Ketanji Brown Jackson

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Ketanji Brown Jackson
020820 Overseers 0040.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Assumed office
March 26, 2013
Appointed byBarack Obama
Preceded byHenry H. Kennedy Jr.
Personal details
Ketanji Onyika Brown

(1970-09-14) September 14, 1970 (age 50)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Spouse(s)Patrick Jackson
EducationHarvard University (AB)
Harvard Law School (JD)

Ketanji Brown Jackson (born September 14, 1970) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Early life and education[edit]

Jackson (née Brown) was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida.[1] Her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown,[2] are an attorney and retired school principal, respectively.[3] Jackson attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School from 1984 until 1988, where she was a national oratory champion.[1][4] She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in government from Harvard University in 1992 and a Juris Doctor degree cum laude in 1996 from Harvard Law School,[1] where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.[5] Jackson has served as a law clerk for three federal judges, including U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Patti B. Saris (1996–97) and U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Judge Bruce M. Selya (1997–98). She then clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1999 until 2000.[1][6]

Early legal career[edit]

Jackson worked in private legal practice from 1998 to 1999 and again from 2000 to 2003.[7] From 2003 to 2005, she served as an assistant special counsel to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she drafted proposed amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling United States v. Booker.[1]

From 2005 to 2007, Jackson represented indigent criminal appellants in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as an assistant federal public defender.[7] From 2007 to 2010, Jackson was an appellate litigator at the law firm of Morrison & Foerster.[7][6] During her time at Morrison & Foerster, Jackson was counsel of record on Supreme Court amicus briefs in notable cases, such as Arizona v. Gant, on behalf of National Association of Federal Defenders,[8] and Boumediene v. Bush, on behalf of former federal judges.[9][1]

Appointment to U.S. Sentencing Commission[edit]

On July 23, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Jackson to become Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.[10] The U.S. Senate confirmed Jackson by unanimous consent on February 11, 2010. She succeeded Michael E. Horowitz, who had served from 2003 until 2009. Jackson served on the Sentencing Commission until 2014.[11][6] During Jackson's time on the Sentencing Commission, it retroactively amended the Sentencing Guidelines to reduce the guideline range for crack cocaine offenses,[12][13] and it enacted the "drugs minus two" amendment, which implemented a two offense-level reduction for drug crimes.[14]

District Court service[edit]

Jackson on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

On September 20, 2012, Obama nominated Jackson to serve as a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to the seat vacated by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., who retired on November 18, 2011.[15] On January 2, 2013, her nomination was returned to Obama because the Senate adjourned sine die. On January 3, 2013, she was renominated to the same office, and on February 14, 2013, her nomination was reported to the full Senate by voice vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee.[16] She was confirmed by the full Senate by voice vote on the legislative day of March 22, 2013. She received her commission on March 26, 2013.[6]

Notable rulings[edit]

