Black Supreme Court Nominee Finds Inspiration In Black Caribbean American Justice

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now
US Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, r, who is seen here meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, left, says she is inspired by the late Caribbean American judge, Constance Baker Mottley. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By NAN STAFF WRITER

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 4, 2022: Judge Constance Baker Motley, the daughter of black Caribbean immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies, could undoubtedly have been a US Supreme Court Justice had she lived.

But her legacy is living on through the appointment of the US’ first black Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, whose life has been inspired by Mottley.

JudgeBrown Jackson accepted the nomination from President Joe Biden and spoke about a woman that not only inspired her legal career, but extraordinarily shared her birthday as she gave tribute to Judge Constance Baker Motley.

“Today, I proudly stand on Judge Motley’s shoulders sharing not only her birthday but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under the law,” Jackson said during the formal White House announcement of her nomination.

Motley was born on September 14 in 1921 in New Haven, Connecticut, the ninth of 12 children born to Caribbean immigrant parents. Brown Jackson was born on September 14 in 1970.

Mottley’s mother was a community activist and founded the New Haven NAACP. She graduated from New York University in 1943 and after earning her law degree from Columbia University in 1946, she became the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund’s (LDF) first female attorney.

Motley became renowned as a chief courtroom strategist of the civil rights movement. She wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education with Thurgood Marshall and served with him at the LDF as a legal advocate for civil rights for over two decades. 

In addition, Motley pioneered the legal campaigns for several seminal school desegregation cases, defended Martin Luther King, Jr.’s right to march in Albany, Georgia and did litigation that ended segregation in Memphis restaurants and whites-only lunch counters in Birmingham, Alabama.

Brown Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended Harvard University for college and law school, where she served as an editor on the Harvard Law Review. She began her legal career with three clerkships, including one with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Prior to her elevation to an appellate court, from 2013 to 2021, she served as a district judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Jackson was also vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission from 2010 to 2014. Since 2016, she has been a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers.

Motley was a woman of many firsts. She was the first Black woman to argue before the Supreme Court and went on to win nine out of ten cases. She was the first Black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, the first Black woman in history to serve as a federal judge. In 1965, she became first woman and first African American to be the Manhattan Borough President.

And from 1986, served on the bench with distinction for nearly two decades. Constance Baker Motley passed away at the age of 84 on September 28, 2005.

Brown Jackson is the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. On February 28, 2022, her nomination was sent to the Senate. Her nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.