PINECREST, FLA. (WSVN) - With the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, the spotlight shines partially on a Washington, D.C. circuit judge who grew up in South Florida as a possible nominee to replace him.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in the nation’s capital but called Miami-Dade County home. She graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1988.
During her time as a Panther, Brown Jackson served as class president, secretary of the National Honor Society and a member of the debate team.
Former Palmetto High School teacher Jay Salon remembers her well.
“She was a very good student. She was always determined to do well in all of her classes,” said Salon.
“Miami Palmetto has a rich history of producing some of these amazing individuals from the school, so we are really excited and very proud,” said Miami Palmetto Senior High principal Victoria Dobbs.
The 51-year-old went on to graduate from Harvard University, where she also received her law degree.
Brown Jackson spent her early years in various legal roles in D.C., including clerking for Breyer. She served as an assistant federal public defender up until 2012, when President Barack Obama nominated her to serve on the federal district court in D.C.
“I clerked for three federal judges before I became a judge,” Brown Jackson said. “They were models of judicial independence.”
In 2021, she was successfully confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals following a nomination from President Joe Biden. The pick was seen as a move meant to groom her for a vacancy like a seat on the Supreme Court.
“When you become a judge, you’ve taken an oath to look only at the law in deciding your cases, that you set aside your personal views about the circumstances, the defendant or anything else,” said Brown Jackson during a congressional hearing.
“It’s really positive for our community, positive for Miami, positive for our world, yes,” said Miami resident Grace Bloom. “Great role model.”
Over the past decade on the bench, Brown Jackson presided over cases of political significance, including former President Donald Trump’s challenge to a congressional subpoena related to the Capitol riot. Along with two other judges, she ruled in favor of Congress. The Supreme Court affirmed that outcome.
Now, this Palmetto graduate, accomplished attorney and federal judge could face a daunting and most likely very political confirmation process on the path to the nation’s highest court.
“I know very well what my obligations are, what my duties are: not to rule with partisan advantage in mind, not to tailor or craft my decisions in order to try to gain influence or do anything of the sort,” she said during a congressional hearing.
If Brown Jackson is appointed as justice, she will be the first Black woman to fill the role.
It’s a history tied to South Florida where those who knew her said they were not surprised.
“This happened to Ketanji. It’s really something else. It’s very awesome, very awesome to have students, former students, and students you know of reach this height of success, so that’s really something else,” said Salon.
“She’s only one, so it’s a process,” Bloom said. “We have a long way to go.”
“It’s really great when women in general are represented, but I think more importantly, that she’s very qualified for the job,” Dobbs said.
As of Thursday morning, no official nomination to fill Breyer’s seat has been announced. A timeline for Biden to make his selection remains unclear, but Democrats on Capitol Hill said they will make a speedy confirmation.
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