Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson thanked her role models, including Constance Baker Motley, in remarks on Friday. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson thanked her role models, including Constance Baker Motley, in remarks on Friday. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Everyone needs a role model — even the already accomplished Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

President Joe Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court, who will succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, singled out Judge Constance Baker Motley as a source of inspiration in her own path to the nation’s highest court. Motley, who died in 2005, was the first Black woman to argue cases at the Supreme Court.

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It may be more than a coincidence that the two women share a birthday on September 14.

“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 law,” Jackson said in her remarks Friday as her nomination was announced, according to the Associated Press.

Motley won nine of 10 landmark civil rights cases, and she penned the original complaint for Brown v. Board of Education. Motley, who clerked for Thurgood Marshall and was the sole female lawyer during her time at the NAACP, defended Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Meredith, a Black man who ultimately gained admission to the University of Mississippi.

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As high as she rose, Motley was favored for a seat but never nominated to the Supreme Court — a historic achievement that would finally be fulfilled by Jackson as Biden delivers on a campaign promise.

If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman and the first public defender to serve as Supreme Court Justice. A graduate of Harvard Law School who previously clerked for Breyer, the 51-year-old mother of two paid tribute to these experiences in her remarks. 

“I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans,” she said.

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