Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History

Savanna Yelling, Contributor

There will be a Black female justice for the first time in the Supreme Court’s 233-year history. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed on April 7 when the Senate voted 53-47 in her favor, fulfilling President Biden’s goal of diversifying the court.

The Harvard Law graduate is set to succeed Justice Stephen G. Breyer who, along with Judge Jackson, are the only justices who have served on the United States Sentencing Commission. She served as vice chair of the commission for four years.

Judge Jackson will add diversity to the court in terms of race and experience as one of two justices who have served as public defenders for those who cannot afford legal assistance.

She endured over 20 hours of questioning from the senate. Despite her extensive credentials, Republican senators were skeptical of Judge Jackson’s work as a judge, specifically regarding her sentencing in child pornography cases.

Republican senators claimed that Judge Jackson’s sentences were below the federal sentencing guidelines. Democratic senators argued that this is in line with the work of most judges, not an issue exclusive to Judge Jackson. Unrelated to her line of work and area of expertise as a judge, she was questioned on culture war topics such as critical race theory, abortion, and gender identity.

Despite scrutiny from many members of the Republican party, Judge Jackson received bipartisan support; Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah voted in her favor. While more conservative senators such as Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz portrayed Judge Jackson as too liberal, Collins, Murkowski, and Romney found that she was qualified and honorable.

“After reviewing Judge Jackson’s record and testimony, I have concluded that she is a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor. While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity. I congratulate Judge Jackson on her expected confirmation and look forward to her continued service to our nation,” said Sen. Romney.

As a part of his presidential campaign, Biden promised to diversify the federal judiciary, however, Judge Jackson was not nominated solely to meet a racial quota. At a White House event, Biden explained the more profound significance of diversity in the court.

“It doesn’t mean she puts her thumb on the scale of justice one way or the another — but she understands the broader impact of the decisions, whether there are cases addressing the rights of workers or government service, she cares about making sure that our democracy works for the American people. She listens. She looks people in the eye, lawyers, defendants, victims, and families. And she strives to ensure that everyone understands why she made a decision, what the law is and what it means to them. She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice,” Biden said.

Biden also aims to reverse the actions of former President Trump. Although Judge Jackson will not offset the 6-3 conservative majority, at just 51 years old, she has the potential to maintain a lasting impact on the court.