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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's friends from Harvard not surprised by her Supreme Court nomination: "It had to be her"

Supreme Court nominee's friends speak out
Friends reveal how early they predicted Ketanji Brown Jackson would serve on the Supreme Court 04:04

Confirmation hearings begin Monday on Capitol Hill for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. If confirmed, she would be the first African American woman to serve on the highest court in the country. 

It's a distinction that her friend and law professor Lisa Fairfax celebrated.   

"The unmitigated joy of seeing someone I love be nominated, why I'm still smiling right now and probably getting ready to tear up," Fairfax told CBS News' Nancy Cordes. 

Like Fairfax, Antoinette Coakley and Nina Simmons also believed in Jackson. 

The four women met in their freshman year at Harvard University through a study group that Jackson convened, and they all went on together to Harvard Law School. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson and her law school friends. CBS News

"We met, we bonded, we became roommates, and then we became lifelong friends," Simmons said.  

Jackson was known for being an early-riser who tried to coax her friends to get up early too. She taught them her method of writing essays, a system that involved jotting her points on notecards and then organizing them on the floor. 

"I started getting A's on my papers at Harvard," said Coakley, now a law professor at Northeastern University.  

By sophomore year, Coakley was predicting that her roommate would someday be named the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. 

"I thought if there was ever an opportunity for someone that came from our background to ascend to those heights, it would be her. It had to be her. She had the keen intelligence, the brilliance, the ability to bring people together," Coakley said. 

Now a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Fairfax calls Jackson "one of the most intelligent jurists of her generation," but Fairfax said Jackson talked like a lawyer even before law school. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson and her law school friends. CBS News

"You're in this space with someone, and when they talk, everyone pauses," Fairfax said. "And after they talk, people feel awkward. I can't say anything else because she just said it all and better than I could ever say it. That was her."

When Fairfax heard the news of Jackson's nomination, she was overwhelmed with emotions. 

"I just pulled over. I just sat in the car. I'm like sobbing hysterically. My hands are shaking," she said.  

Next week, Jackson will face rounds of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee during four days of hearings. 

"I've been sending her scriptures and prayers and, you know, songs that I know will inspire her and encourage her because this is a lot," Coakley said.     

Fairfax says their group of friends have been each other's "hype team" throughout their lives, for every leap in their careers. 

"She has superpowers, but sometimes she needs someone to hold her cape," Simmons said. "And we're here to do that."

If confirmed, Judge Jackson would also be the first former public defender on the high court.  

"Our legal system demands different perspectives," Fairfax said. "And it is great news to get someone on the bench with a different perspective, with a different background. The reason why I believe we have nine and not one is because we believe it's important to have difference, particularly at the highest court in the land."

Laura Doan contributed reporting.

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