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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The judge in shining armor: Ketanji Brown Jackson


The United States Supreme Court consists of nine justices, and currently, six of these judges hold conservative views. This ratio has sparked intense discussion around the country because of Roe v. Wade: a historic case by the Supreme Court that protects a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion without government restrictions. With a majority conservative court, many predict that Roe v. Wadewill likely be overturned as states like Texas took to state courts to ban abortions past six weeks, a frightening ruling considering that women, on average, find out they are pregnant between weeks five and six. This means that some women may not even know they are pregnant and by the time they do find out, it might be too late or too little of time to make such a life-changing decision. And President Biden understands the severity of the situation.

That’s why, after Justice Stephen Breyer — a liberal member who often voted in favor of abortion rights — announced his retirement in late January 2022, President Biden immediately began the search for his replacement. His objective was clear: find a young, progressive, African American woman who would carry on Justice Breyer’s legacy and be a strong liberal voice for decades to come. On Feb. 28, President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson as his pick to replace Justice Breyer. This comes as a full circle moment for Jackson as she served a clerkship under Justice Breyer following law school in 2000.

Her qualifications do not end there. At an early age, she picked up an affinity for public speech and debate — a passion that continued as she graduated from Harvard University and went on to Harvard Law School where she graduated cum laude. She most recently served as a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, prior to which she was nominated in 2009 by former President Barack Obama to become the vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. She spent much of her time in criminal defense, advocating for individuals who did not have a voice, and in 2019, she took a stand against former President Donald Trump by subpoenaing his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to give a testimony at the impeachment inquiry on President Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice. Jackson’s 12 years of judicial service have given President Biden near certainty that she is the right fit for the job.

Although Jackson’s place on the Supreme Court would not affect the ideological composition of the court, it still serves as a monumental moment in political history. For starters, Jackson would be the first African American female judge on the Court — a powerful and historic first that will empower women of color for decades to come. It will also reflect the diversity of the American people and provide representation for Black Americans. This nomination will hopefully help excite Democratic voters in time for the midterm elections, a critical battle for Democrats with seats up for grabs. It may also ease anxieties for future rulings regarding women’s rights. With a progressive female Supreme Court Justice, women around the nation can be assured that their health and safety will be vehemently advocated for.

Herein lies the looming issue: What will Republicans do? During the course of Biden’s presidency, Republicans have been there every step of the way, determined to oppose the pieces of legislation Democrats have proposed. Fortunately, Jackson’s confirmation is a near guarantee with Vice President Kamala Harris’ swing vote. However, Republicans still have some tricks up their sleeves to make the process as painful as possible for Democrats and Jackson. In an effort to smear her name, Fox News has developed multiple narratives including a story that details Judge Jackson’s participation in a Harvard club with “antisemitic” roots and repeatedly diminishing Jackson’s legitimacy as a judge due to the fact that she is African American. It isn’t abnormal for Fox News to be spreading misinformation, but what do they have to gain from this?

Republicans, with the help of Fox News, are continuing their history of white supremacy and polarizing political discourse. Their lines of questioning will not change the course of Jackson’s nomination.  If anything, Jackson’s inevitable spot on the Court represents several decades of progressive votes. Additionally, if Democrats retain a stronghold on the presidency, they may be able to get more progressive judges on the Court in the event that a conservative judge retires. Republicans’ plan to fight against Judge Jackson’s nomination further polarizes the political climate and is based in fear. Their fear is justified: She represents decades of progressive ideology and is a threat to their identities as white supremacists. This should stand as a good sign for Democrats: With Jackson as a member of the Supreme Court, the law will be upheld, positive change will be possible and history can start taking steps forward once again.