To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is over-qualified; attacks by conservatives are baseless

This past Monday, the Senate began their confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. While this process is significantly less grueling than previous confirmation hearings as conservatives will still hold the majority of Supreme Court seats, Jackson’s nomination shows why appointing the first Black woman to the Supreme Court is important. But whether it swings the Court’s ideological makeup or not, Judge Jackson’s existence on the Court further pushes the racial boundaries that have been in place since the nation’s founding. 

The American Bar Association published a report in 2020 outlining the demographics of Bar-certified lawyers in the U.S. As noted in the report, 86 percent of lawyers in 2020 were white, which is an overrepresentation of the white population as a whole which only makes up 60 percent of all U.S. residents. Additionally, only 5 percent of all lawyers in 2020 were reported as African American. Women also make up a smaller portion of lawyers than men, 37 percent. Judge Jackson is an individual who has multiple marginalized identities as a Black woman. Because of this, seeing Judge Jackson on the Supreme Court solidifies for other women of color that they can make it in the legal profession as well. This is a step in the right direction for the United States, but as usual it has come with racially charged backlash from conservative media and lawmakers. 

Earlier this month Fox News’ Tucker Carlson made comments about Judge Jackson’s nomination on his problematic show “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Carlson not only made a remark about her name, but also asked about Judge Jackson’s LSAT scores, something he has never done for any Supreme Court nominee before. “[I]t might be time for Joe Biden to let us know what Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LSAT score was. How did she do on the LSATs? … It would seem like Americans in a democracy have a right to know,” Carlson questioned. But why would this be such a cause for concern for the conservative media figure? Not only is this a stark example of American double-standards when it comes to non-white people in professional fields, but shows the lack of genuine problems that can be asked about Judge Jackson. As someone who is currently studying for the LSAT, the test that largely assists admission to law schools in the U.S, Carlson’s claims are unfounded. The LSAT does not test students on what they know about American law and how to interpret it, rather, it is a test that determines one’s ability to think logically and critically in different scenarios.

This is a fact that Tucker Carlson conceded to on his show this past Tuesday, but yet he still holds that one way to show Judge Jackson’s ability as a great legal scholar is to know her LSAT scores. Conversely, Carlson called Justice Amy Coney Barrett one of the most “impressive” people to receive a Supreme Court nomination in 2020. To compare their histories, Judge Jackson attended Harvard Law School, served as Justice Breyer’s law clerk, has experience as a public defender, was the Vice Chair of the US Sentencing Commission, and has held positions on the US District Court for D.C. and its Court of Appeals. Justice Barrett, is the only Justice on the Court who did not attend an Ivy League law school and is the most inexperienced person to be nominated for the Supreme Court since Justice Clarence Thomas was nominated in 1991. 

But Tucker Carlson, whose education ends at a Bachelor’s degree, is worried about Judge Jackson’s LSAT scores… There is no other reason this would be asked besides racism, as Judge Jackson’s record is stacked and her expertise is unquestionable. 

Additionally, in the hearings conservative lawmakers showed their true lack of knowledge about the legal field—and the Constitution—while questioning Judge Jackson. Those who oppose her confirmation believe her experience as a public defender and some of her previous sentences prove she isn’t tough on crime. But this is a laughable position as being understanding of criminals and what leads them to crime and being a good defense attorney does not mean someone promotes crime. Instead, what Judge Jackson’s experience as a public defender does is give her a better understanding of the fundamental right to counsel and fair trial that is enumerated in the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Some critics, namely, Senator Josh Hawley, point out the very few cases where Judge Jackson ruled somewhat lightly as compared to the recommended sentence by the federal sentencing guidelines, but the criticisms were unfounded. According to 18 U.S. Code 3553, there are many other factors to be considering in the imposition of a sentence. This includes history and characteristics of the defendant, kinds of sentences available, and policy statements, among others. Additionally, a letter from nine retired District and Circuit Court judges was written to the Senators who proposed this issue. The letter defended Judge Jackson’s rulings as “entirely consistent” with nationwide sentencing patterns and defended her stance on the child pornography case in question. 

Other Republican Senators who have their eye on the 2024 Presidential elections spoke up against Judge Jackson’s history. Ted Cruz also questioned Jackson about her rulings in child pornography cases. Trying to keep a tough-on-crime media presence is necessary for republicans vying for the seat. While they have no real argument to make against Judge Jackson, her confirmation is a chance for them to get the spotlight for another ridiculous claim. Cruz even asked Judge Jackson about her views on critical race theory, claiming that it’s being taught in schools and that a specific book taught at a private school where Jackson is on the board of trustees is teaching kids that “babies are racist.” I don’t even have to explain why this is ridiculous, and the critical race theory ‘issue’ is only touted by white Americans who are afraid of confronting the fact that they benefit from America’s institutionalized racism. The proof is there, it’s easy to understand, but it’s not a children’s book so I doubt Ted Cruz will read it. 

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a republican from Tennessee who has a feud with Taylor Swift for some reason, pressed against Judge Jackson in her opening statements. Blackburn asked about Judge Jackson’s “agenda” and if it’s to “let violent criminals, cop killers, and child predators back to the streets.” Blackburn also asked Judge Jackson to define the word “woman,” which has essentially nothing to do with what Jackson’s role in the Supreme Court would be. Rather than underscoring Judge Jackson’s expertise and what would make her fit, or not fit, for this role, Blackburn instead used her time to secure more radical right wing media points. 

During Senate confirmation hearings it is so obvious to me that our lawmakers—and therefore the general public—do not understand that it is impossible to remove politics from the Supreme Court. The questions being asked of Judge Jackson, and that have been asked of other Supreme Court nominees in the past, make no sense when you understand that the Supreme Court is an inherently political body. Presidents elect justices that have similar political views to them and many opinions on contested cases are split down party lines. This isn’t something new that President Biden is doing, as Senator Blackburn claimed in a tweet on Wednesday, this is a fact of the Supreme Court’s existence. It also is extremely hard for judges and legal professionals to remove their political, religious and personal beliefs from their decisions—even when guided by the Constitution. Laws provide a significant amount of room for interpretation from the use of the word “reasonable” to the very ambiguous ninth amendment. Utilizing personal beliefs comes into every single decision judges make from a local to federal level and it’s ridiculous of our government to claim otherwise. 

Even with the confirmation of Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court, conservatives will still hold the majority. Conservatives though keep underscoring the importance of her radical views shifting Supreme Court ideology—which they certainly will not. Ted Cruz tweeted on Wednesday that he “hope[s] every Republican and every Democrat looks at Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record and asks if she would be someone who would defend the Constitution and protect our Constitutional rights. Free speech, religious liberty and the Second Amendment all hang in the balance!” In actuality, none of these things are in question, and none of them would be even with a left-wing majority on the Court. Just like this article, the coverage of Judge Jackson’s hearings has focused more on the insanity that is modern American conservative thought instead of the groundbreaking confirmation this will be. 

Judge—soon to be Justice—Ketanji Brown Jackson is an amazing figure in American politics and within the legal field, she will bring a much-needed well-rounded perspective to the Supreme Court. I am more than excited to see the Supreme Court be slightly more representative of this country and excited to hopefully see more people pursue a law degree because of it. 

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