  • On September 11, 2013, in American Meat Institute v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jackson declined to enjoin a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule preliminarily that required meatpackers to identify the animal's country of origin. She found that the rule likely did not violate the First Amendment.[17]
  • On September 5, 2014, in Depomed v. Department of Health and Human Services, Jackson ruled that the Food and Drug Administration had violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to grant pharmaceutical company Depomed market exclusivity for its orphan drug, Gralise, despite the fact that Gralise met the statutory requirements for exclusivity under the Orphan Drug Act.[18]
  • On September 11, 2015, in Pierce v. District of Columbia, Jackson ruled that the D.C. Department of Corrections violated the rights of a deaf inmate under the Americans with Disabilities Act because jail officials failed to assess the inmate's need for accommodations when he first arrived at the jail.[19]
  • In April and June 2018, Jackson presided over two cases challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to terminate grants for teen pregnancy prevention programs two years early.[20] Jackson ruled that the decision to terminate the grants early, without any explanation for doing so, was arbitrary and capricious.[21]
  • On August 15, 2018, in AFGE, AFL-CIO v. Trump, Jackson invalidated provisions of three executive orders that would have limited the time labor union officials could spend with union members, the issues that unions could bargain over in negotiations, and the rights of disciplined workers to appeal disciplinary actions.[22]
  • On November 23, 2018, Jackson held that 40 lawsuits stemming from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which had been combined into a single multidistrict litigation, should be brought in Malaysia, not the United States.[23][24]
  • On September 4, 2019, in Center for Biological Diversity v. McAleenan, Jackson held that Congress had stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear non-constitutional challenges to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security's decision to waive certain environmental requirements to facilitate construction of a border wall on the United States and Mexico border.[25]
  • On September 29, 2019, Jackson issued a preliminary injunction in Make The Road New York v. McAleenan, blocking an agency rule that would have expanded "fast-track" deportations without immigration court hearings for undocumented immigrants.[26] Jackson found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had violated the Administrative Procedure Act because its decision was arbitrary and capricious and the agency did not seek public comment before issuing the rule, which made Jackson set aside the rule.[27]
  • On November 25, 2019, Jackson issued an important ruling in Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives v. McGahn in which the House Committee on the Judiciary sued Don McGahn, former White House Counsel for the Trump administration, to compel him to comply with the its subpoena to appear at a hearing on its impeachment inquiry on issues of alleged obstruction of justice by the administration. McGahn declined to comply with the subpoena after U.S. President Donald Trump, relying on a legal theory of executive testimonial immunity, ordered McGahn not to testify. In a lengthy opinion, Jackson ruled in favor of the House Committee and held that senior-level presidential aides "who have been subpoenaed for testimony by an authorized committee of Congress must appear for testimony in response to that subpoena" even if the President orders them not to do so.[28] Jackson rejected the administration's assertion of executive testimonial immunity by holding that "with respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist."[29] According to Jackson, that conclusion was "inescapable precisely because compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law."[29][30][31] Jackson's use of the phrase "presidents are not kings" gained popular attention in subsequent media reporting on the ruling.[32][33][34][35] The ruling has been appealed by the U.S. Department of Justice.[36]

Community involvement[edit]

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, honoree at the Third Annual Judge James B. Parsons Legacy Dinner, February 24, 2020

Jackson is currently a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services as well as Harvard University's Board of Overseers and the Council of the American Law Institute.[37] She also currently serves on the board of Georgetown Day School,[38] the board of the D.C. Circuit Historical Society,[37] and the U.S. Supreme Court Fellows Commission.[39]

Jackson has served as a judge in several mock trials with the Shakespeare Theatre Company. In 2019, she joined a panel composed of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer and Judges Patricia Millett and Stephanos Bibas to hear a case based on The Oresteia.[40][41] In 2017, Jackson and Judges Merrick Garland, David Tatel, Thomas Griffith, and Robert Wilkins heard a case based on Twelfth Night.[42][43] In 2016, along with Justice Samuel Alito, then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and Judges Thomas Griffith and Robert Wilkins, Jackson heard a case based on Romeo and Juliet.[44][45] Jackson also presided over a mock trial, hosted by Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law in 2018, "to determine if Vice President Aaron Burr was guilty of murdering" Alexander Hamilton.[46]

Jackson regularly serves as a judge for the Historical Society of the District of Columbia's Mock Court Program, which brings D.C. high school students to the federal courthouse to present oral arguments in First and Fourth Amendment cases.[47][48] In 2018, Jackson participated as a panelist at the National Constitution Center's town hall on the legacy of Alexander Hamilton.[49]

Jackson has also spoken at various law schools. In 2017, Jackson presented at the University of Georgia School of Law's 35th Edith House Lecture.[50] In 2020, Jackson gave the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Lecture at the University of Michigan Law School[51] and was honored at the University of Chicago Law School’s third annual Judge James B. Parsons Legacy Dinner, which was hosted by the school's Black Law Students Association.[52] In 2016, Jackson served as a judge during Yale Law School's Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals competition.[53]

Possible appointment to U.S. Supreme Court[edit]

On February 26, 2016, the National Law Journal reported that Obama administration officials were vetting Jackson as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.[54] In March 2016, the Washington Post[55] and the Associated Press[56] confirmed that information, and Reuters reported that Jackson was one of five candidates interviewed as a potential nominee for the vacancy.[57]

It has been speculated that Jackson could be one of President-elect Joe Biden's possible Supreme Court nominees should he have the opportunity to select a new justice during the 117th United States Congress.[58][59][60][61] Jackson has also reportedly been discussed as a nominee for filling a potential vacancy on the D.C. Circuit Court that would be created by Merrick Garland's appointment as Attorney General.[62]

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, Jackson married the surgeon Patrick G. Jackson.[63] They have two daughters.

