President Joe Biden plans on Friday to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appellate judge, to become the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to two sources familiar with the process.
The announcement of Jackson, expected to take place at the White House, will tee up a confirmation battle in the closely divided Senate. The timing of Biden's announcement has been in flux because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Biden is expected to select Jackson, 51, for a lifetime job on the nation's top judicial body to succeed retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who at 83 is the court's oldest member. Of the 115 people who have ever served on the Supreme Court, only two have been Black and both of those were men.
Jackson, if confirmed by the Senate, would become the sixth woman ever to serve on the court, which currently has three female justices.
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She would join the liberal bloc on an increasingly assertive court that has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.
Other contenders for the nomination were J. Michelle Childs, a district court judge in South Carolina and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court.
The Senate voted 53-44 last year to confirm Jackson after Biden nominated her to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with three Republican senators backing her. At Jackson's confirmation hearing last year, Republicans questioned her on whether race plays a role in her approach to deciding cases. She said it did not. The Senate previously confirmed her as a federal district judge, a job she held for eight years.
Jackson, who was raised in Miami and attended Harvard Law School, has a varied legal resume including earlier in her career representing criminal defendants who could not afford a lawyer. She was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in December against Republican former President Donald Trump's bid to prevent White House records from being handed over to a congressional panel investigating last year's Capitol attack.
Democrats are eager to move forward with the confirmation process while they control the Senate. Breyer, who has served since 1994, announced in January his intention to step down when the court's completes its current term, likely by the end of June.
While Biden's appointee will not change the court's ideological balance - Jackson would be replacing a fellow liberal - her addition does enable Biden to refresh its liberal wing with a much younger jurist who could serve for decades, just as Trump's three relatively young appointees are in a position to do.