Biden’s SCOTUS Pick: Tainted by Unjust Criteria
There is a lot to admire about Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Sadly, President Biden’s methodology in choosing her has undermined the very values she represents.
Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?
Ketanji Brown Jackson worked hard to get to her current seat on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. She was raised to recognize the wide-open possibilities in front of her, and set about making the most of them. In an interview for The Washington Post, she recalled her parents teaching her that “unlike the many impenetrable barriers that they had to face, my path was clear.”
That’s not to say that her path would be easy. As a black woman, Jackson had her share of encounters with racists. But instead of playing the victim, she chose the higher course of simply proving them wrong, taking advantage of the abundant opportunities that come with being an American.
In a 2017 speech, she said “Girls like my daughters need to learn that they have opportunities in America today, opportunities that don’t exist for girls in many other countries.”
Friends and colleagues say Jackson refused to be sidetracked by petty slights and insults. She sought to persuade political opponents rather than battle them. She once told a Black student group at the University of Chicago, “[I]f we’re going to get to where we belong … we can’t keep stopping and fretting over random ridiculousness!”
Jackson’s intelligence, resilience, and laser-like focus paid off big. She earned both her undergraduate and law degrees, with honors, from Harvard. She researched the plea bargaining system for her thesis, and went on to become an expert on the topic of sentencing guidelines.
Her judicial career began in 2012, when she was nominated by President Obama for the U.S. District Court in D.C. Last year President Biden tapped her to serve on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Biden’s Affirmative Action Insult
When Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plan to retire, President Biden vowed to replace him with the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. Jackson’s nomination fulfills that pledge, since she does happen to be female and Black. But by couching his choice in the language of affirmative action, Biden tainted America’s view of her competence.
Jackson’s skills, education, and background qualify her to serve on the High Court. So it is an insult to her — indeed, to all women of color — for the President to announce that he was clearing the field of men and white women before choosing her.
Instead of seeing that Jackson’s tenacity, intelligence, and hard work qualify her for the Supreme Court, many will now see her as someone who was given an unfair advantage. What’s worse is that they may assume she needed it.
And this is one of the societal harms caused by today’s class-based policies. They insult the people being “favored,” and embitter those who had to compete solely on merit.
Should Jackson Be Confirmed?
Let’s put policy views aside for a moment, since that’s what we expect judges to do. If we’re talking purely about experience, education, and strength of character, Ketanji Brown Jackson is well-suited for the United States Supreme Court.
Yes, I am concerned that Jackson seems to be a favorite of far-left special interest groups like People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Planned Parenthood Federation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. Does she agree with their policy views? I don’t know. But I still believe it is possible for judges to have the integrity to apply the law as written, even when it produces a result they don’t like.
The questions we ask about Jackson should be aimed at finding out whether that’s the kind of Justice she will be. Most importantly: How does she interpret the Constitution? Does she give it the meaning she thinks it ought to have, or will she stick to the meaning of the language when it was written?
Does she believe the role of a judge is to apply the law as it is, or to facilitate social change by interpreting it creatively?
Is she strong enough to be more faithful to the law than her personal policy views?
These are the questions that matter when we choose a judge. Questions of race, sex, and the like, do not.
Justice is Color Blind
Like many courthouses, the U.S. Supreme Court features sculptures of Lady Justice. She is most often pictured blindfolded, because real justice is blind to identity and appearance.
Politicians, put on your blindfolds, and choose people according to merit. Stop insulting minorities by acting like you’re doing them a favor when you choose them. The field of smart, educated, hard-working people includes all races and genders. If you don’t believe that, you might be an actual racist.
Rita Peters is a constitutional attorney, the author of Restoring America’s Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture and co-host of the weekly radio program, “Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet.”