Jackson is related by marriage to the former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.[63][64] Her husband is the twin brother of Ryan's brother-in-law.[64]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Questionnaire for judicial nominees" (PDF). United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  2. ^ "Capitol Hill Hearing - Nominations" (PDF). Senate Judiciary Committee. Federal News Service. October 7, 2009. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  3. ^ Berke, Jeremy (February 17, 2016). "Influential Supreme Court expert is floating a new candidate to fill Scalia's seat". Business Insider.
  4. ^ Brecher, Elinor J. (August 7, 2008). "Dedicated debate legend was an 'unforgettable hero'". Miami Herald. p. 4.
  5. ^ "Ketanji Brown Jackson". Morrison & Foerster LLP. Archived from the original on September 6, 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d "Jackson, Ketanji Brown – Federal Judicial Center". Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c "President Obama Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to US Sentencing Commission". (Press release). July 23, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  8. ^ Brief of the National Association of Federal Defenders as Amicus Curia in Support of Respondent, Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332 (2009).
  9. ^ Brief on Behalf of Former Federal Judges as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners, Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008).
  10. ^ Ingram, David (July 24, 2009). "Obama Taps Another MoFo Lawyer". The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. Archived from the original on July 26, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  11. ^ "Former Commissioner Information". October 28, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  12. ^ Cratty, Carol. "New rules slashing crack cocaine sentences go into effect". CNN. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  13. ^ Sentence Reductions in Crack Cocaine Cases. Federal Defenders of New York.
  14. ^ "Federal Prisons Could Release 1,000 Times More Drug Offenders Than Obama Did". The Marshall Project. July 23, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "President Obama Nominates Two to the United States District Courts". September 20, 2012.
  16. ^ "President Obama Re-nominates Thirty-Three to Federal Judgeships". January 3, 2013.
  17. ^ Abbott, Charles (September 11, 2013). "New U.S. meat label rule survives challenge by meat packers". Reuters. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Kearn, Rebekah (September 12, 2014). "Orphan Drugmaker|Wins Exclusivity". Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  19. ^ Zapotosky, Matt (September 12, 2015). "Judge rules D.C. Corrections must pay damages in case of deaf inmate". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  20. ^ Jennifer Hansler (June 4, 2018). "HHS loses another court battle over teen pregnancy prevention grant funding". CNN. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  21. ^ Barbash, Fred; Paul, Deanna (March 19, 2019). "The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in court". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  22. ^ Vazquez, Maegan (August 25, 2018). "Judge strikes down sections of Trump exec orders for federal workers in victory for unions". CNN. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  23. ^ "U.S. judge dismisses litigation over missing Malaysia Airlines flight". Reuters. November 23, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  24. ^ "Judge Dismisses US Lawsuits Filed Over Malaysia Airlines Disappearance". December 12, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  25. ^ Grzincic, Barbara (September 6, 2019). "IN BRIEF: Trump administration can waive enviro laws for border wall - judge". Reuters. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  26. ^ Hsu, Spencer S. (September 28, 2019). "Judge bars Trump fast-track deportation policy, saying threat to legal migrants was not assessed". Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  27. ^ Gerstein, Josh (September 28, 2019). "Judge blocks Trump plan to expand fast-track deportations". Politico. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  28. ^ Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives v. McGahn, No. 19-cv-2379 (KBJ), Slip Op. at 116 (Nov. 25, 2019), available at
  29. ^ a b Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives v. McGahn, No. 19-cv-2379 (KBJ), Slip Op. at 115 (Nov. 25, 2019), available at
  30. ^ Thomsen, Jacqueline (November 25, 2019). "'No One Is Above the Law': Judge Says Donald McGahn Must Comply With House Subpoena for His Testimony".
