A Teaching Justice: Why America Needs Judge Jackson Now!

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In the midst of the loud, dreadful—and grossly distorted—attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, one of her many admirable qualities impressed me the most.

Judge Jackson, the daughter of educators, is a superb educator as well. I found myself fascinated by her explanations of aspects of the Constitution and several important amendments, tying them succinctly to Supreme Court rulings in language that was clear and accessible to non-lawyers like me.

Despite the ugliness of several persistent and QAnon-inspired lines of questioning, these hearings were exemplary in one large sense because of the nominee herself.

And not just because she maintained her composure during the brutal assaults on her record and demonstrably false imputations on her character.

In the recent past, Supreme Court nominees have provided platitudes and non-answers. Eager to avoid controversy, judges have too often hidden behind the legitimate argument that a question might some day be related to a case before them—and thus was out of bounds.

Judge Jackson rarely did so. Her responses provided a mini-civics course—often in answering her critics. She deftly detailed the role of a judge/justice and the importance of public defenders.

As her interrogators repeatedly sought to depict her as soft on crime and out of the mainstream in her sentencing in child pornography cases, she explained that judges were hindered by the failure of Congress to grapple with a serious discrepancy in the sentencing guidelines as they pertain to child pornography.

I found that implied criticism quite brave, especially as we learned subsequently that some of the former President’s judicial appointees, who had received “yes” votes from Cruz, Hawley, et al, had similar sentencing patterns and had also expressed frustration with the guidelines.

Though the Republican Senators accepted no responsibility, Senator Dick Durban (D.-IL), the Committee Chair, certainly did. He acknowledged that Congress has shied away from this difficult issue in recent years and must confront it.

I was so struck by her teaching that I wondered if anyone else had written about it. Indeed, I found a lengthy Twitter string on the topic.

Joyce White Vance, a former US attorney, now a law professor and highly respected media commentator on legal matters, started things off with this assessment:

“Judge Jackson is at her best when she’s explaining the Constitution and how the text is interpreted. If she’s confirmed, her opinions will read with the clarity that helps non-lawyers in the public understand the law. We need judges like this on the bench.”

That tweet was followed by many others from non-lawyers who expressed the same appreciation that I felt. One said the nominee’s explanation of the separation of powers “should be required watching by every student in America.”

Another referred to Judge Jackson’s statement during the hearings that she makes sure defendants understand the judicial process. I wonder how many judges take the time to do that, as it seems to be a fair and solid way to improve respect for the law and the judicial system.

The hearings, I believe, served as a teachable moment for America—and this Judge was the ideal person to provide it.

She emphatically embraces her identity and responsibilities as a Black American woman. She has been praised by many as a mentor. On the bench, her presence, demeanor, and intellect will be an inspiration to young Black girls—as well as to us all.

Even before the hearings, a Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans said the Senate should vote to confirm her. Gallup noted that this support is “10 percentage points above the historical norm, while the percentage without an opinion is 11 points lower.” No other nominee since Chief Justice John Roberts has received that level of support.

I’m guessing that figure would be even higher if the poll had been taken after the hearings.

Now that Senator Susan Collins (R.-ME) has announced her support, Judge Jackson’s confirmation seems assured–though the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are threatening to block her nomination from reaching the full Senate for a vote. That would be a further disgrace to them, but it won’t prevent her from taking her seat on the Court.

It’s true that Judge Jackson’s appointment will not change the balance on the Court: it will still have a 6-3 conservative (I believe radical) majority. But she has already shown her wisdom, intellect, compassion, strength, and grace; her presence will be significant.

She is renowned for her lengthy opinions, which she explained were her attempts to be transparent.

Under the circumstances, she may well deliver dissents that, in the words of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “…speak to a future age.”

Ginsburg added:

“…the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”

What impact might Judge Jackson have on the current Justices?

She has too much humility to begin her tenure as an Associate Justice by lecturing her colleagues on jurisprudence.

But she will be assuming her position on a court whose majority has disregarded Constitutional precedents in several of its rulings, has further weakened the Voting Rights Act, and has delivered some hastily determined unsigned decisions late at night.

Their lack of impartiality and rationales with no apparent basis in law have been broadly condemned. Questions about those who backed them for the Court raise serious issues about the impact of dark money on their rulings.

At least two of them have demonstrated non-judicial temperaments in their hearings when they were accused of sexual improprieties. One of those is closely associated with high-level participants in the plans to overthrow our government that culminated in the January 6th, 2021 Insurrection.

