US Supreme Court nominee from Miami-Dade acknowledges Palmetto teacher during opening statement

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee opened the hearings on Monday for Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Harvard-trained lawyer who grew up in Miami-Dade County and who President Joe Biden wants to see become the country’s first Black woman to serve as Supreme Court justice.

During her opening statement, Jackson said she was born in Washington, D.C., where her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, of Miami, worked as public school teachers. She said her family moved back to Miami-Dade County when she was four, so her father could go to law school at the University of Miami.

Jackson went on to become a member of Miami Palmetto Senior High School’s Class of 1998. She told the committee’s 22 senators that her teacher, the late Fran Berger, encouraged her to go to Harvard while she was a member of the school’s debate team.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, center, accompanied by her husband Dr. Patrick Jackson, right, steps out during a break in her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 21, 2022. The 51-year-old federal judge would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Jackson said she would defend the United States Constitution and rule on cases “without fear or favor” if she was given the opportunity to serve on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson would also be the third Black Supreme Court justice after Clarence Thomas and the late Thurgood Marshall.

“I stand on the shoulders of so many who have come before me,” Jackson, 51, said.

Sen. Chris Coon, D-Delaware, said he looks forward to meeting her family. Jackson sat in front of her husband, Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, a surgeon, and their daughters — Talia, 21, and Leila, 17. Jackson’s uncle Calvin Ross, a former Miami police chief who headed the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, was also an inspiration.

Jackson’s confirmation would not shift the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Her statement followed the opening statements of the committee’s 11 Democratic and 11 Republican senators. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Republicans will not engage in character assassination as they scrutinize Jackson’s philosophy during this week’s hearings.

“This is not about race. It is, however, about issues of substance,” Cruz said during his opening statement.

Jackson, who has been a federal judge for about nine years, would replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who she clerked for during the beginning of her legal career. Democrats praised Jackson’s legal career and integrity.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, right, speaks as Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 21, 2022. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, listens at left. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said the appointment of a Black woman to the Supreme Court should have happened years ago.

“We will never know in detail all of the challenges and obstacles that you have overcome to be here today,” Blumenthal said.

While some Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, accused Jackson of issuing lower sentences in child pornography cases, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, said Jackson is not a “judicial activist,” “anti-law enforcement” or “soft on crime.”

“I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building, equal justice under law, are a reality and not just an idea,” Jackson said.

The committee adjourned before 4 p.m. and will reconvene on Tuesday morning.

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PART 2 OF DAY 1: Watch afternoon hearing (After recess)

PART 1 OF DAY 1: Watch morning hearing (Before 1:30 p.m. recess)

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.