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How Ketanji Brown Jackson could shape the Supreme Court

February 28, 2022, 2:10 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The crisis in Ukraine continues, Kimberly-Clark acquires Thinx, and Ketanji Brown Jackson would bring a long-overdue perspective to the Supreme Court. Have a meaningful Monday.

– On the bench. After a month of anticipation, President Joe Biden announced his Supreme Court nominee to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on Friday: Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Jackson has been at the top of Biden’s rumored shortlist since he made a 2020 campaign promise to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she would indeed be the first Black woman, sixth woman, and third Black justice to serve on the nation’s highest court. Her confirmation would also put four women on the bench—with Jackson alongside Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Amy Coney Barrett—for the first time.

It’s a significant milestone for the legal profession and for the U.S. “I’ve surprised myself with the emotion and joy I’ve felt about this,” National Women’s Law Center president and CEO Fatima Goss Graves told me on Friday, shortly after Biden’s announcement. “I’ve been thinking about all the Black women attorneys over the generations whose shoulders we stand on. For the next generation, this means there will be no place in the law or beyond where they won’t be able to see themselves. They will see the Supreme Court as a place that’s possible for them.” (For another moving response to the news, watch the White House’s video of Jackson answering Biden’s phone call to learn of her nomination.)

The 51-year-old’s professional and personal life experience gives us clues about what to expect from her on the bench. She worked as a federal public defender, a first for a Supreme Court justice’s resume (the last justice to have experience representing criminal defendants was Justice Thurgood Marshall.) She clerked for Breyer, who she’s nominated to succeed. She served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, deciding sentencing guidelines for the federal courts (with a focus on reducing racial disparities in such sentences for drug crimes), which Goss Graves says suggests a “practical approach to the law.” Her father put himself through night school to become an attorney, sparking Jackson’s early interest in law.

Jackson’s classmates and friends speak highly of her character, calling her “careful,” “thoughtful,” “humble,” “charismatic” and “kind.” She sailed through three prior confirmation processes with bipartisan support, most recently last summer. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan—related to Jackson by marriage—has been a vocal supporter on the other side of the aisle. In detailing his 2020 campaign promise to further diversify the Supreme Court, Biden pledged to select a candidate “with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity.” “I paid close attention when the President said that was his criteria,” says Goss Graves. “I knew she’d be a hard person to overlook.”

While Biden has struggled to enact parts of his Build Back Better agenda, judicial confirmations are one area in which he has had remarkable success, choosing candidates who have earned confirmation and greatly increased the diversity of the federal bench. Jackson’s confirmation could continue that track record for the President—and add a long-overdue perspective to the court.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- The latest in Ukraine. A woman helped two children cross Ukraine's border into Hungary to meet their mother, while their father, barred from leaving the country, stayed behind. Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine's parliament, has become a voice for what's happening inside the country in western media; Rudik is also the former COO of Ukraine's division of Ring, the Amazon-owned home security business. Journalists are on the ground in Ukraine; CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, who was one of the highest-profile reporters in Afghanistan this fall, is among them. Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova, a Russian activist who has protested President Vladimir Putin, is selling NFTs to raise funds for Ukrainian nonprofits. 

- Deal flow. Consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark, the top maker of feminine products in the U.S., is buying a majority stake in Thinx, the period underwear brand. Thinx was founded by Miki Agrawal but has been led by CEO Maria Molland since 2017. Neither company discloses the terms of the deal, but Kimberly-Clark said in a press release that the continued prevalence of working from home is influencing consumer demand for reusable period products. Quartz

- Staying home. The U.K. began allowing at-home medical abortions without an in-person doctor's visit during the pandemic. But this fall, it plans to eliminate the option to complete the process entirely at home. For at-home abortions requiring two pills, patients previously had to take the first pill  inside a medical setting. In the U.S., new data shows that medical abortion via pill now accounts for more than half of all abortions. 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe will become the public radio station's host of Weekend Edition Sunday. Global ad network FCB promoted Bella Patel to global chief talent officer. Asia Capital Real Estate hired Linda Isaacson as head of ESG and impact. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Second try. Jessica Cisneros came close to unseating Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar in 2020. She's running again in 2022, and this time the 28-year-old progressive is confident that two years spent deepening her relationships in the district will push her across the finish line in her primary challenge. Washington Post

- Corruption gap. Are women less corrupt than men? New research, studying data from China, finds that female bureaucrats were 81% less likely to have been arrested for corruption compared to their male colleagues. In Italy, women officials were 22% less likely to be investigated for corruption. Economist

- Roommates wanted. More baby boomers are looking for roommates in an attempt to offset the rising costs of housing and inflation. Women, especially widows who have lost their spouse, are often the ones seeking a housemate. It's not an easy search: retiree Jodi Raffa says that when she "takes out ads specifying women over 55, she gets responses mostly from men in their 60s or adults in their 20s, 30s or 40s." Washington Post

ON MY RADAR

The limits of the women's redemption plot Vulture

The Worst Person in the World has one of the best movie heroines in ages L.A. Times

Recreational virginity and the false promise of artificial hymens Wired

Stitch Fix founder Katrina Lake on investing in bodywear startup Nude Barre Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"People look at me and wonder what the hell I’m doing there. But I use it to my advantage. They let their guard down."

-Cibele Florêncio, a 24-year-old Brazilian chess champion. She's been called a real-life "Queen's Gambit" after rising to the top of competitive chess while working full-time cleaning houses. 

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