Ketanji Brown Jackson: This is the new Supreme Court Justice

Ketanji Brown Jackson
The judge who once put Donald Trump in his place now sits on the US Supreme Court

More is not possible as a lawyer: Brown Jackson is now a judge on the Supreme Court

© Jabin Botsford / AFP

With the “historic candidate” Ketanji Brown Jackson, there is a black judge on the US Supreme Court for the first time. The liberal lawyer comes to the US Supreme Court at a time when the conservatives have demonstrated their power.

Ketanji Brown Jackson enters the Supreme Court in turbulent times. In a highly controversial decision, the US Supreme Court recently overturned the country’s almost 50-year-old abortion law. The ideological rifts at the powerful court in the capital, Washington, appear almost impossible to bridge.

Regardless, Jackson’s inauguration is a historic moment: the 51-year-old will be the first black woman in US history to belong to the nine-member court. She is aware of her historical role: “Since I was nominated for this post, I have had so many messages and letters and photos from young girls from all over the country telling me how excited they are about this opportunity,” said Jackson before the Senate in the spring.

108 out of 115 judges were white males

The current federal judge wants to become even more of a role model for black girls who dream of a career in law – and show that in the land of supposedly unlimited opportunities, African American women can actually get to the top.

So far, the Supreme Court has been anything but a brilliant example: in its 233-year history, 108 of the 115 judges were white men. Two black men have made it to the powerful Supreme Court, but one black woman has never.

Ketanji Brown Jackson: The judge who once put Donald Trump in his place is now on the US Supreme Court

Until now. The US Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee to succeed retiring Liberal Constitutional Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring on Thursday. In addition to all senators from Biden’s Democrats, three senators from the opposition Republicans also voted for Jackson.

The confirmation process in the Senate in the spring was anything but easy for the graduate of the elite Harvard University, who most recently worked as a judge on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.

Allegations from the right refuted

The opposition Republicans had used the Senate hearings as a campaign platform and accused the mother of two daughters, who is married to a surgeon, of having handed down sentences that were too lenient for child pornography offenders as a judge – an accusation that was quickly refuted by independent fact-checkers.

Conservatives have also labeled Jackson as a left-wing activist and have sought to draw her into their culture wars over issues of gender, sexuality and racist schooling, with which they hope to vote in November’s midterm congressional elections.

Jackson, however, had let the attacks roll off him at the hearings with stoic calm. The majority leader of the Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, described her performance as a “master class”. “The Republicans wanted to hit the bullseye. But Judge Jackson stayed cool.”

The appointment to the nine-member Supreme Court is the culmination of a brilliant career. Born in Washington and raised in Miami, Jackson was exposed to legal issues as a child when her father—a teacher—was tackling a law degree and cramming at the kitchen table. The parents grew up in the American south during the segregation period.

She defended Guantanamo detainees

After her own law studies at Harvard, Jackson worked as an assistant to the newly retired Stephen Breyers – the very judge she will now succeed on the Supreme Court. She later worked for a while as a public defender, representing clients who could not afford a lawyer. Among them were inmates of the notorious Guantanamo prison camp.

Jackson became a federal judge in 2013. She probably made her best-known judgment in 2019, when she inflicted a legal defeat on then-President Donald Trump: she ruled that high-ranking government employees had to comply with parliamentary subpoenas, which Trump wanted to prevent. “Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote in her verdict. In 2021, the judge was then appointed to the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington.

Her rise to the Supreme Court is a historic moment. However, this will not change anything about the majority situation at the court. The six conservative judges – three of whom were appointed by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump – face only three liberal ones. With the reversal of the Roe v. Wade abortion landmark ruling, the “Republican camp” has demonstrated that they are willing to make harsh judgments. The search for balance and compromises clearly has no priority.


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