Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson doesn’t have a long list of notable federal court judgments to her name, but lefties appreciate her scathing attack on former President Donald Trump’s executive privilege claims.
President Joe Biden announced Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Friday, making her the court’s first Black female justice.
But legal experts believe the jury is still out on whether she would ideologically change the court.
Jackson’s supporters say they trust her to be a strong liberal voice on the Supreme Court, despite the lack of a clear judicial ideology in her nine years on the bench.
However, leftists are encouraged by Jackson’s willingness to take on Trump in high-profile cases while serving on the DC district court.
It was widely assumed that Trump would be sued after the House’s subpoena case against former Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn was assigned to Jackson in 2019.
Jackson’s 118-page rant ripped apart Trump’s notion that his advisers had absolute immunity from Congressional subpoenas.
“Presidents are not kings,” Jackson said, dismissing the long-standing argument as “a fiction” and “a concept that cannot be squared with essential constitutional values.”
Few decisions had apparent political connotations, save from one in which Jackson stopped the Trump administration from expanding expedited deportation processes.
“There’s not much there that’s radical. Judge Brown-Nagin is a constitutional law expert and dean of the Harvard-Radcliffe Institute.
Republicans seemed to agree that Jackson’s judicial record wasn’t particularly absurd or extreme.
Senator Mitch McConnell highlighted Jackson had only produced two opinions on the D.C. Circuit in her eight months on the court. But he swiftly added that Jackson’s liberal supporters worry him.
“Far-left dark-money organisations have spent years assaulting the validity and structure of the court,” McConnell said.
Just as Republican presidents now go beyond a nominee’s judgements or writings to determine their conservative credentials, so do Democratic presidents and liberal organisations.
Biden and his allies have proudly touted that, if confirmed, she will be the first former federal defender to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Liberal legal activists want more judges with that kind of background, alleging that too many are former federal prosecutors with a pro-prosecution bias.
Throughout his career, Biden has been associated with tough-on-crime policies rather than the liberal movement for criminal justice reform.
On Friday, Biden and his top advisers were eager to assure the president — and even the candidate — that her work as a defence lawyer did not indicate she was pro-crime or anti-police.
“She hails from a law enforcement family,” Trump stated, flanked by Jackson and Harris.
He then quoted a police union as certain that Jackson will “treat law enforcement problems equitably and justly.”
The mention of Jackson’s work as a public defender was applauded by some, but the overtures to law enforcement were seen as pandering to Republicans.
“This dialogue around police enforcement felt like a political moment,” said Judith Dianis of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organisation.
Interested in her experience as a public defender? That aspect didn’t feel balanced.”
The vice president lauded Jackson’s “strong moral compass” and her “courage to stand up for what she believes is right” but noted she doesn’t improvise on the bench.
”Her views are always well-reasoned, rooted in precedent, and sensitive to the law’s impact on ordinary people,”
the president said Not that she tilts the scales of justice, but she is aware of the ramifications of her choices.
However, the evidence for this is minimal. She’s only been on the D.C. Circuit, which hears cases in three-judge panels, for nine months. Previously, she sat alone in the same courthouse as a district court judge.
Her service on the US Sentencing Commission, which establishes guidelines for federal judges to follow in criminal cases, may have been referenced by the president.
Mr Biden said Judge Jackson was known for working with both Democrats and Republicans to find solutions.
Experts say Jackson’s work on the obscure committee doesn’t reflect her ability to bridge ideological divides on the nation’s highest court — or even her willingness to try.
What is Judge Jackson’s ability to establish a coalition on a nine-member court? Josh Blackman of South Texas College of Law.
Jackson, a former law clerk of the justice she would replace, Justice Stephen Breyer, may take up his method of limiting issues and seeking compromise rulings.
But Breyer did best when the court was split 5-4 between Republican and Democratic appointees.
Now that the court is 6-3 conservative, the opportunity and even wisdom of forging bridges are diminished.
Some critics say Jackson lacks the stoicism of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s liberal stalwart since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Jackson resembles Breyer more than Sotomayor, according to Blackman. He also emphasised the Supreme Court’s interpersonal dynamics are distinctive and unpredictable.
The two Jacksons may not be the same person, Blackman says.
If Jackson is confirmed, the court’s long-standing challenge to affirmative action in college admissions will be tested this fall.
The most notable example is a 2014 lawsuit alleging that Harvard’s initiatives to increase Black and Hispanic student admissions are illegally discriminatory against Asian Americans.
Many of Jackson’s fans are excited about her chance to defend affirmative action programmes before the Supreme Court later this year. However,
it is unclear whether Jackson will participate in the Harvard case given that she has been on the Board of Overseers since 2016.
Jackson is likely to be involved in a companion lawsuit involving a challenge to policies at the public University of North Carolina.
While it is uncertain how the cases will be argued and how Jackson will handle the recusal issue, her opinion is unlikely to be important.
These programmes have been hanging by a thread before the Supreme Court for decades, and now they seem doomed with a six-justice majority of Republican appointees following Trump’s three selections.
If Jackson participates in such cases, she will play a role similar to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s role in the court’s private deliberations as the court’s first Black member.
When the justices leave the courtroom, the Innocence Project Executive Director Christina Swarns says she will provide a history and perspective that no one else will have.
“That has an impact on how the court perceives and addresses these concerns, directly or indirectly.”