The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How Paul Ryan is related to Ketanji Brown Jackson

The former House speaker has a distant family connection to the Supreme Court nominee.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and former House speaker Paul Ryan have a family connection. (Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images; Right: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

With the historic nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court comes a Washington version of Six Degrees of Separation: Jackson is related, by marriage, to former House speaker Paul Ryan.

Weird, huh? There are the obvious differences: Jackson is nominated by a Democratic president; Ryan’s entire career has been in Republican politics. She’s a woman; he’s not. She’s Black; he’s White. And yes, we wish we could have been at a Thanksgiving dinner to hear the two discuss … well, anything. But it’s fair to say they like and respect each other.

“Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal,” said Ryan at Jackson’s 2012 hearing for her nomination as a U.S. District Court judge. (Last year, she was confirmed to the prestigious D.C. federal court of appeals.) “She’s an amazing person, and I favorably recommend her consideration.”

On Twitter Friday, Ryan echoed that first comment, and also stated, “Janna [Ryan’s wife] and I are incredibly happy for Ketanji and her entire family.”

Let’s break it down:

Ketanji Brown Jackson has an impressive résumé, of which volumes will be written. The entry relevant to this discussion is her admission to Harvard, where she majored in government, graduating magna cum laude in 1992. She went on to Harvard Law School, where she was editor of the law review before getting her degree in 1996. She was an undergrad when she met her future husband …

Biden to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

Patrick Jackson, whom the judge has described as her “best friend and biggest fan.” The Harvard pre-med student was her first serious boyfriend, despite their different backgrounds. “Patrick is a quintessential ‘Boston Brahmin’ — his family can be traced back to England before the Mayflower,” the judge shared in a 2017 speech at the University of Georgia. “He and his twin brother are, in fact, sixth-generation Harvard.” By contrast, she said, she’s pretty sure she had ancestors who were enslaved. “We were an unlikely pair in many respects.”

The couple dated for six years before marrying in 1996 — after she graduated from Harvard Law and he graduated from Columbia Medical School — and have two daughters, Talia and Leila. The doctor went on to an illustrious career of his own: He’s a gastrointestinal surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital. His twin brother is …

William Jackson, a partner at Goodwin law firm in Washington, where’s he’s a big shot in the litigation team with a specialty in biotech and health care. Before joining Goodwin last year, Jackson spent two decades at Boies Schiller. Jackson is married to …

Dana Little Jackson, also an attorney but not currently in practice; the couple has three children. The Oklahoma native grew up with the law; both her parents were attorneys, and her older sister …

Janna Ryan is also a lawyer. After graduating from Wellesley and George Washington University law school, she worked as a tax attorney and lobbyist in the nation’s capital before meeting her future husband in 1999, at her 30th birthday party. His name was …

Paul Ryan, a young congressman from Wisconsin. He had been elected the previous year; the two married in 2000. Janna gave up her career to raise their three children; Paul went on to be the GOP’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee and then speaker of the House.

In other words: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s brother-in-law (William) is married to Paul Ryan’s sister-in-law (Dana).

The stats from those three couples: Four lawyers, one doctor, one politician, eight children.

President Biden nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on Feb. 25. Here's what you need to know. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

How often do they all get together? There’s no official word. But the two Jackson families live in the Washington area, so they probably get a chance to see each other more often than the Ryans, who live in Wisconsin. Like any extended family, they’re likely to get together for certain big events … such as a nomination hearing.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

The latest: Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s first Black female justice at noon Eastern time on June 30, just minutes after her mentor Justice Stephen G. Breyer makes his retirement official. It is the first time the Supreme Court will have four female justices among its nine members.

The votes: The Senate voted 53-to-47 to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, with three Republican senators joining every Democratic and independent senator. Here’s how each senator voted on Jackson’s nomination.

The nominee: The president named Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as his first Supreme Court nominee. She is set be the first Black woman justice in the court’s history.

What it means: The Democrats will succeed in their efforts to replace the oldest of three liberal justices on and further diversify the Supreme Court ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.