Monday (Mar. 21) marked the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her potential confirmation will follow Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement (after Breyer served more than two decades on America’s highest court). Jackson is presently a judge on our nation’s second-highest court and may soon become the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice.
Our Senate’s four-day hearing will affirm that Jackson has more years of experience as a trial court judge than any Supreme Court justice. She actually has more trial court judge experience than four of the sitting justices combined, among other distinct qualifications. Before reviewing her credentials, it may be helpful to examine how this court came to be, especially since Black people were not eligible for consideration upon its inception. Details about the Supreme Court of the United States are documented on its governmental website:
“The Constitution elaborated neither the exact powers and prerogatives of the Supreme Court nor the organization of the Judicial Branch as a whole. Thus, it was left to Congress and to the Justices of the Court through their decisions to develop the Federal Judiciary and a body of Federal law. The establishment of a Federal Judiciary was a high priority for the new government, and the first bill introduced in the United States Senate became the Judiciary Act of 1789.”
For readers who may be puzzled on how America’s highest court has yet to confirm a Black woman in its 233-year history, REVOLT reexamined the National Archives’ “Charters of Freedom” exhibit, which acknowledges 1787’s “Three-fifths compromise.” The United States Constitutional Convention confirmed that within the House of Representatives, three-fifths of the enslaved populace would be quantified, meeting the country’s direct taxation and representation procedures. Black men and women were registered as less than those within the white majority.
In summary, facing particulars, PBS’ Thirteen Organization recorded, “Although the Constitution did not refer directly to [enslaved people], it did not ignore them entirely. Article one, section two of the Constitution of the United States declared that any person who was not free would be counted as three-fifths of a free individual … thus [increasing] the political power of slaveholding states.” Black Americans were historically excluded from various political procedures, including the U.S. Supreme Court processes, until 1967 when Former President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to become the first Black Supreme Court justice. Jackson is en route to follow suit, potentially aiding perspectives surrounding minority women 55 years later. Her presence on the panel would raise the number of women figures to a historical total of four.
For her part, Jackson was groomed for success from the start. Even her name reads like the premonition of future possibilities. “[Her] aunt — based in West Africa with the Peace Corps at the time of her birth — sent her parents a list of African girls’ name options, from which they picked ‘Ketanji Onyika,’ meaning ‘Lovely One,'” logged Politico. Born in Washington, D.C., the candidate’s parents relocated to Florida, where she was taught within Miami-Dade public schools. These details position Jackson beside Justice Alito and Justice Kagan, as they represent the few constituents who also ascended to an Ivy League from public school systems.
Additionally, the need for higher education was enforced at home as Jackson’s parents attended HBCUs following their graduations from then-segregated American primary schools. She was heralded to go far as her high school’s student body president. Jackson’s tenure at Harvard University and Harvard Law School was hard-earned, as were her contributions within the Harvard Law Review as an editor. Upon completing her degrees, she began her career clerking for a Supreme Court justice. This year’s nomination deliberation may become a full circle moment as Jackson once supported Justice Breyer’s endeavors for the Supreme Court.
According to The Washington Post, “Law clerks act as assistants and counselors to judges, conducting legal research, preparing memos, drafting and proofreading orders and opinions … six of the nine current justices [began here].” As far as the current justices, the nominee is the only professional with a background as a federal public defender.
As per Vox, “During Jackson’s time as a federal public defender … she represented some of the country’s most vulnerable people, which has given her a perspective that would be unique on the current Supreme Court.” More than work credentials, her lived experiences offer nuances colleagues with privilege were not required to navigate as justices. Moreover, if confirmed, Jackson would be the only justice with a previous standing on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, as Breyer is soon retiring. Referencing her excellence, the Demand Justice organization issued a statement saying, “Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an extraordinarily well-qualified Supreme Court nominee, who has already been confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis three times.”
In conjunction with Former President Barack Obama‘s nomination of the first Latina Supreme Court justice in our nation’s history, Sonia Sotomayor, Jackson would be the only other justice who served as a district judge. Alongside this information is a note from Brookings Institution on why Jackson’s confirmation would benefit all civilians. “A Justice Brown Jackson will know what it is like to grow up in a community whose value and values have been considered subordinate to ‘mainstream’ values. She will know what it is like to be entangled in a criminal justice system … She will know how hard Black women work to keep families afloat, and that Black and Brown people in the United States continually have to prove their value,” wrote the nonprofit public policy organization.
Even so, some political leaders are not impressed. Josh Hawley, a senator from Missouri, began publicly opposing Jackson’s nomination ahead of the ongoing hearings. “I’ve been researching the record of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, reading her opinions, articles, interviews & speeches. I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” he tweeted Mar. 16. Since then, AP has debunked some subsequent claims, including those concerning child pornography cases’ verdicts. ” Hawley extrapolated that Jackson had drawn conclusions when she hadn’t …,” the publication wrote.
Alongside Hawley and his incorrect assertions were those from the Republican National Committee, who took to Twitter ahead of hearings to post the following, “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record also includes defending terrorists. She worked as a lawyer for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, including for a Taliban officer who was likely the leader of a terrorist cell,” AP’s report verified this GOP-led statement was also false. Those against Jackson’s nomination cannot deny her ranking as a federal judge preceding her nomination to work from the high court.
The New York Times published, “While Republicans had initially been wary of the optics … some G.O.P. members of the panel — particularly those with presidential ambitions — assailed Judge Jackson’s record … seeing an opening to score political points if not block her confirmation …” Discussions across media detail the nominee’s potential inclusion of underserved communities. Adjacent to views regarding Jackson’s perceived shortcomings, or lack thereof, were her own perceptions directed to Senator Cory Booker on a CNN telecast.
“I had struggled like so many working moms to juggle motherhood and career … there will be hearings during your daughters’ recitals … I know so many young women in this country … have to make a choice [between family and professional life] … I didn’t always get the balance right. So, I would hope for them … hopefully, you all will confirm me, seeing me move to the Supreme Court, that they can know that you don’t have to be perfect …,” she detailed of her career trajectory. A full Senate vote will be reached upon the committee hearing from the American Bar Association and outside witnesses’ arguments concerning Jackson’s qualifications tomorrow.