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Pittsburgh Scholars Hail President Joe Biden Nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson To Supreme Court

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- President Joe Biden on Friday afternoon nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: Flanked by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson delivers remarks on her nomination by President Biden to serve as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from the Cross Hall of the White House on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. Judge Jackson was picked by President Biden to be the first Black woman in United States history to serve on the nation's highest court to succeed Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer who is retiring. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The president was fulfilling a campaign promise to name the first African American woman to the high court.

"For too long, our government, our courts, haven't looked like America," the president said in introducing his nominee. "I believe it's time we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications."

With those words, the president nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer for whom she clerked after she graduated Harvard Law School.

"Justice Breyer not only gave me the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have, but he also exemplified every day in every way that a Supreme Court justice can perform at the highest level of skill and integrity while also being guided by civility, grace, pragmatism, and generosity of spirit," said Brown.

Since 1789, 115 individuals have served on the Supreme Court –- 108 have been white males and only two African Americans.

Local legal scholars hailed the nomination on its merits.

"This is a highly, highly qualified individual, and I personally am just delighted that she's been nominated," Prof. Amy Wildermuth, dean of the University of Pittsburgh Law School, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.

Wildermuth serves on an American Bar Association committee with Judge Jackson and knows her professionally.

"She is certainly quite personable. You'll hear reports about her listening ability, and she is very well known for letting parties really articulate what they are trying to argue," says Wildermuth.

The Pitt Law dean says Jackson is a great listener on the bench to the parties and their lawyers.

"Not being too quick to cut them off or too tough when she asks them questions because she truly and genuinely is interested in what they have to say," Wildermuth said.

Duquesne University Law School professor Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, who attended Harvard Law School shortly after Judge Jackson, has never met the Supreme Court nominee.

"I know lots of people who do know her who speak highly of her unimpeachable character, of her exceptional credentials, and of her unwavering commitment to the rule of law," Jefferson-Bullock said. "She's an outstanding choice."

Jefferson-Bullock says the high court needs people from all backgrounds.

"The decisions that the court hands down affect real, everyday people. So we need folks on the court who look like us," she says.

An African American woman on the court also sets an example, says Duquesne University Law School professor Marissa Meredith.

"Representation matters. I think this will assist many brown children looking ahead, seeing what doors they could potentially walk through," says Meredith.

Judge Jackson is the first appointee with federal public defender experience.

"Everyone has rights to a fair trial, and I think she knows this," says Meredith.

"Black women are uniquely qualified to hand down sentences that are just and equitable for everyone," adds Jefferson-Bullock.

As for confirmation by the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, issued the following statement on Friday:

"This is a historic nomination and will bring us one step closer in having our institutions better reflect the diversity of our nation. Judge Jackson has been confirmed by the Senate with bipartisan support three times and I look forward to working with my colleagues on a fair and timely confirmation process."

His Republican colleague, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, issued this statement:

"I look forward to meeting with Ketanji Brown Jackson and thoroughly vetting her record . . . . Only the most qualified jurists who will diligently serve as neutral umpires of the law—not as unelected legislators with preferred policy outcomes—merit confirmation to serve as guardians of the constitution and arbiters of our laws on the Supreme Court."

In the highly politicized Senate, Jackson did get the support of three Republicans and all 50 Democrats when she was confirmed for the U.S. Court of Appeals last year. We'll know soon if that happens again.

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