The White House announced Friday morning that President Biden was nominating Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the United States Supreme Court, citing a 2020 campaign promise that he would select the first-ever black women to sit in the High Court.
The race and gender identity of Biden’s nominee has been almost the only topic of media attention since Judge Breyer announced on January 27 that he would retire at the end of the current term in October 2022.
That’s partly because there won’t be a change in the political balance of the court, which will remain split 6-3 between reactionary justices appointed by Republican presidents and moderate liberals appointed by Democrats. Breyer was nominated by Democrat Bill Clinton.
The focus on the “first black woman” is a desperate attempt by Biden and Democrats to use race and gender to drum up political support in November’s midterm elections. Political support for Democrats among working people is plummeting, under conditions where the administration has failed to enact promised social reforms or block attacks on democratic rights, such as the ongoing attack on the right to vote by Republican-controlled state governments. Millions of working people who voted for Biden in 2020, hoping to strike a blow at the vicious right-wing policies of Trump and Republicans, have seen those illusions explode.
At an afternoon press conference, where Biden introduced Jackson, the president said, “For too long our government, our courts have not looked like America.” However, an examination of Jackson’s background and experience shows that she is a very conventional representative of the capitalist legal establishment.
Far from his presence on the Supreme Court, assuming it is confirmed, thwarting the court’s right-wing trajectory for many decades, Biden and Jackson’s remarks on Friday point to the Democrats’ continued slide to the right and their orientation towards appeasement. and the conquest of any section, however small, of Senate Republicans.
Biden pointed to Jackson’s ties to the police. He said: “She comes from a law enforcement family, with her brother and uncles having served as police officers.” Biden pointed to the preliminary approval she received from the National Fraternal Order of Police, citing their statement in which they are confident that she “will approach her future cases with an open mind and address issues related to the application of the law in a just and equitable manner”.
Biden also pointed out that Jackson had been confirmed by the U.S. Senate with “bipartisan support” three times: as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, as a federal district court judge, and as a judge of the court. federal appeal. Biden cited comments from a Republican-appointed retired judge who he said supported her “enthusiastically.”
Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, was raised in an upper-middle-class family in Miami. Her father, Johnny Brown, was chief attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board and her mother was principal of the New World School of the Arts, a magnetic public school in downtown Miami.
She attended Harvard University and then Harvard Law School, where she oversaw the writing of the Harvard Law Review and earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1996. She served as a law clerk for the United States District Court in Massachusetts and the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals from 1996 to 1999. She then worked for a year in private law practice for a firm in Washington DC and then clerk to Justice Breyer at the Supreme Court from 1999 to 2000.
Jackson returned to private practice from 2000 to 2003, then worked as an assistant special counsel for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the U.S. government agency that sets federal court sentencing guidelines, from 2003 to 2005. She is then became an assistant public defender in Washington DC before the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit between 2005 and 2007.
In an apparent reference to his role as a public defender, the official White House statement said Jackson “has an unusual background in our legal system.” If confirmed, she would be the first former public defender to become a Supreme Court justice and the only justice in the past three decades to have led a defense case in court (the last was Thurgood Marshall). This fact exposes the Supreme Court’s distance from the experiences of the American working class with the justice system, where the poor are routinely incarcerated due to lack of resources and inadequate representation.
After three years with multinational law firm Morrison & Foerster, Jackson returned to the US Sentencing Commission as Vice Chair, appointed to the position by Barack Obama, from 2010 to 2014. During her tenure on the commission, the organization has narrowed the guideline range. penalties for crack-related offences.
Obama nominated her for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012 and she was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2013, where she was nominated by Republican Representative Paul Ryan (just out of his vice-presidential race), who is related to Jackson by marriage.
Among the rulings Jackson wrote was a November 2019 ruling that ordered Donald Trump’s White House attorney, Donald McGahn, to comply with a legislative subpoena, where she wrote that “presidents are not kings. This decision was later reversed by the Court of Appeal. Other decisions reported in the press were those of a typical moderate liberal, siding with victims of racial, gender or other forms of identity-based discrimination, but not challenging the divisions the most fundamental aspects of American society based on class and wealth.
In March 2021, Biden nominated Jackson to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill the seat vacated by Merrick Garland, whom Biden appointed Attorney General. She was confirmed by the US Senate on June 14, 2021, in a 53-44 vote, with the support of three Republicans and 50 Democrats. According to legal commentators, his time in the appeals court was too short to make any assessment of his decisions.
Regardless of her past decisions, the comments she made after being introduced by the president were significant to her policy positions and the direction of the Democratic Party more generally. First, her remarks could have been made — aside from her references to the first black female federal judge, Constance Baker Motley — by any Republican law-and-order figure.
She began by “thanking God for bringing me to this point in my professional journey. My life has been blessed beyond measure, and I know you can only go so far by faith. Although Jackson is entitled to his religious beliefs, they have no bearing on his suitability for a lifetime appointment to the highest federal court.
Invoking religious belief as, in fact, a requirement for the position is particularly discreditable at a time when democratic rights are under attack in the United States by far-right and fascistic political forces that routinely use Christian fundamentalism as a battering ram. against the secular foundations of the Constitution.
Jackson then continued to promote his family relationship with the police and military: his brother became an officer and detective for the Baltimore Police Department, then enlisted in the U.S. Army and served two missions in the Middle East. Here, identity politics is employed to justify American militarism and police violence.
His remarks contained so many olive branches to the Republican right that there was little time for anything else. Meanwhile, there were no such signals to the so-called “left” and “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party. She avoided any reference to abortion rights, which are likely to be further gutted during the current Supreme Court term, or the massive assault on suffrage, which Biden likened a few years ago. mere months to the rebellion of the slave owners in the Civil War.