confirmation hearing for her selection by President Joe Biden to serve on an influential appeals court.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee after being nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the bench. That appellate court in the past has served as a springboard to the Supreme Court for some justices.
Biden, a Democrat, pledged during his election campaign to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if he gets a chance to fill a vacancy, which would be a historic first. Jackson is among the most prominent Black women in the federal judiciary and, at age 50, is also relatively young.
Jackson was appointed to her current post by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2013 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a non-roll call voice vote.
With conservatives holding a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, liberal activists has been urging the court’s eldest member, 82-year-old liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, to retire this year while Democrats control the Senate. A Harvard Law School graduate, Jackson early in her career served as one of Breyer’s law clerks at the Supreme Court.
Jackson is expected to face scrutiny by Judiciary Committee Republicans on her judicial record, which includes some high-profile rulings. Jackson, for example, in 2019 decided to let the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee subpoena former Republican President Donald Trump’s then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn. Her ruling was appealed and the case is ongoing.
Obama considered Jackson to fill a 2016 vacancy on the Supreme Court before picking Garland as his nominee. But Senate Republicans blocked Garland’s confirmation and kept the vacancy open for more than a year, enabling Trump rather than Obama to make the appointment. Trump in 2017 picked conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, the first of his three Supreme Court appointments.
Nominees can win confirmation to lifetime judicial appointments with a simple majority vote in the 100-seat Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between the parties and is controlled by Democrats because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote.
Biden nominated Jackson to replace Garland on the D.C. Circuit. Jackson and another Black female judge, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, are considered frontrunners to be nominated by Biden should Breyer step aside.
Before becoming a judge, Jackson had a varied legal career, working as a lawyer in private practice, a public defender and serving two stints at the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency that sets sentencing policy for the federal courts.
Another Biden selection appearing at Wednesday’s hearing is Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a Black woman lawyer nominated to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also set to appear at the hearing is Zahid Quraishi, who would be the first Muslim to serve as a U.S. district court judge. Quraishi currently serves as a U.S. magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)