Maeghan Maloney, the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, says Ketanji Brown Jackson served as a mentor to her when they were students at Harvard Law School.

Jackson became the first Black woman to be elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States when the U.S. Senate voted 53-47 on Thursday to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee.

Jackson is to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer upon his retirement at the end of the court term this summer.

In a recent interview, Maloney recalled Jackson as willing to take the time to give thoughtful answers to legal questions.

Ketanji Brown, third from right in front row, sits for a group photograph for the Harvard Law Review, an image that would appear in the law school’s 1997 yearbook. Maeghan Maloney, now the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, attended Harvard Law School at the same time and was mentored by Brown, now Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed Thursday as the first Black woman on Supreme Court of the United States. Photo courtesy of Maeghan Maloney

Maloney was a year behind Jackson at Harvard Law, so the two overlapped as students for two years. During that time, Maloney said Jackson was often the right person to go to with tough questions, which Maloney said she did when working on cases for the Prison Legal Assistance Project, a student practice organization at Harvard Law School in which students represent inmates at Massachusetts prisons.

“She is not only brilliant, but also kind,” Maloney said of Jackson, whose last name was Brown while attending Harvard. “She was a great person, a great mentor, someone who was never too busy to answer a question. When you’re in law school and have a question, you ask someone you know will have the answer. She’s somebody who I knew would have answers to questions.”

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Maloney, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997, a year after Jackson, also realized during the Senate confirmation hearings that she was enrolled at the same time as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who graduated in 1995.

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, in her 1997 yearbook from Harvard Law School. Photo courtesy of Maegan Maloney

Maloney said got to know Cruz while they were law students, and they talked occasionally. She said she did not realize she had known Cruz at Harvard because he looks very different now. She realized Cruz was the “Ted” she remembered from law school, when Cruz, while grilling Jackson during the confirmation hearings, said his time at Harvard overlapped Jackson’s.

“It’s a big law school, but it’s still small enough you get to know people. I like to get to know everybody I can, I enjoy meeting new people, so I made it a point to get to know everyone I could,” Maloney said of her time at Harvard.

She said Cruz “looked so different, nothing like he looks today.”

“I didn’t remember him until he was attacking (Jackson during the nomination hearings) and he mentioned they overlapped,” Maloney said. “I pulled out my law school yearbooks for 1995 and, sure enough, there he was.”

Maloney said Jackson did well in handling the grilling she received during her nomination hearings, providing answers that were clear, composed and elegant.

Maloney said she thinks Jackson will do well in her role as the 116th associate justice on the nation’s highest court, and said her courtroom experience will be a valuable and somewhat rare.

“Aside from my personal observations of her, I find her work history — as a public defender — is very valuable to forming her legal opinions,” Maloney said of Jackson. “Public defenders and prosecutors — and criminal defense attorneys, in general — are with people in the courtroom. We interact with victims, defendants, everyone, and that really helps you understand the underpinnings of what is happening in the criminal justice system.

“Oftentimes, people nominated to the highest court don’t have that kind of experience, so I’m happy she has that. I’m beyond happy to see her nominated to the Supreme Court.”

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