Only the Russian invasion of Ukraine has commanded the news more than President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Both events are of historical significance as Jackson is poised to become the first African American woman jurist on the bench. During his campaign for office, Biden had promised to fill any vacancy on the court with a Black woman, and now a senate confirmation could make that a reality.
And should the vote in the senate be a 50-50 split, then Vice President Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote and that moment would be all the more momentous. Given this scenario, it will be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
In her acceptance of the nomination last Friday at the White House, Jackson cited family, faith and several professional mentors upon whose shoulders she has ascended, including the esteemed Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005), a former U.S. District Court Judge and the first Black woman to argue before the Supreme Court. “Today,” she began, “I proudly stand on Judge Motley’s shoulders sharing not only her birthday but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under the law.
“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” she continued, “I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and sacred principles upon which this nation was founded will inspire future generations of Americans.”
When Biden was asked why he chose Jackson over the other candidates, he said, “Number one, I committed, two years ago, that if I got elected president, I would name, if I had the opportunity, I would name the first African American woman to the Supreme Court because I think the court should look like the country…the point is that I want to bring the country together.”
The president’s promise didn’t sit well with Republicans, and his nominee, in the words of Sen. Lindsay Graham, “means the radical left has won President Biden over yet again.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn took exception to Graham’s comments, noting that “I do not see Judge Brown Jackson as being radical at all,” he told reporters. “And evidently, [Graham] was among the three that voted for confirmation to be on the DC circuit. And so I think that she’s deserving of a strong bipartisan vote and I hope she gets it.”
There was no indication of disappointment in Clyburn’s remarks since his choice Judge J. Michelle Childs didn’t get the nod. “I commend President Biden for taking a sledgehammer to it. I congratulate Judge Jackson and offer my full support during the confirmation process and beyond.”
During an interview on “Face the Nation,” Clyburn further clarified his position on the nomination. “This is beyond politics,” he began. “This is about the country, our pursuit of a more perfect union, and this demonstrates another step in that pursuit, and I would hope that all of my Republican friends would look upon it that way.”
Jackson’s confirmation would not change the 6-to-3 ideological difference on the bench. But she would join the other two members of color—Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She would also be among other Ivy League alumni as a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School. Eight of the court’s current members have gone to either Harvard or Yale law schools.
Later this week Jackson will probably begin making her rounds and meeting with the various senators, although she will not need Republican backing to seal the nomination. She has already been confirmed on several occasions and this may even be a less daunting quest for approval.
In a tweet, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that Jackson, who once served as a clerk for Justice Breyer, whom she may replace, was “exceptionally well qualified…she possesses the experience, character, integrity, and dedication to the Constitution and the rule of law to serve on the nation’s highest court.”