District attorney for Kennebec, Somerset counties mentored as law student by future Supreme Court associate justice

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

Jackson became the first black woman to be nominated to the United States Supreme Court when the US Senate voted 53 to 47 to do so on Thursday confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee.

Jackson is scheduled to succeed Judge Stephen Breyer after his retirement at the end of court time this summer.

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

Ketanji Brown, third from right in the front row, sits for a group photo for the Harvard Law Review, an image that would appear in the 1997 law school 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 to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of Maeghan Maloney

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

“Not only is she brilliant, she’s kind,” Maloney said of Jackson, whose last name was Brown when he attended Harvard. “She was a great person, a great mentor, someone who was never too busy to answer a question. If you’re in law school and have a question, ask someone who you know has the answer. She is someone I knew had answers to questions.”

Maloney, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997, a year after Jackson, noted 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 Harvard Law School yearbook. Photo courtesy of Maegan Maloney

Maloney said he met Cruz when they were in law school and they spoke occasionally. She said she didn’t know she knew Cruz at Harvard because he looks very different now. She realized that Cruz was the “Ted” she remembered from law school when Cruz, grilling Jackson during the hearings said his time at Harvard overlapped with Jackson.

“It’s a big law school, but still small enough to get to know people. I like getting to know everyone I can, I enjoy meeting new people, so I’ve made it my mission to get to know everyone I’ve had the opportunity to meet,” Maloney said of her time at Harvard.

She said Cruz “looked so different, not like he looks today.”

“I didn’t remember him until he attacked[Jackson during the nomination hearings]and he mentioned that they crossed paths,” Maloney said. “I pulled out my 1995 law yearbooks and sure enough, there he was.”

Maloney said Jackson handled the crickets she received during her nomination hearings well, providing answers that were clear, collected and elegant.

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

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

“Often times people who are nominated for the highest court don’t have that kind of experience, so I’m glad she has. I am overjoyed to see her nominated for the Supreme Court.”

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