In the time of war in another part of the world, President Joe Biden has crafted history with the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, complimenting her as “one of the nation’s brightest legal minds”.
The primary significance of Friday’s nomination must be that Ms Jackson will be the first black woman to serve in the court’s 233-year history, if confirmed. It would be pertinent to recall that the court had once declared her race as unworthy of citizenship. Nay more, it had even endorsed segregation. She will replace the liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires at the end of the court’s term in June. Ms Jackson, a federal appeals judge, said on Friday she was “humbled” by the nomination.
President Biden described Judge Jackson as an “extraordinary” candidate, with an “independent mind, uncompromising integrity and a strong moral compass”. With the Senate divided 50-50 between the parties, Democrats have just enough votes to confirm President Biden’s choice if they all back her. Vice-President Kamala Harris has the deciding vote in the case of a tie. Justice Breyer’s replacement would not shift the court’s current 6-3 conservative majority.
For any nomination of a Supreme Court justice, the President first chooses his preferred candidate, and the Senate then votes to confirm that nominee, which requires a simple majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings “in the coming weeks”. It would be pertinent to recall that Mr Biden first promised to nominate a black woman to the top court two years ago while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Black women make up about 3 per cent of the federal judiciary, according to data from the Federal Judicial Center, the court system’s research entity.
The nomination is historic for more than one reason. If she is confirmed, four women will sit together on the nine-member court for the first time. “For too long, our government, our court hasn’t looked like America,” Mr Biden said on Friday. “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talent and greatness of our nation.” There have been just two black Americans on the Supreme Court to date. Justice Thurgood Marshall was nominated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 and Justice Clarence Thomas was nominated by President George Bush in 1994 and still occupies the bench.
In 2012, then President Barack Obama nominated Ms Jackson to serve as a district court judge in Washington. During the eight years she spent in the district court, she penned more than 500 opinions. Among them, she ruled that Donald F McGhan II, the former White House counsel to President Donald Trump, had to testify in the Russia meddling probe. “Presidents are not kings,” she wrote. Ms Jackson boasts high calibre credentials ~ an Ivy League law school, a clerkship with retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and eight years as a federal district court judge.