Why Ketanji Brown Jackson is Important

by Eden Weisman

Historically the Supreme Court of the United States has been dominated by white men. Of course there have been remarkable women and people of color on the Supreme Court; Thurgood Marshall, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Elana Kagan, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Amy Coney Barrett, and most recently Ketanji Brown Jackson. In case you’re wondering where the rest of that list is, don’t. That’s all of the Supreme Court justices that have not been white men, of the 103.

Her qualifications

Jackson is supremely qualified for this role; her academic and legal career is as good as the others on the bench if not better. Her societal impact on America as a black woman because of her ability to make the Supreme Court more representative of the United States makes her confirmation monumental. To summarize her academic qualifications she attended Harvard for undergrad and Harvard law school where she acted as supervising editor for the Harvard Law Review. Graduating magna cum laude and cum laude, meaning she met the standards Harvard sets to achieve the second highest honor and third highest honors available. Most impressively to me she clerked for Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court, the justice she has just replaced. Clerkships are one of the most competitive positions for a young lawyer, in most clerkships lawyers do administrative work; collecting documents, cite checking, legal research, essentially doing the grunt work. They shadow a judge and learn what they can from them, making a long lasting impactful connection.

What kind of Judge is she?

With all the pressing issues up for debate right now such as, abortion and gun rights Jackson’s professional opinion on them is very important. In recent years this has swayed how presidents pick their justicices: “Ideology has become the main criteria for selections. Presidents (as well as their advisers and supporters) care a great deal about the possibility of ideological mistakes. So they don’t make them. President Joe Biden wanted a judicial liberal, and that’s what he will get with Jackson. She will not surprise him, or us.” states Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s chief legal analyst. Her liberal judicial standing means she will interpret the law with the mindset of using her position as a Justice to make positive change, and her view on the constitutions statements will reflect her willingness to adjust for the different political, social and economic climate.

Why does she matter?

Many who keep up with political news already know the controversy of Jackson’s nomination. It started with a campaign promise made by President Biden to nominate a Black woman for supreme court justice if and when given the chance. This was one way he secured a large part of his voting base, one that is extremely loyal to the democratic party, Black women. Biden has disappointed many of his voters as evident in polls, but this may have restored some faith in him within his own party. Making good on a campaign promise like this one definitely couldn’t hurt, at least not with a large portion of his voter base. Outside of his supporters this did not fare quite as well.What’s most impactful and inspirational about her being the first Black woman as a supreme court justice is the message it sends to young women and especially to young Black women and girls that they can do things this meaningful even in the face of great opposition. Seeing a more accurate representation of the country in such an important part of the government can inspire so many more young women and young Black people; who can now see themselves in the government making many more comfortable pursuing a similar career path to Jackson.

The possibilities

Something especially important about Jackson that makes her success potentially more influential than Kamala Harris is the longevity of her position. This progress of a Black woman in the supreme court cant be overturned in the next presidential election, it will last as long as Jackson’s legacy does. An example of the weight her SCOTUS confirmation holds can be seen in her female predecessors. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female justice, she served from 1981 to 2006. After retiring she continued her work as an advocate for judicial independence and the Rule of Law, meaning she fought for the law to be respected and all citizens to be held to the same standards. She continued that work long after the end of her service as a justice, even being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2012, six years after she retired. Her other monumental predecessor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy has certainly continued past her tragic death. Of course she continues to be an inspiration to all but more concretely in her massive strides for gender equality ensuring women would have equal rights to education.

All Jackson’s successors paint a bright picture of her future. Even if she is not able to make massive shifts in the law she will be a great inspiration and demonstration of American progress, which hopefully calls for more and a celebration of what’s been done.