As President Biden considered a handful of black women for the Supreme Court, two things drew him to US Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, according to people familiar with his decision-making process. Jackson was molded by his predecessor, retired Justice Steven Breuer; And, like Biden, she came with a rounded resume strengthened by her work as a public defender.
Those traits eventually persuaded the president to nominate Jackson on Friday, making her the first black woman Supreme Court nominee in the nation’s history. The result could be that she may soon sit on that bench. A person close to the White House said preparations for the hearing would begin later this week and Hill visits would begin next week. Although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to hold the confirmation vote by Easter, people close to the White House have also noted that it only took 27 days for Justice Amy Connie Barrett to be confirmed in court from the time of her nomination. .
It was not too early to reach this point, according to interviews with more than a dozen Biden confidants, White House officials, advocates and people close to aspiring court candidates. While Biden’s deliberations began last month, the president and White House officials long ago began to lay the groundwork that led them to Jackson. Biden began reviewing resumes for potential Supreme Court choice shortly after entering the Oval Office. After Justice Stephen Breuer announced his retirement last month, the president immediately began seeking the advice of lawmakers, legal scholars, civil rights leaders and judicial activists.
For Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who spent much of his career shaping and examining the judicial system, choosing a Supreme Court nominee is arguably one of the most, if not the most important, part of his presidency. One of the duties. Introducing Jackson Friday from the Cross Hall of the White House, Biden pointed to his work for Breyer and the special relationship he has with the retired justice, as well as his experience as a public defender — if he is confirmed. So for the first time for the High Court.
“It spoke to him in a significant way,” retired Harvard University law professor Lawrence Tribe said of Jackson’s public defender years. “He understood in a way that a president who was not himself a public defender might not have been able to understand what it meant and why it gave him a specific point of view.”
Throughout his Senate career and his 2020 presidency, Biden often claimed his time as a public defender in Delaware, a brief stint beginning in his career in the late 1960s. Tribe, a constitutional law expert who had been in close contact with Biden and advisers throughout the selection process, said Biden “thought he learned a lot from that time in his life”, “under the conditions of life on the street”. About, about the way of the common people”. entangled in criminal activity, and he certainly found that it placed him in a better position to be kind to people on all sides of every issue. ,
Tribe said he told the White House early in the process that he supported Jackson, whose opinion he studied with other potential Supreme Court candidates. He noted his “analytical talent” as well as his experience on sentencing commissions, district courts, and the US Court of Appeals in the D.C. Tribe over the past eight months, also outlining his empathy, another trait that he had with Biden himself. was closely related. “She’s very good at understanding where other people are coming from,” he said.
Biden’s meeting with Jackson took place on February 14. A person familiar with the process said another finalist — California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger — had flown in from California for an interview last week.
Biden informed Jackson on Thursday evening that she was his choice. According to a person familiar with the process, the White House was still seeking information from at least one other claimant as of Tuesday before it went dark. The White House was determined to meet the deadline they would set to nominate by the end of the month. He was also invested in trying to move more quickly than previous Democratic presidents.
But they were surrounded by other political realities. A 50-50 Senate made the usually uncertain process even more difficult; A war in Ukraine drew the president’s attention elsewhere. Ultimately, prior to Breyer’s retirement, President Barack Obama took a few more days (29 total) from Breyer’s retirement to pursue Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the seat of retired Justice David Souter.
On Friday morning, Biden spoke with Democratic leaders on the Hill, including Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jim Clyburn (DSC), who played a key role in reviving Biden’s 2020 campaign and who two years ago had assured them. To take an oath to christen a black woman.
Clyburn and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had repeatedly and vocally pushed for Biden to elect Judge J. Michelle Childs, who serves in a federal district court in Palmetto State. However, public lobbying had mixed results. While it elevated Childs to a potential Supreme Court nominee—much higher than she would have been otherwise—it also upset some White House officials and others close to the White House.
With only a few weeks to go before the late February deadline, there was a feeling inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that if Biden were to choose Childs, it would be seen as acting out for political reasons – a A nod for Clyburn to be an early beneficiary in his state, and because Graham ruled out the possibility of a broad bipartisan vote in the Senate.
Officials were delighted by Clyburn’s comments to the Washington Post last week that they didn’t see his support as an ultimatum, seeing it as an implicit ramp up for the South Carolina Democrat to back Jackson. By last weekend, reality was rolling in, with many people close to Clyburn indicating they didn’t think Childs would be Biden’s choice.
Despite campaigning public pressure, the White House kept a tight lid on the selection process, with officials telling Jackson he was selected before telling Childs and Kruger that he was not nominated. Biden appeared to like the announcement on Friday, joking that he “presided over more Supreme Court nominations than almost anyone living today.”
Tribe said of Biden, “He loved every minute of it because he loved constitutional law and it was exciting for him to make this choice.”
As a senator, Biden spent “hundreds of hours” preparing confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees, he said in a 1991 speech before the Detroit College of Law. In those remarks, he described the judges appointed to the High Court as “the most important” people, “more important and longer affecting life than any president or any Congress has ever had or will desire.”
On Friday, Biden argued that he found the nominee “deserving of the excellence and decency of Justice Breuer.”
“Not only did he learn about being a judge from Justice Breyer, but he saw the great rigor through which Justice Breyer carried out his work,” Biden said. “He learned from his willingness to work with colleagues from different perspectives. Now years later, she is stepping into the court to fill Justice Breyer’s spot with a uniquely accomplished and comprehensive background.”
Before making his decision, Biden and his staff engaged a wide audience of outside voices. He and his staff also spoke with Republican senators, in the hopes that they might win some of their votes for final confirmation.
The sale continued on Friday as Biden highlighted his unique resume while introducing Jackson to the White House. After Justice Breyer, Jackson, if confirmed, would be the only member of the High Court to have previously served on the United States Sentencing Commission. After Justice Sotomayor, Jackson will be the only other judge on the court to have experience as a trial judge. If confirmed, Jackson would become the second judge – after Thurgood Marshall – to ever sit on court for criminal defense experience and the first public defender.
National Action President Reverend Al Sharpton said, “She brings to life experience that we don’t often get in court, and is someone who doesn’t look through the lens of a prosecutor but through the lens of her defense.” Network. “As we strive to have a balanced, fair criminal justice system, his presence appeals to me.”
During the deliberation process, Sharpton told Biden that he was not looking for a thinker, but he warned Biden that “somebody who is just black is not what he needs. He needs someone like that.” need a person who is sensitive [and understands] Civil liberties and civil rights.
Biden, Sharpton recalled, told him: “I get it.”
Sam Stein, Josh Gerstein and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.