After watching her in the hearings, I think we should be honored and grateful that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is eager to bring her prodigious talents to this Supreme Court at this time in our nation’s history.

Though my expectations concerning the Court’s majority are low, they could learn a great deal from her about the law, the Constitution, personal dignity and integrity, love for country, and life in America today.

Your thoughts?

Annie

24 thoughts on “A Teaching Justice: Why America Needs Judge Jackson Now!

    1. Thanks, Judy. I don’t feel so balanced; it’s very hard to watch all this. And how Judge Jackson’s family must have felt–watching and hearing her being so verbally abused. These characters, several supposedly well-educated, must know better; yet they play to the worst instincts of their party’s followers.

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  1. Jane Mayer, writing the the Jan. 31, 2022 issue of “The New Yorker,” reports that public approval of the Supreme Court has it’s lowest approval rating in history. This isn’t surprising considering how often Justices are blatantly chosen (and opposed) for their presumed political perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the reference, whungerford. I thought I’d read that, but my quick search didn’t bring me to Jane Mayer’s piece. I think she’s great, by the way. Her book Dark Money is even more valuable today than when she wrote it.

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    1. Thank you, my friend from a calmer environment! I agree; I think she’d be historic even if she weren’t breaking this significant barrier. Here’s hoping she’ll be the Chief Justice some day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I don’t know how much calmer or saner we are? The NDP just made a deal to prop up Trudeau’s minority Liberal government for 4 years, in return for more social programs we can’t afford to finance. Which is not what the majority of voters voted for as the Liberals only got 35% of the votes last election. That’s the problem with having 3 parties running. I guess he was that desperate to stay in power. Makes me really miss the days when Harper or Chretian were PM – they put the good of the country first.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. She was, indeed, Matthew. But there’s something terribly wrong about her having to endure those vicious attacks. They essentially created a fictitious Judge Jackson and then berated this made-up embodiment of all the right wing’s tropes.

      On a happier note, how was your hike with your dad? I saw only one or two posts about it. Were there more?

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      1. Yeah I think there’s a really valuable oversight role to be played in the appointment if such an important role, but attacks like those she endured served no purpose. They didn’t illuminate any values or thinking, and were a wasted opportunity to explore a doubtless excellent candidate’s credentials. I’ll refer you to today’s post re the West Highland Way – disaster has struck I’m afraid!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m still waiting (in vain, no doubt) for the Republican senators who thrashed Judge Jackson for no good reason to take Justice Thomas to task for being in close cahoots with a woman who fervently urged the White House chief of staff to overturn the 2020 election.

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    1. Yeah…afraid that’ll be a mighty long wait, Gail. Ole Mitch already said this minor demonstration of judicial conflict (at best!) doesn’t bother him one whit. Recuse? Resign? Nah!

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  3. Thrilled about her participation. Absolutely an improvement and who knows, with her educator’s gift, ready smile, kind demeanor, perhaps in the sanctity of those hallowed chambers, she can make headway with the less informed on the bench.

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    1. We must hope that there will be happy surprises, Denise. Sandra Day O’Connor said Justice Thurgood Marshall changed her mind about affirmative action. But I see no O’Connors in this bunch.

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      1. O’connor oh you mean the person who wa quoted as saying on election night before she helped appoint the loser to the white house, stated that she wanted to retire but would have to wait for a thuglican president and then helped appoint one contrary to existing practices after which she immediately retired.
        Oh and don’t forget she saw nothing wrong with Thomas’s and Scalia’s conflict of interests of relatives ( Ginny thomas and scalia’s misbegotten spawn) working for the twits campaighn while they ruled on its dubious legitamousy.
        God save us all from such hypocrites and oathbreakers.

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  4. Alas Justice Jackson and other sane Justices that may get appointed are caught in a aconundrum of the wingnut justices makings.
    With the avalache of partisan bad precedents they have established, Citizens Unite, gunlaws, Bribery of Gov officials ( Va. Gov case among others) upcoming aborition cases and to many others to enumerate, without even mentioning abuse of the shadow docket Justice Jackson will be hard pressed to fully suport stare decisis (precedents).
    Yet as soon as the sanity block of the present dishonorable scotus votes to ignore, or overrule those judicial outrages, the partisan nutcase block will use that as an excuse to ignore all precedents and use shadow docket to railroad through any number of further abuses of the judicial system.

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