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How Ketanji Brown Jackson is a departure from the norm–and the obstacles facing her confirmation to the Supreme Court

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(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, poses for a portrait, Friday, Feb., 18, 2022, in her office at the court in Washington.

President Joe Biden has selected Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge currently with the D.C. Circuit, as his nominee to fill former Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court, he announced on Friday. If confirmed, Jackson, 51, would be the first Black woman to serve on the high court. The decision to pick Jackson is part of Biden’s ambitious reworking of the federal judiciary that includes selecting more public defenders and civil-rights attorneys for judgeships—and nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court is a critical part of that vision. 

Jackson’s legal career will certainly be scrutinized by Senate Republicans ahead of her confirmation hearing. But it’s unlikely that the GOP will be able to make a play on delaying a vote given the availability of yes votes in the Senate, says Nick Beauchamp, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern. Still, Republicans may use the confirmation hearing to energize their base ahead of the midterm elections in November, Beauchamp says.

“I think they’ll see the hearings as a way of ginning  up donations and working up enthusiasm for the midterms,” Beauchamp says. 

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