Vera Institute’s Black Women Lead on President Biden’s Nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson

The Vera Institute of Justice and chief prosecutors from Black Women Lead commend President Biden for upholding his campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The President’s pledge sprung from the recognition that diversity of race, gender, and professional experience in the criminal legal system is essential to a well-functioning judiciary and that our country remains far behind in delivering on these needs within the federal bench. Many members of Black Women Lead have broken this type of ground within their districts across the country, and the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court continues this movement by ensuring that the judiciary of the highest court in our nation is stronger and truly representative of this country.

The significance of this nomination and the subsequent opposition that Ketanji Brown Jackson has encountered is an experience shared by all first Black women elected to leadership positions. For example, Black Woman Lead member Rachael Rollins, the first District Attorney of color in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the first woman to be elected District Attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, was recently confirmed as the first Black woman U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts despite unprecedented attempts to block her appointment. The pushback Rollins faced during her nomination foreshadowed some of the public discourse around Biden’s nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice.

“When I began my first term as District Attorney five years ago, I was the only elected Black women chief prosecutor in Georgia,” said Sherry Boston, District Attorney of DeKalb County, Georgia. “Today, there are seven other elected Black women chief prosecutors in our state. This is substantial progress. Being a ‘first’ to pioneer an opportunity not only encourages others to seek such positions, but it also stands as a testament to what is possible to achieve.”

“Black women leaders are not surprised when their credentials are attacked as they enter historically white spaces. These tactics are used time and again to diminish Black women and their accomplishments but have never stopped us from dreaming big and working tirelessly to achieve justice for all communities,” said Satana Deberry, District Attorney of Durham County, North Carolina.

“Having served for over 20 years as a judge, and now as a chief prosecutor, I know that my life experience positively impacted my work and that of my colleagues by bringing perspectives that were historically absent from our country’s most powerful institutions,” said District Attorney Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, California. “The President’s historic nomination brings us another step closer to a Supreme Court that reflects the diversity of the nation over which it presides.”

On October 25, 2018, the Vera Institute of Justice created the Reshaping Prosecution initiative to support elected prosecutors who were interested in addressing mass incarceration and racism in the criminal legal system. The Reshaping Prosecution initiative quickly identified that Black women chief prosecutors faced relentless gender-based and racialized attacks. To address that need, the initiative created Black Women Lead, a program to support Black women chief prosecutors and build awareness of the challenges they face. Black Women Lead supporters include Whitney Tymas, Executive Director of Black Women Forward, and Angela Jordan Davis, professor at American University Washington College of Law.

“As the first person of color to lead the Vera Institute of Justice in its 60-year history, I have personally experienced the pressure and recognize the importance of ensuring more diversity exists in leadership positions,” said Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice. “Bringing historically marginalized perspectives and identities to the forefront allows us to create just, equitable, and representative government bodies that work for all Americans.”

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit