Ketanji Brown Jackson Biography
Ketanji Brown Jackson is a former federal judge and public defender nominated by President Joe Biden to become an associate justice on the Supreme Court. She is the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was the first Black woman to be nominated—and confirmed—for a seat on the high court.
Jackson grew up in Miami and shared in her high school yearbook her goal to eventually receive a judicial appointment. She obtained both her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard.
Ketanji has her roots traced to Nigeria.
|Real Name:||Ketanji Brown Jackson|
|Date of Birth:||September 14, 1970|
|Place of Birth:||Washington, D.C.|
|Husband/Spouse:||Patrick Graves Jackson( Married 1996)|
|Net Worth||$23 million|
Early Life, Childhood and Education
Ketanji Brown Jackson was born Ketanji Onyika Brown in Washington, D.C. on September 14, 1970. Her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, wanted to honor their ancestry and requested a list of African names for their daughter from a relative serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Ketanji Onyika, the name they chose, means “lovely one.”
While growing up in Miami, Jackson excelled in school. She was elected “mayor” of Palmetto Junior High School. She was elected class president at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.
Jackson was a natural orator, traveling across the country to compete in speech contests and ultimately becoming a national champion. After attending a competition at Harvard, Jackson was inspired to apply. She began working there in 1988.
Jackson’s college experience included membership in the improv troupe On Thin Ice. She also appeared in a Little Shop of Horrors production and was Matt Damon’s scene partner in drama class.
Jackson also concentrated on her studies and future legal career. Her senior thesis was titled “The Hand of Oppression: Plea Bargaining Processes and Criminal Defendant Coercion.” In 1992, she received her magna cum laude degree.
Jackson interned at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem before attending law school. In 1993, she enrolled at Harvard Law School. She was a law review editor and graduated with honors in 1996.
Ketanji’s decision to study law was highly influenced by her family background. Her father left his job as a history teacher to enroll in law school. As her father studied legal texts, Jackson while in pre-school will be colouring next to him.
Jackson’s father obtained his law degree and went on to be the chief attorney for the Miami-Dade school system. Her mother was also a teacher before she became the principal of a magnet public high school.
Jackson’s younger brother served as a police officer and in the military before also becoming a lawyer.
After earning her law degree from Harvard in 1996, she worked as a clerk for two federal judges. She was a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Breyer between 1999 to 2000.
Ketanji Jackson took a job with the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003, the first of her two stints on the commission. From 2005 to 2007, she worked as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C. Her caseload included representing indigent clients and some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
Jackson returned to private practice before being selected to serve as vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010.
She was seen as a consensus builder in shaping federal sentencing policy at a time when federal prisons were over capacity. The commission came to a unanimous agreement to lower federal drug sentences and granted this relief retroactively.
Call to the Bench
Jackson was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2012 to join the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C of which she was confirmed a seat on the Bench by the Senate via voice vote in March 2013.
On this court, Jackson’s notable cases included a 2019 ruling that President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel could not use executive privilege to avoid a congressional subpoena. Her decision noted, “Presidents are not kings.”
President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to the United States Court of Appeals on April 19, 2021. Her Senate confirmation hearing had some contentious moments, such as when one senator asked Jackson if she was concerned that her role as a public defender had resulted in criminals being released back into the community. Jackson responded that her work was an important part of the justice system.
Jackson was confirmed in April 2022 by a vote of 53-47, with the support of 50 Democratic senators and three Republicans.
In 1996, Jackson married Patrick Graves Jackson. They met while they were both undergraduate students at Harvard. Despite their disparate backgrounds—Jackson was a Black woman whose guidance counselor had discouraged her from pursuing a Harvard education, while Patrick was a white man whose family members had attended the university for generations—they fell in love.
Jackson and her surgeon husband have two daughters, Talia and Leila. In 2016, Leila wrote a letter to President Obama recommending her mother for the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
Ketanji Brown Jackson Net Worth
As of 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson has an estimated net worth of $23 million.