AWhen Stephen Breyer announced at the end of January that he would be stepping down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current court year in June, a name was quickly put forward for his successor: Ketanji Brown Jackson. The personalities made sense, although the White House, in close consultation with several senators, has also scrutinized a number of other female lawyers in recent weeks. President Joe Biden had proposed the African American for the Court of Appeals in Washington just a year earlier.
During the election campaign, Biden had already promised to nominate an African American for the first time in the event of a replacement on the Supreme Court. The 51-year-old lawyer works at a court that can be described as a springboard for the Constitutional Court. The Capital District Court of Appeals handles many constitutional cases. Barack Obama once wanted to promote Merrick Garland from this court to the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate at the time, threw a spanner in the works for the president. With reference to the upcoming elections in 2016, he found in an idiosyncratic interpretation of the constitution and the unwritten laws of the second chamber of congress that the replacement was a matter for the future president. Garland was nominated for the post of Attorney General as a sort of reparation after Biden took over power in 2020 – and Jackson then his successor on the Court of Appeals.
A look at her judgments as a judge at the federal court in Washington, where she worked eight years earlier, reveals what she stands for in legal policy. Born in the capital, she grew up in Miami, where her father worked as a prosecutor. She later studied law at Harvard, where she also worked on the editorial board of the renowned Harvard Law Review magazine. Her case law shows that she is just as left-liberal as Breyer, whom she is to replace and whose research assistant at the Supreme Court she was after her law degree.
Biden praised her as one of “the brightest lawyers in our country” and expressed confidence that she will be an extraordinary judge. It was a “historic candidate,” he said when he introduced Jackson to the public at the White House on Friday. “For too long our government and our courts have not looked like America. I believe it is time we had a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation.” Jackson herself thanked God for bringing her to this point in her career. She hopes that her life and career, and her love for the United States and the Constitution, will inspire future generations.
If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would become the third African-American member in the history of the judges’ panel – after civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall and his conservative successor Clarence Thomas, who is now the longest-serving constitutional judge. There are indications that the forthcoming Senate hearing will take place in a civil atmosphere, despite the political polarization in Washington. There are different reasons for this. For one thing, Jackson’s appointment will not change the ideological orientation of the nine-member court.
There, the six conservative judges will retain their majority. A left-liberal judge replaces a left-liberal judge this time. That was different with the last two candidates nominated by Donald Trump: Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes voted with the conservative, sometimes with the left-liberal judges. And Amy Coney Barrett followed the decidedly leftist Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Two Republicans have previously voted for Jackson
On the other hand, even those Republican senators who are determined not to support any Biden candidate should try to avoid the impression that they are fundamentally opposed to the appointment of a black woman. In 2021, Republicans Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and their colleague Lindsey Graham also voted for Jackson’s promotion to the Court of Appeals.
The South Carolina senator, known for his political pirouettes, now said that the nomination shows that “the radical left has won over Biden again”. This referred to his prior commitment to a black woman. Minority leader McConnell said, “The Senate must thoroughly and exhaustively consider Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear that he wants swift confirmation — possibly before the April break. The illness of a member of his group could complicate this, since Democrats will need every vote in the second chamber should Republicans vote unanimously against the candidate. However, Democrats have hopes that Jackson will eventually win one or two Conservative votes. Schumer spoke of an “important step in ensuring that the Supreme Court reflects the nation as a whole.” He assumes that Jackson will receive cross-party support as in 2021.