BYU students, faculty say Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination could expand Supreme Court diversity

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is considered to become the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Breyer, who will be retiring. President Biden made a pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Tom Williams/AP Photo)

Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, and BYU students and faculty members believe that she could bring more diversity to the higher court.

“Everybody has different experiences,” Multicultural Student Services advisor J Teresa Davis said. “The color of their skin, their gender, sexuality, where they grew up. All those things play a factor into our biases that we have, so if you have a diverse Supreme Court or a diverse workplace, it can try and cover the gaps of a lot of different people’s perspectives.”

At BYU, where less than 1% of students are Black and 81% are Caucasian, the Multicultural Student Services office offers support and guidance for students to succeed regardless of race or ethnicity. Davis said Jackson is bringing her diversity and experience to the table, showing multicultural students they can be successful.

Judge Jackson’s historical nomination and confirmation could add more diversity to the justices, not just because of her race, but also because of her experiences as a judge.

“Her credentials are good and my feelings toward her are positive,” BYU public health junior Elizabeth Prickett said. “I think it’s an opportunity to see how she molds into the position because of her background, and she is religious so it will be interesting to see the Supreme Court expanding in that way.”

Prickett was raised to be interested and involved with politics by her parents, she said. She looks forward to doing more research about Jackson as she goes through the nomination and confirmation process.

Jackson received the support of Sen. Joe Manchin D-West Virginia and other leaders on March 25 after her two-day confirmation hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee also met to discuss the confirmation of Jackson in an executive session Monday.

According to the White House’s profile on her, Jackson faced criticism as a Black woman from her high school guidance counselor, who did not believe she would be able to get into Harvard. Jackson went to Harvard University and then Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude.

Jackson, born in Washington, D.C., spent her childhood in Miami before studying law at Harvard. She loved spending time with her dad when she was in preschool, reading as he did his law homework, and believes that’s where her love for the law comes from, as stated on the White House’s profile on her.

“I haven’t heard any question on her qualifications. I think pretty much everybody acknowledges that she’s a viable candidate,” said Mackenzie Knapp, a third-year law student at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Knapp also admires Judge Jackson for being a mom to two daughters.

President Biden promised to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated on Feb. 25. (Made in Canva by Ashley Pun Eveson)

Jackson was nominated by President Joe Biden on Feb. 25 after a long career starting as a Supreme Court clerk then moving on to being a public defender, Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit, according to the White House’s profile on Jackson.

If nominated, she would be the first justice since Thurgood Marshall who has a lot of experience with criminal defense work for the poor, according to AP News.

“I can only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution, and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded will inspire future generations of Americans,” Jackson said at her nomination unveiling.

In addition to having a background in criminal defense work, the Washington Post said Jackson would also be the second justice with experience on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a bi-partisan independent agency in the judicial branch of the government. She would join Justice Breyer, who served in the Sentencing Commission 1985–1989.

Even with Jackson’s education and qualifications, she still faced criticism and backlash because of her race. During her confirmation hearing, she was faced with the question, “Do you agree that babies are racist?” from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, along with others questioning her ability to judge fairly as a Black woman.

Jackson pledged during the hearing to decide cases “without fear or favor” if she is the first Black woman to join the Supreme Court.

“Jackson sat on the D.C. Court of Appeals with Judge Griffith, who has a lot of ties to BYU,” Knapp said. “She also has served on each level of the federal judge categories because she served as a district judge, so she’s had a lot of time on the bench to write opinions and make decisions.”

President Biden nominated Judge Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2021 for the D.C. Circuit with bipartisan support, according to the White House’s profile on Jackson. This was one of his first judicial nominees. The Court of Appeals is considered to be the second-highest court next to the Supreme Court.

After 23 hours of questioning during the confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Judge Jackson’s nomination on April 4. The nomination will then go to the Senate for a vote.

Jackson can win the confirmation with the vote of 50 senators in the evenly split chamber, after which the tie-breaking vote would move to Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Judge Brown Jackson is going to bring another perspective to a Supreme Court that has not been as diverse,” Davis said. “It’s not just about the color of her skin, but it’s also the diversity that she’ll bring because of her career in all the different places she’s worked in, the different people she’s interacted with.”

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