Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

SCOTUS Hearings Move Forward for Ketanji Brown Jackson

Jackson is seen as “one of our nation’s brightest legal minds.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo: Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Democratic leaders project a final Senate vote by April 8, 2022.

Confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will begin on March 21, 2022, according to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court.

Born in Washington, DC, and raised in Miami, Ketanji Brown Jackson attended Harvard University for both her undergraduate work and law school. She served as a district judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia from 2013 until June 2021. Jackson’s career ranges from clerking for retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, whose seat she has been nominated to fill, to serving as an appellate judge and on the US Sentencing Commission, to working as a federal public defender.

Jackson has long enjoyed some bipartisan support in the Senate, including for her confirmation to the DC Circuit. That vote was 53-44, with yea’s from Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Explaining the choice, a White House official said Jackson is seen as “one of our nation’s brightest legal minds.”

Scrutiny Abounds

As with any nominee there will be scrutiny, particularly from the party not in power in the White House. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that he would “carefully [review] Jackson’s nomination.” He also noted that he voted against her appeals court confirmation, saying she “was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups.”

“That’s nothing but a deflection,” said Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, of McConnell’s floor speech. “It has nothing to do with what her record has demonstrated. It has nothing to do with whether she will be an appropriate and brilliant sitting jurist. It has nothing to do with the job that she is expected to do.”

Recently Fox News celebrity talk show host Tucker Carlson suggested that Jackson’s LSAT scores should be release to the public. However, the LSAT is needed only for admission to law school and has no impact on a person’s performance in law school or whether someone gets to become an attorney. Jackson took her LSAT after graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in 1992, and went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard Law in 1996. She was also a supervising editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Brief History of Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest federal court in the country and the head of the judicial branch of government.

Established by the US Constitution, the Supreme Court has ultimate jurisdiction over all laws within the United States and is responsible for evaluating the constitutionality of those laws. If necessary, the United States Supreme Court, which is currently made up of nine justices, has the power to check the actions of the other two branches of government—the executive branch of the president, and the legislative branch of Congress. Its members are nominated by the president and confirmed (or denied) by the US Senate.

The Constitution does not have specific qualifications for US Supreme Court justices, such as age, education, profession, or native-born citizenship. A justice does not have to be a lawyer or a law school graduate, but all justices must be trained in the law. Many 18th- and 19th-century justices studied law under a mentor because there were few law schools in the country at that time.

There have been 114 people nominated and confirmed to the United States Supreme Court; all but six have been White men. Five of these individuals have been women: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan and, as of late, Amy Coney Barrett.

For all the changes in its history, the Supreme Court has retained so many traditions that it is in many respects the same institution since they first met in the year 1790, prompting one legal historian to call it, “the first court still sitting.”



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