  31. ^ Samuelsohn, Darren; Cheney, Kyle; Desiderio, Andrew (November 25, 2019). "Don McGahn must testify about time as White House lawyer, judge rules". POLITICO. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  32. ^ Durkee, Alison. ""Presidents Are Not Kings": Federal Judge Destroys Trump's "Absolute Immunity" Defense Against Impeachment". Vanity Fair. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  33. ^ Yaeger, Lynn. "The Week in Washington: "Presidents Are Not Kings!"". Vogue. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  34. ^ "Judge tells Trump he's not a king -- the President is not so sure". CNN. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  35. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. (November 25, 2019). "'Presidents Are Not Kings': Judge Orders Trump Lawyer McGahn To Testify Before Congress". HuffPost. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  36. ^ Hsu, Spencer S. (November 28, 2019). "Appeals court stays ruling that former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena". The Washington Post.
  37. ^ a b "District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson | District of Columbia | United States District Court". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  38. ^ "Board of Trustees - Georgetown Day School". Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  39. ^ "The Commission - Supreme Court of the United States". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  40. ^ Desk, News (June 28, 2019). "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Oversees Unanimous Jury Decision About Ancient Greek Crime". DC Metro Theater Arts. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  41. ^ "[The Oresteia] Mock Trial |". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  42. ^ "Olivia versus Sebastian: outcome of Twelfth Night Mock Trial". DC Theatre Scene. December 13, 2017. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  43. ^ "[Twelfth Night] Mock Trial |". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  44. ^ Hamm, Andrew (December 13, 2016). "Friar Laurence free to go in case of Juliet and her Romeo". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  45. ^ "Law and [Romeo and Juliet] |". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  46. ^ "Unprecedented 'Trial' of Aaron Burr and Scholarly Discussion Highlight Alexander Hamilton's Legacies in Law and Culture". Kline School of Law. November 16, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  47. ^ Stein, Shira (December 15, 2017). "As a high school student during the Vietnam War, she wore her protest on her sleeve". Washington Post.
  48. ^ "Programs and Videos". Historical Society of the District of Columbia.
  49. ^ "Hamilton: The Man, the Musical, and the Law | The National Constitution Center".
  50. ^ Jackson, Ketanji (March 2, 2017). "Reflections on My Journey as a Mother and a Judge". Edith House Lectures.
  51. ^ Billiter, Laura (January 29, 2020). "The Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson's MLK Day Lecture Honors Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  52. ^ "BLSA Honors Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at Third Annual Parsons Dinner | University of Chicago Law School". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  53. ^ "Competition History - Yale Law School". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  54. ^ Tillman, Zoe (February 26, 2016). "Source: D.C. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Vetted for Scalia Seat". National Law Journal.
  55. ^ "Here are judges the White House is considering for the Supreme Court". Washington Post. March 7, 2016.
  56. ^ "Possible Supreme Court pick would make history in many ways". AP News. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  57. ^ "White House interviewing five potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees: source". Reuters. March 10, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  58. ^ Kapur, Sahil (May 6, 2020). "Biden pledged to put a black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's what he might have to do". NBC News. NBCUniversal. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  59. ^ Feldman, Noah. "Meet Joe Biden's Likeliest Picks for the Supreme Court". Bloomberg Quint: Opinion. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  60. ^ Mason Pieklo, Jessica (March 16, 2020). "Joe Biden Says He'll Nominate a Black Woman to the Supreme Court. Here Are 6 Options". Rewire.News. Rewire.News. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  61. ^ Ross, Janell (January 31, 2019). "Ketanji Brown Jackson: A decisive force applying rules to any and all". NBC News. NBCUniversal. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  62. ^ Edelman, Adam; Memoli, Mike; Bennett, Geoff (January 6, 2021). "Biden to nominate Merrick Garland as his attorney general". NBC News.
  63. ^ a b Goldstein, Tom (February 16, 2016). "Continued thoughts on the next nominee (and impressions of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson)". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  64. ^ a b Phelps, Jordyn (February 26, 2016). "This Potential Supreme Court Nominee Is Family to House Speaker Paul Ryan". ABC News.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry H. Kennedy Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia