As advocates call for President Joe Biden to nominate a Black woman to one of the appellate courts, which is predominantly white, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is poised to fill a vacancy on the highly regarded U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jackson is one of three Black women among Biden’s first slate of judicial nominations.
Though the 50-year-old feels race should not be a qualifying factor in her merits, Jackson did not negate the fact that her experience as a Black person has cultivated the manner in which she approaches her work. She added that she hoped her experiences would be a valuable asset to the court.
“I don’t think that race plays a role in the kind of judge that I have been and would be,” Jackson told the Senate Judiciary Committee, CNN reported. “I’m doing a certain thing when I get my cases. I’m looking at the arguments, the facts and the law. I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case.”
“I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable — I hope it would be valuable — if I was confirmed to the court,” she added.
According to the Federal Judicial Center, Article III judges were composed of white judges exclusively for more than a century and a half. As of May 2020, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association reported that there are 136 African Americans serving in Article III judgeships, and eight who identify as bi-racial.
Jackson has been serving as a district judge in Washington, D.C. since 2013. She was also on former President Barack Obama’s shortlist as a Supreme Court justice candidate after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
If Jackson becomes a judge in the D.C. court of appeals, her appointment could potentially lead her to a role on the highest federal judiciary court should a vacancy occur on the Supreme Court during the Biden Administration.
“The path that other Supreme Court justices have taken has been limited for Black women,” Aimee Allison, founder and president of She the People, a coalition that advocates for women of color in politics, said, according to USA Today. “Oftentimes, the path has been blocked.”
If confirmed for the court of appeals, Jackson would replace Merrick Garland who resigned from the role after becoming U.S. attorney general.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan vouched for Jackson in 2012 before securing her current post as a district court judge, expressing that although they may disagree, her qualifications are unparalleled.
“Now, our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal,” Ryan said, NBC News reported.
A group of 35 former senior Justice Department officials and U.S. attorneys also endorsed Jackson, stating that she is highly committed to the courts with steadfast integrity.
“Each of us fully appreciates the significant authority of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and understands how critical it is to have appellate jurists with a steadfast commitment to independence, impartiality, and integrity,” they wrote in a letter to the Senate panel, according to CNN. “Judge Jackson possesses these values and is exceptionally qualified for the position.”