With plenty of controversial legal debates occurring, it won’t be easy sledding for new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. However, her experience and sense of liberty suggest she’s more than prepared to take the challenges on.
The intense, contended affairs of American politics don’t look to have a change in demeanor anytime soon, but there can be lights in the darkness. For many, that glimmer of hope has shown itself through the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is set to become the U.S. Supreme Court’s first black female justice.
Jackson, 51, will become the court’s 116th member and is just one of two justices of color currently serving, with the other being Justice Clarence Thomas. Previously, Jackson — who is set to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer this year — had served on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Jackson remarked on April 8 following her confirmation, “but we’ve made it … our children are telling me that they see now, more than ever, that, here in America, anything is possible.”
Jackson’s and the court’s historical firsts will come with new opinions, perspectives, and valuable insight into certain cases and legal domains – specifically unlawful searches and protections against self-incrimination, Georgia law professor Melissa Redmon told Politico.
“Typically, in criminal cases, you’re talking about fourth, fifth, sixth amendment rights, 14th amendment rights. [With Jackson], you have someone who’s intimately familiar with that.”
Many agree that Jackson’s inclusion will not just add multiple sides to a major issue, but can change the overall structure of the Supreme Court as well. Speaking to CNN, NAACP general counsel Janette McCarthy Wallace explained that despite the political oppositions some justices may share with her (the court still leans conservatively 6-3), Jackson’s background, experience, and intelligence will surely persuade them to take her input into consideration.
“I would like to believe that a woman with such impeccable credentials, with a wealth of experience, both life experience and judicial experience, is a voice that will resonate with all the justices no matter what political background they may represent.”
For Jackson, her new position won’t be in unfamiliar territory. She was born in Washington D.C., though she grew up in Miami, Florida. She can thank her parents for her interest in law, as the young Jackson would frequently sit next to her father while he engaged in law school homework.
Throughout high school, Jackson excelled, eventually becoming the student body president of Miami Palmetto Senior High School. That would be just the beginning, as Jackson would eventually graduate from both Harvard University and Harvard Law School with latin honors.
Jackson would hold a number of touted legal jobs through the first few decades following her graduation until former President Barack Obama nominated her for a D.C. district judge position in 2021, which she would secure a year later. Her time working for the federal branch from 2013 to 2021 produced around 600 decisions, some on high-profile cases.
One of Jackson’s most defining decisions came in the 2019 Committee on the Judiciary v. McGahn, where she ruled that former White House counsel to Donald Trump, Don McGahn, was required to testify before the House Judiciary Committee as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference of the 2016 election and Trump’s obstruction of justice.
In that case — while also rejecting contestment from Trump’s Department of Justice that federal courts lacked the power to reviews disputes between the executive branch and Congress — Jackson stressed that despite the power they hold, “the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”
Continuing the democratic stance, she reminded White House workers they don’t simply serve the administration, but the people of the U.S. Her dedication to bringing justice while representing the people would eventually see results, with McGahn testifying in 2021.
“It is an honor – the honor of a lifetime – for me to have this chance to join the Court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward, into the future.”
Jackson is set to face a number of divisive topics on the forefront in the homeland from the get-go, which range from abortion rights and climate change all the way to affirmative actions.
Still, she appears all but ready to engage the challenges ahead and ensure her term begins on the right foot, noting she’s already met with 97 sitting senators. “We had substantive and engaging conversations about my approach to judging and about the role of judges in the constitutional system we all love.”
Jackson additionally noted her work as a legal advocate, along with hearing cases and writing opinions, will prove to serve her well. “In every instance, I have done my level best to stay in my lane and to reach a result that is consistent with my understanding of the law and with the obligation to rule independently without fear or favor.”
Perhaps Jackson’s confirmation could also lead the way for a new wave of diversity within the U.S. justice system, which according to the Brennan Center has no black justices in 28 states and no justices of color in 22 states, 11 of which have people of color make up at least 20% of the population. Jackson will also be looked at as a symbol to women, who make up only 39% of state supreme court seats.
Certainly, Jackson’s connection with Americans could bolster that idea. “I am feeling up to the task, primarily because I know that I am not alone. I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models, generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America, showing others through their determination and, yes, their perseverance that good things can be done in this great country.”
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.