(Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is considering Washington-based U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Black woman, to replace federal appellate Judge Merrick Garland should he be confirmed as attorney general, two people close to Biden’s transition team said.
Biden’s team on Wednesday said Garland, who most Americans know as Democratic former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee blocked by Republicans, would be nominated to be the next attorney general. His confirmation would leave behind a vacancy at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of 13 federal appeals courts.
Jackson, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former public defender, has served on the district court since 2013, when she was appointed by Obama. She was confirmed by the Senate on a non-roll call voice vote.
Jackson was considered by Obama for the 2016 Supreme Court nomination that ultimately went to Garland.
The discussion within the Biden transition team is the latest sign that Biden intends to fulfil his promise to promote diversity on the federal bench.
Biden, who will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, has pledged to name a Black woman to the country’s top court given the opportunity, and Jackson had been atop a short list of people discussed by media for a possible nod. The Supreme Court has never seen a Black woman justice.
Jackson has experience in sentencing reform after working twice for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, including as the Obama-appointed vice chair. She had a varied career before becoming a judge, working as a lawyer in private practice and as a public defender.
Biden’s transition team declined to comment. The two sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are not public.
It’s possible Jackson’s name would not be formally put forward until a judicial vacancy is opened by a Garland confirmation, which requires Senate approval.
Democrats won two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia runoff elections held on Tuesday, giving the party control of both chambers of Congress and lending Biden more leeway to enact his agenda and all but assure Garland’s appointment.
Earlier in her career Jackson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, who some progressive activists have argued should step down to make way for a younger justice appointed by Biden while the Democrats control the Senate.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis)