- JACK JENKINS
Washington D.C., United States
Immediately after President Joe Biden introduced Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for the United States Supreme Court at a White House event on Friday, the federal appeals court judge took to the podium and appealed to the divine.
“I have to start these very brief remarks by thanking God for bringing me to this point in my professional journey,” she said. “My life has been blessed beyond measure, and I know you can only go so far by faith.”
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks after President Joe Biden announced Jackson as his Supreme Court nominee in the Cross Hall of the White House, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris listens at right. PHOTO: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster.
Jackson’s words marked the start of what promises to be a historic confirmation process: If approved by the US Senate, Jackson, 51, who currently sits on the DC Court of Appeals, would be the first black woman to sit on the Supreme Court.
“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only hope that my life and my career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to uphold the rule of law and the sacred principles on which this great nation was founded will inspire future generations of Americans,” she said.
Biden noted the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination during his introduction, delivering on a campaign promise to push for a black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
“For too long our government, our courts, have not looked like America,” he said. “I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects all the talent and greatness of our nation with a candidate with extraordinary qualifications. And that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.
While describing Jackson’s professional credentials and personal history — such as her two Harvard degrees and family members in law enforcement — Biden argued that she “strives to be fair , to do things right, to do justice”.
If confirmed, Jackson would also be the first federal public defender on the Supreme Court and bring the total number of women on the bench to four — the most in U.S. history.
Jackson did not mention a specific religious tradition in her remarks, so it was not immediately clear whether she would change the religious makeup of the Supreme Court, which currently consists mostly of Catholic and Jewish justices (Judge Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but attended a Church in Colorado).
Lawmakers and liberal religious organizations celebrated Jackson’s nomination.
“I applaud the historic appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Georgians want a candidate who is fair, qualified and has a track record of protecting Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms. I look forward to reviewing this nomination,” Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, himself a pastor, said in a statement.
Longtime racial justice activist Reverend Al Sharpton, who runs the National Action Network, tweeted a statement of support for Jackson, calling her “exceptionally qualified” and possessing “the experience, character, integrity and dedication to the Constitution and the rule of law to serve on the highest court in the land.
The National Council of Jewish Women also hailed Biden’s choice of Jackson.
“As the only national Jewish organization that actively vets and endorses candidates for the federal bench, the NCJW follows the guidelines of our tradition which affirms the importance of having ethical and impartial judges like Judge Jackson who will fight for the justice for all every day,” said the statement read. “His quick wit, integrity, background and lived experience are what we need on the Court.”
Religion has been a point of interest in recent Supreme Court nomination battles, particularly the debate over Justice Amy Coney Barrett. When she was nominated by former President Donald Trump in 2020, many observers wondered if her conservative brand of Catholic faith would influence how she tackled issues such as abortion.
Although Jackson apparently did not adjudicate a case narrowly focused on abortion, her nomination nonetheless caught the attention of groups concerned about the issue. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, an anti-abortion group, said in a statement that she expects Jackson to be “a reliable vote for the far left and the radical agenda of abortion of the Biden administration”.
Meanwhile, Jamie L Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, which advocates for abortion rights, praised Jackson as a jurist with “a long and distinguished record of legal work and court decisions that protect and advance the constitutional rights of marginalized Americans, including women and pregnant women, immigrants, and people with disabilities.”
Manson also mentioned Jackson’s April 2021 Senate confirmation hearing to serve on the United States Court of Appeals. Manson said Jackson expressed “a clear and firm commitment to the principle that true religious freedom involves both freedom and freedom from religion.”
During this hearing, Republican Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley noted that Jackson had served on the Montrose Christian School board of trustees. The Maryland school, which has since been closed, operated under a statement of faith which stated ‘we should speak on behalf of the unborn child and strive for the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death and described the belief that marriage exists only between a man and a woman.
In responding to Hawley, who said he agreed with the statements, Jackson distanced herself from the school’s beliefs. She said she didn’t “necessarily agree with all of the statements” and was unaware of their existence.
She went on to express her support for religious freedom, describing it as a “fundamental principle of our entire government.”