President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Jackson as the replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jackson, 51 years of age, is currently a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit. Barack Obama installed her on the U.S. District Court of Columbia Circuit in 2012. She held this position until Biden raised her to the federal appellate seat.
She has impressive qualifications. She is a graduate. cum laudeHarvard Law School. She later worked as a clerk at the Supreme Court, where she was praised by retiring Judge Breyer for being “brilliant.”
Jackson, if confirmed, would bring much-needed diversity to the top court. Clark Neily of Cato Institute Criminal Justice Scholar has highlighted the “wild imbalance” in federal judges’ roles. He said that judges are now able to defend the government while others have been able to do so in court. Neily stated that almost every case involving a single citizen against the government is a David-versus–Goliath battle for justice. “To further stack the deck in favor of judges who have more likelihood to represent Goliath than David, it’s unfair for litigants and bad for the justice system.”
Jackson’s background in law will partially correct the imbalance at the top court, which is full of ex-government lawyers. In 2005-2007, she was an assistant federal defender in Washington, D.C., which involved a lot of fighting against the government in the courtroom. Let’s all hope this experience sticks with her.
The SCOTUS choice will cheer the criminal justice reform activists. Jackson is an admirable judge in matters involving overreaching police officers. You can take Patterson v. United States(2013). This was the story of Anthony Michael Patterson, an Occupy DC protestor who used profanity at a park. Paterson was asked by officers not to curse at Tea Party activists. Patterson refused and was detained for disorderly behavior. He was later released from custody.
Patterson brought suit against officers to challenge his bogus arrest. It was only the legal exercise of First Amendment rights at a public location that triggered it. Officers responded by requesting that the suit be thrown out. Qualified immunity is a controversial doctrine that protects state officials against being sued for constitutional rights violations. The 1982 Supreme Court decision Harlow v. FitzgeraldState actors have immunity from civil lawsuits arising out of their official conduct, provided that the conduct they are being sued for “doesn’t violate clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.” Officers argued that Patterson was not protected by the First Amendment because it wasn’t “clearly proven” in the case.
Jackson made a mockery of the officers in her ruling and denies them qualified immunity. She wrote that the right to avoid retaliatory arrests in cases where there is no probable cause was clearly recognized in her jurisdiction. She stated that “a police officer undoubtedly knows that an arrest of a speaker solely on his speech is illegal and that there is no probable cause for him to believe that he is guilty of a crime.”
The case was far from closed-door. Others federal judges rubber stamp even worse police misconduct and award qualified immunity, despite clear constitutional rights violations. Jackson, to her credit held those officers accountable. She concluded that “no reasonable officer could conclude Patterson committed disorderly conduct based on the facts as they are alleged in the lawsuit.”
We are hoping the Patterson v. U.S.She has a strong sense of experience and continues to be a positive influence in qualified immunity cases before the Supreme Court.
Biden has now selected his nominee. Now, it is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This committee, which almost certainly includes a Democratic majority, will move Jackson’s nomination forward to the full Senate. Her confirmation hearings will take place before the committee. It is sure to be an amusing spectacle of politicians grandstanding about legal concepts they do not fully understand.
It is unclear whether Jackson will get a place on the Supreme Court because of the small Democratic majority in Congress. Soon enough, we will know if the party will align itself behind Biden’s nominee and if the small number of Democratic senators who have blocked other Biden-related items will again do so here.