Ketanji Brown Jackson was officially confirmed on April 7 as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Although her appointment to the bench is delayed until next term when Justice Stephen Breyer retires, that doesn’t make the event any less historic.
As someone who views diversity as an important factor of life and decision-making, I think the intersectionality here is something notable to point out. There have been black justices before — Thurgood Marshall was historically the first Black justice on the Supreme Court — and women justices — Sandra Day O’ Connor being the first — but those two spheres had not intersected. Intersectionality is an important aspect to law because it historically has not been applied to legal decisions.
I would also say Jackson’s final hearing went smoother than the last few, but was still another political battle. Having seen parts of the Senate hearing for Jackson’s nomination, I agree with conservatives like Lindsey Graham when they mentioned that the previous hearings were messy and that they hoped for this one to be professional.
The hearing for Brett Kavanaugh was overshadowed by the sexual assault allegations, which concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove or disprove Christine Blassey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’ claims.
Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing revolved around Roe v. Wade and her religious views, and that’s a healthy discussion. On the other hand, people taking to social media to call her a racist for adopting Hatian children and her statements on her family are unfair — especially by ignoring the context and stories behind both adoptions. That is uncalled for. Comparatively, this hearing felt smooth on the inside and outside for once.
That is where my agreement with conservatives ends though. Their tactics to question her and oppose the confirmation were absurd and insulting.
First, there were the accusations surrounding cases of child pornography where conservatives claimed she had a long track record for letting those convicted “off the hook.” There is slight weight to this accusation, but not much. It is true her sentences were lighter than federal guidelines suggest, but it ignores critical context, especially considering those who questioned her on this, like Sen. Josh Hawley, have previously voted in federal judges with similar track records.
Then, there were the accusations of her engaging in judicial activism. The term means expanding individual rights and protections through decisions beyond established precedent and opposed to legal intent. To me, I think this falls under the argument of a strict versus living Constitution.
Judicial activism is more like expanding protections or rights based on how the country has changed instead of viewing the Constitution as stuck in the past. Actually, her judicial philosophy falls more heavily under originalism — analyzing original intent — than anything else.
Conservatives used several tactics to challenge Jackson, the first tactic being the “what is a woman” question, a talking point which aims to invalidate trans identities and does not need to be dignified with an answer. Their second tactic of highlighting her refusal to answer whether she supports packing the courts also holds no real weight because Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer that question as well.
Personally, I’m really happy Jackson was confirmed. As I expressed before, diversity is something extremely important to me, so I hope this is a sign that we will see more historic firsts on the Supreme Court during our lifetime.