Ketanji Brown Jackson Ushers in New Representation, If Not New Ideology

Image Courtesy of the New York Times

By Chris Carey

In a follow up from an article two weeks ago, this week The Tower aims to discuss the possible implications of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ascent to the Supreme Court at the end of the summer, as well as to explore the bipartisan approval process of her nomination in the Senate as a whole. 

Following a lineup of rigorous and aggressive questioning from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee such as Ted Cruz (TX), Josh Hawley (MO), Tom Cotton (AR), and Lindsey Graham (SC) who notably voted to approve Judge Jackson to the DC Circuit in 2021, a bipartisan discharge motion of 53-47 sent Judge Jackson from the Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor.

On April 7, 2022, the Senate confirmed Judge Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the highest court in the land. The vote fell along the same bipartisan lines as the discharge motion, where Republican senators Romney (UT), Murkowski (AK), and Collins (ME) joined an unbroken Democratic Caucus in confirming the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. 

As far as the practical change to the court ushered in by this landmark confirmation, the so-called conservative-liberal split of the court will remain 6-3, depending on whether or not Chief Justice Roberts can be considered a middle of the road or a right-leaning adjudicator. With three confirmed conservative-leaning justices under the Trump Administration, none of whom are older than 60, the makeup of the Supreme Court will not ideologically swing one way or the other. 

Nevertheless, incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will bring witness to the changing demographics of the Court and will pave new inroads for representation in the highest echelons of public service. Since its inception, five women and two Black men have sat on the Supreme Court. Once Judge Jackson officially takes Justice Breyer’s seat following his retirement this summer, the balance of the court, for the first time ever, will not host a majority of white male justices, but will see the most ethnically and racially diverse bench grace its august halls. 

Following her confirmation, the New York Times explored some of the potential social impact of Judge Jackson becoming Justice Jackson through a series of interviews with women currently in Harvard’s Black Law Students Association, of which Jackson is an alumnus. 

Overwhelming hope and validation graced their statements, summarized well by Brianna Banks, a third-year 26-year-old student at Harvard Law, who said, “people tell you, you come from Harvard Law School, you can do whatever you want, there’s no job that isn’t open to you.” She qualified that statement, stating that “for Black women, that’s not always true, because there are a lot of spaces or jobs that we still have not occupied.” 

Much like her contemporaries, Banks sees Ketanji Brown Jackson’s achievement as a greater beckoning of empowerment for Black women, and as a truly historic moment for the United States. 

Jackson will join the court officially at the beginning of the 2022-2023 term which commences in October.

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