It was just over a week ago that President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court being vacated by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. I fully intended to write this post sooner, but the war in Ukraine distracted me and pulled my attention in another direction. However, I do think it’s important that we take a look at Ms. Brown Jackson prior to her confirmation hearing that is scheduled to begin in just over two weeks on March 21st.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been around for 232 years, and during that time 115 justices have served on the Court. Care to guess how many have been white males? Go on … take a wild guess. Let me give you a hint … only 7 … SEVEN … have been either female or Black, and none have been both female and Black. It’s about damn time, don’t you think?
However … I would not be applauding the nomination of a Black woman solely based on her gender and ethnicity, but she must also be well-qualified. Ketanji Brown Jackson is very well-qualified to sit on the highest court in the nation and I support her nomination enthusiastically!
Jackson has a B.A. in Government, and a Juris Doctor, both from Harvard, both with honours. She began her judicial career clerking for three federal jurists, including a district court judge in Massachusetts, an appellate judge in the 1st Circuit and Breyer himself. Later she would serve as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., where she worked on appellate cases, and served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for several years.
President Barack Obama nominated Jackson for a district court judgeship in D.C. near the end of his first term as president, and she was confirmed in early 2013. He also interviewed her as a potential nominee after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. President Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March 2021 as a replacement for Merrick Garland who became U.S. Attorney General and she has been serving in that position since last summer.
As you can see, her qualifications are equal to any other member of the Supreme Court including Chief Justice John Roberts. It is widely believed that she will be confirmed by the Senate, but that doesn’t stop some on the right-hand side of the aisle. Their complaints? Well, let’s see …
- Since she served as a public defender, she must be ‘soft on crime’
- She refuses to commit to opposing the expansion of the Supreme Court
- She is being promoted by so-called “dark money” groups
At least part of the real reason for the opposition, of course, is that she is a woman, and she is Black. Let’s call a spade a spade here … we’ve ALL seen the prejudice among many Republicans … it’s nothing new, but rather old and tiresome. Another bottom-line reason for Republican opposition to Jackson is that during her time on the District Court, she wrote a number of opinions that were not favourable to the whims of Donald Trump. In one such ruling, she ordered Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a legislative subpoena, writing that “Simply put, the primary takeaway from 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”. Truer words were never spoken, but needless to say those who have clung to Trump’s coattails will consider that a strike against her.
At the end of the day, I believe that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed by the Senate in part because the Republican contingent has little to lose. There are already five conservative judges on the Court – some would say six, counting Chief Justice Roberts, though I consider him to be more non-partisan than, say, Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Barrett. The confirmation of Jackson would not change the overall balance … or rather, ‘unbalance’ … of the Court, and the senators know this. Any objections to her confirmation would be for show, to be able to say to their constituents that they ‘tried to keep a Black woman off the Court’.
What I find more disturbing than the stated objections to Ms. Jackson’s nomination is the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has become just another partisan branch of the federal government, which is NOT what was intended when the framers wrote the Constitution. Impartial justice – is it no longer important to the people of this country? Are partisan politics, is “winning”, the only thing that matters anymore?