Just looking at the top half of new federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s resume, it’s clear she has the pedigree of a Supreme Court justice contender.

It lists Harvard University undergrad, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Law Review, and clerkships with three federal judges, including retiring Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

But then, it stalls. For the next dozen years, she became a self-described “vagabond,” even toiling as a public defender, until then-President Barack Obama plucked her from obscurity for a district court judgeship.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said she handled 585 rulings, but little stands out. President Joe Biden elevated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit less than a year ago, but she’s written just two decisions.

Now, as White House and Senate aides pour over her record to figure out her philosophical and political leanings to ready for her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, they have far less to review than typical court picks who’ve quickly moved up the judicial ladder.

And that’s becoming a problem for her supporters, who want to champion Jackson beyond just being the first black woman headed to the Supreme Court, and critics, who want something to sink their teeth into.

The Congressional Research Service even noted that much of her district court work was on procedural topics, not those the Supreme Court studies. “This uncertainty is especially pronounced when evaluating Judge Jackson because she has spent most of her judicial tenure as a district court judge,” the service said in a report reviewed by Secrets.

“Judge Jackson has resolved relatively few cases involving open constitutional questions, offering somewhat limited insight into what mode of constitutional interpretation she might follow in future cases,” the report added.

Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas, said Jackson’s path to the court was not only odd but provided little help in figuring out her philosophy.

“I've looked at her opinions," he said. "I don't see, you know, rock star. I don't see the superstar. She only had a couple of noteworthy opinions. I didn't hear her giving any sort of influential speeches. She didn't really write articles. There wasn't much that distinguished her. I mean, nothing. That's not a criticism. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't that she was the greatest thing in the world."

What’s more, he added, is that she has no record of working with other judges to get them to agree with her view of constitutional law, a basic chore on the Supreme Court. “How is she going to persuade John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, or Amy Coney Barrett in a case? She has no experience doing that,” Blackman said.

We asked Blackman, a constitutional law professor, if the nomination was similar to Harriet Miers, picked by then-President George W. Bush but scuttled when critics said her experience wasn’t deep.

“I think it's actually worse because Harriet Miers, for all the criticism, was actually a pretty well-known attorney in private practice in Texas. She had a good reputation. She was White House counsel. People actually had papers to go on, but she hadn’t decided on the bigger constitutional issues. Jackson just doesn't have much of a record at all,” he said.

“It's sort of weird. It's a very thin record. Her credentials up to the clerkship, up to the [Supreme Court] clerkship, were sterling, and then after that, it kind of petered out, like she never sort of lived up to the potential that she could have had with the Supreme Court clerkship,” Blackman said. “It's a weird resume.”

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