Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s SCOTUS nomination sparks hope for a more representative America

by Elsa Ying (’23) | March 21, 2022

Art by Ava Hennen (’22)

On January 27, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire at the beginning of the court’s summer recess, thus leaving one seat on the Supreme Court open for an appointment by President Joe Biden. During his campaign, Biden had previously pledged to nominate the first Black woman to court if given the chance, and many looked to federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger as frontrunners. Biden nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court on February 28, and Jackson now awaits a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In order to be appointed as a Supreme Court Justice, nominees must be confirmed by a majority Senate vote. The current Senate has a Democratic majority, with Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer as Majority Leader. However, as recent years have shown, Supreme Court justice nominations tend to incite controversy and strong objections from the opposing party, which may drag out the process longer. With the past three appointments by former President Donald Trump and the prior Republican-majority Senate, Jackson’s confirmation seems even more pressing in order to preserve one of the three liberal seats on the court.

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Miami, Florida, Ketanji Brown Jackson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and cum laude from Harvard Law School while also serving as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. She served as a law clerk to various federal judges, including her predecessor Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. She was nominated and confirmed to be vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission in 2009 and a judge for the United States District Court in the District of Columbia in 2012. With experience in private legal practices, public defense, and federal courts, Jackson’s varied history demonstrates her versatility and capability. She is currently a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, nominated by Biden in April 2021 and confirmed by the Senate in June 2021.

Overall, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s long list of accomplishments speak for themselves, especially in comparison to current justices on the court. While the Constitution doesn’t have any specific requirements in regards to age, education, career, or citizenship, justices tend to be law school graduates with experience as judges. Like other current justices, Jackson graduated from a top law school and went on to serve on one of the circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

There is opposition, of course, from the other side of the political aisle, including clichéd arguments on affirmative action. Those who disagree often state that having a Black woman in the judiciary branch is solely to increase diversity, completely ignoring Judge Jackson’s accomplishments. Such arguments also turn a blind eye to the fact that identity has always mattered for judicial appointments.

 As a result, much of the criticism surrounding her nomination is indicative of how people of color, especially women of color, are held to a much higher standard of accomplishments compared to their white counterparts. 

Though nominations based solely on race or identity in general are obviously impractical, Jackson has a variety of achievements that clearly demonstrates her qualification for the position. The fact that she can serve as inspiration for other Black women in law is simply a bonus on top of her ability to serve as a proper interpreter of the Constitution.

Categories: Opinions

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