March 25, 2022

Celebrating Judge Jackson

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

This was a historic and truly inspiring week as we watched Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Jackson was exceptional, providing the Senate and the public with insight on her approach to a wide range of different issues and her thinking about the role of the courts.

There were a litany of highlights from the four days of hearings, with Senators celebrating the historic nature of Judge Jackson’s nomination, her exceptional qualifications, and the positive impact she would have on the Court’s deliberations. Most of all, I was moved by Judge Jackson’s own opening remarks:

I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity and to be the first and only Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. I stand on the shoulders of generations past who never had anything close to this opportunity.

The fact that it has taken this long for a Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court will be a permanent scar for the Court and our country. We say it often, the Supreme Court should look like the public it serves, and yet it never has. Judge Jackson’s nomination and this confirmation process are critical steps in changing this. Her perspective, as a Black woman, as a former public defender, as someone with nearly nine years of judicial experience, will strengthen the Court’s deliberations and help the Court better understand how its decisions will impact people’s lives.

This week also, unfortunately, saw egregious and racist behavior by certain senators who sought only to distract from Judge Jackson’s exceptional qualifications and to further their own political agenda. In response to the best and worst moments of this week’s hearings, Zinelle October, our executive vice president, wrote this powerful article in Ms. Magazine. I encourage you to read the full article; here are two excerpts from it:

Jackson’s experience in these hearings is painfully familiar to people of color because it is our daily reality in this country. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) knows this too, and thank goodness for his words on Wednesday when we (including Jackson) all needed them. His vow that his Republican colleagues “will not steal my joy,” was exactly what I myself needed to hear after watching hours and hours of distorted, racist attacks against one of the most qualified legal minds in this country. Jackson’s tears in response to Booker matched my own, and I know matched those of millions of other people of color and women.
Jackson should be confirmed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. However, that’s not the world in which we find ourselves, still. Having watched the four days of hearings, I am not holding out hope for a 100-0 vote. But I am holding out hope that history will soon be made, and Judge Jackson will become Justice Jackson—with a bipartisan vote. And from henceforth all Black women and girls will finally see themselves on our highest court.

This week, Zinelle also released the following statement on behalf of ACS.

We are profoundly disappointed that certain Senators have used this historic confirmation hearing to grandstand and to make blatantly unfounded and aggressive attacks in an attempt to distort Judge Jackson’s qualifications and her record as a judge. The repeated use of racist and dog-whistle politics is reprehensible and is compounded by the insistence of these same Senators to endlessly interrupt Judge Jackson and prevent her from answering questions. This disrespectful behavior continues an alarming trend that we have witnessed throughout the last year during the confirmation hearings of women of color. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of Senator Durbin and others to call out this behavior and to correct the record.

None of these racist antics or distortions can undermine the truth: Judge Jackson is exceptionally well qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. Her perspective, as a Black woman, as a former public defender, as someone with nearly nine years of judicial experience already, would strengthen the Court’s deliberations and help the Court understand how its decisions would impact people’s lives.”

After four days of hearings, here is what we know for certain: Judge Jackson is one of the greatest legal minds in this country. The Committee and Senate will vote on her confirmation in the next few weeks. She will be an exceptional Supreme Court justice if confirmed. And, as Senator Cory Booker proclaimed during the hearing on Wednesday, we will not allow those senators striving to defile this historic moment, to steal the joy that this moment inspires for the rest of us. ACS celebrates Judge Jackson and thanks her for blazing this trail for many more to follow.

I also want to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Equal Rights Amendment being sent to the states. As I wrote in a recent letter to Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney “It is my opinion that the ERA has met all constitutional requirements and the Archivist can and should certify and publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution without delay.”