Today at noon, Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. This appointment bears a palpable history for many as she becomes the first Floridian, first former public defender and first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the nation.
Smart, young and diligent with unparalleled experience, Jackson has all the signs of a stellar justice in the making. She also brings a new perspective to the court as the only justice to have served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Florida is well-represented by Jackson as she takes her place on the highest bench of all. Already, her record demonstrates a clear conviction for the rule of law and a determination to listen to all of the evidence.
The nation needs a justice with this valuable background as she takes her place at a time when the court is dominated by partisan dark money interests.
What Jackson is up against
The Supreme Court was swung rightward by those who espoused “The Scheme,” a sinister strategy created by former Justice Lewis F. Powell.
To initiate the scheme, donations fill the coffers of those with influence over federal judge nominations. Then, shady political groups promote judges who are handpicked by an extreme conservative group called the Federalist Society. The reliance on contributions from these political groups ensures the judges are confirmed. These judges are then influenced by corporations writing amicus curiae briefs.
In the case of Powell, he worked to make this strategy a reality and was appointed to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. On the bench, he maintained a strongly conservative and pro-business record.
There is no Democratic equivalent to this. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, actually exposed “The Scheme.” Many Republicans have absurdly claimed that Jackson was the favored choice of dark money, but this is false. She is merely an outstanding public servant who deserves a promotion.
Contrastingly, “The Scheme” has mostly paid off for those who utilize it. There were at least 80 decisions split 5-4 in the Roberts Court from 2004 to 2018 alone that have benefitted corporations at the expense of the American people.
The legal reasoning for these decisions is twisted, tormented and tortured. ‘Originalist’ or ‘textualist’ judges — those who think the laws should be interpreted as were originally meant — suddenly bent over backward to accommodate their newfound appreciation for judicial activism.
Republicans are protective of these ill-begotten gains. In Jackson’s case, Republicans stated that Guantanamo Bay detainees, one of which Jackson defended, should be denied constitutional rights. They tried to portray Jackson as a baby killer, a critical race theorist, even trying to get her to define what a woman is for good measure.
When those attacks failed, Republicans made it seem like Jackson had some secret agenda in favor of defendants involved with child pornography, when instead she was acting within her discretion in a system many judges believe is too harsh on those defendants. Her chief accuser, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, even voted for a judge who has carried out the same practices in his home state.
Perhaps Republicans should focus on their own problematic SCOTUS appointees.
Recently, Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared at a partisan Federalist Society meeting that the press was not allowed into. One can imagine what was discussed.
Justice Clarence Thomas is even more ethically compromised. He refused to recuse himself from cases involving the ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign, even though his wife, the infamous Ginni Thomas, played a key role in that shameful movement. He then was the only Justice to dissent from a rejection of a conspiracy-theory driven lawsuit claiming the election was stolen.
A Justice who speaks for everyone
Now, however, corrupt conservatives have met their match. After those contentious hearings, Jackson is even more prepared to join the highest court in the land. She showed a carefully balanced approach to answering Republicans’ ‘gotcha’ questions.
The courts agree with Jackson’s balanced approach. She has rarely been reversed on appeal. Her rulings have the hallmark of eloquence and keen insight into customary law. She once declared that “presidents are not kings” when denying one of Donald Trump’s many attempts to declare executive privilege after Jan. 6. This was one of many rulings across the federal bench that arguably preserved American democracy and prevented a dangerous concentration of power in the executive.
This balance goes back to Jackson’s early life. One of her uncles was convicted of drug offenses. Two other uncles served in law enforcement, one eventually becoming the police chief of Miami. Her brother is also in law enforcement. Jackson is well versed in order, which is why the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed her.
Jackson also understands the value of hard work. During her childhood, she saw her father spend years studying at night to become a lawyer, becoming Jackson’s inspiration. He was eventually successful, becoming the lawyer for the Miami-Dade County School Board. Her mother, meanwhile, served as principal of the New World School of the Arts in Miami. Still married, they live in Cutler Bay to this day.
Miami is extremely proud of Jackson. In a pre-confirmation statement provided to the Florida Political Review, Luisa Santos, member of the Miami-Dade County School Board for District 9, stated, “It fills me with pride that Judge Brown Jackson is a product of one of the schools [Miami Palmetto Senior High] in the district I represent and her trajectory is an example of what I hope to make possible for every student in Miami.”
Santos added, “[Jackson] shows that anything is possible with a quality education,” the kind of education public schools in South Florida are known for. Santos also pointed out that being raised in Miami-Dade County Public Schools “will provide perspective” for Jackson. The entire Supreme Court will gain from this perspective once the other justices listen to Jackson’s arguments.
“Every student at Miami Palmetto Senior High learns alongside and from students of all races and socioeconomic levels,” Santos stated. This perspective, imbued upon Justice Jackson from an early age means she no doubt “understands the systemic barriers many face in our nation.” Though her appointment means that America “has come a long way,” Jackson’s experiences also mean she understands what a “long way we have to go,” Santos concluded.
Congratulations to incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson on her strongly bipartisan confirmation. She will help steer the federal judiciary back on track after its hostile takeover by corporate interests. Her perspective brings a voice for Florida to the Supreme Court for the first time, while simultaneously representing the very best of what a good public education can do in a meritocracy.
Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.
Featured image: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, meets with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to discuss her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Image by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and used under the public domain.