Since the Supreme Court’s inception in 1790, a Black woman has never been nominated by a president to become a justice. As is the old and familiar custom of this country, Black female ascension to the bench falls at the bottom of a hegemonic structure in which White men are followed by Black men, and later White women. In accordance, 55 years after Thurgood Marshall became the first African American male justice and 41 years after Sandra Day O’Connor became the first (White) woman to serve on the Supreme Court, a Black woman has finally been granted the opportunity to rise to the highest echelon of the federal judiciary of the United States of America.
This monumental moment emerged when Justice Breyer announced his impending retirement in January which indubitably secured President Biden’s ability to appoint a new justice during his administration. Upholding his commitment during his election campaign, Biden quickly publicized his intentions to nominate a Black woman with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity”, which led to widespread speculation on who would be considered for this historic position. Though dozens of exceptional women were endorsed, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson quickly became the candidate forerunner and on January 25th the White House officially announced her nomination by President Biden.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was recently elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the Summer of 2021. A native of the District of Columbia, Judge Jackson has worked extensively in the federal court arena holding positions ranging from a district court judgeship to serving as a public defender. This wealth of experiences has given Jackson a case record history rivaled by few and when analyzed it suggests that Judge Jackson shares values with NOW’s six core issues: Reproductive Rights and Justice, Economic Justice, Ending Violence Against Women, Racial Justice, LGBTQIA+ Rights, and Constitutional Equality.
Judge Jackson’s history representing indigent criminal defendants and her subsequent rulings in cases revolving civil rights and disparities in sentencing signal her interest in racial justice. Very few justices on the Supreme Court have ever had this experience in their repertoire and if appointed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have worked with indigent clientele. In addition, she also openly supports reproductive rights. She played a pivotal role protecting federal funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and backed the creation of a floating “buffer zone” that would protect pedestrians and cars approaching abortion clinics. Further, several of her rulings indicate a commitment to constitutional equality. Some of her most notable cases involve disability rights and workers’ rights. In Pierce v. District of Columbia, Jackson ruled against the prison system to uphold the rights of deaf persons under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and she secured workers’ rights to collectively bargain and engage with union representatives in In American Federation of Government Employees v. Trump. Jackson is devoted to economic justice which led to the Black Economic Alliance “applauding her nomination” and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) also urged for her confirmation which alludes that she is also an ally to organizations focused on violence against women. Last, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, an Equality Caucus Cochair, has stated that Judge Jackson ” has a strong record of protecting LGBTQ rights”.
As one can see, there is great potential for NOW to have a justice who supports our values on the Supreme Court in the near future, but first Biden’s nominee must be confirmed. Luckily, Judge Jackson is no stranger to this process; she has been confirmed by the Senate twice before. She even received bipartisan support when she was most recently appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, a fact that could be critical with the impending midterm election. For 232 years Black women have not been represented on the Supreme Court bench. A Black female justice’s perspective is long overdue on the Court and Jackson’s potential contributions could be invaluable not only for Black women, but for all members of society who have been marginalized and oppressed.
Christiny Charnee’ Reeves, President’s Office Intern