This is what history feels like
A lot going on
Hi, Ari here… For today’s piece, I wanted to chat both about Biden’s pick of Ketanji Brown Jackson and my reaction to covering the State of the Union live.
These days, it can be easy to feel like Tina Fey's iconic Liz Lemon character:
There is a lot going on in the world.
Earlier this week, I was at the White House to report on the State of the Union—and the intensity of the moment was clear for the people working there.
War abroad and work at home
There is more than one thing going on, and several staffers outlined their plans (and excitement about) Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Picking a Supreme Court Justice is never a simple task. There’s extensive review of judicial philosophy, potential problems that could trip up a nominee in the confirmation process, and factors like age. (In the recent era, presidents in both parties have prioritized younger candidates who can potentially shape the law for decades.)
President Biden also pledged he would nominate a Black woman to the Court—a first.
Biden already put Jackson on the DC circuit, a court that has become something of a training ground for Supreme Court Justices, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts all served on the DC Circuit Court before their appointments. Ketanji Brown Jackson also went to law school at Harvard, worked on the law review, and even clerked for Justice Breyer.
In many respects, her nomination follows a long tradition of nominees with similar qualifications.
For most of American history, though, there was no way for a Black woman to obtain those qualifications—legally and practically.
She brings those elite legal credentials to the table, which inoculates her against certain potential lines of attack in the forthcoming hearings. She would also be the first person on the court with a history as a public defender—there are currently none on the court—since Justice Thurgood Marshall.
That is a background that many legal progressives cheer, and yet one that you may hear less about for political reasons. Indeed, when President Biden talked about her at the State of the Union, he cited her police support, not her work on behalf of accused criminals. But that background also matters. People familiar with public defender work have a deep, practical sense of how the system works, and fails, as it indicts and prosecutes citizens.
The record shows this nominee is unusual, and historic, in more than one way. The confirmation hearings, which have become much more partisan and scathing over the years, will be a test of how substantive the Senate’s vetting can be, facing such a qualified candidate.
What do you think is the most important quality for a Supreme Court Justice? Tell me in the comments and I will respond to some like usual!
A Supreme Court Justice should be honest, truthful and follow the law. They should not be working for a particular party. Something that we do not have today with the conservative judges on the court. Thanks Ari for your great coverage of such a historical week.🙏
She needs to know the law, know the constitution, be a critical thinker, be open minded. All of which Ketanji has in spades. I am praying for her and our country. Thanks Ari.