Congressman Kweisi Mfume

By Congressman Kweisi Mfume

The Supreme Court of the United States, the third pillar of our nation’s branches
of government, serves as a check on Democracy to ensure the Constitution, the
law of the land, reigns free. With lifetime tenure on a court of just nine members,
both the executive and legislative branches bear significant responsibility in
selecting and confirming the jurists who will shape our country’s laws for decades.

Over these past few days, I have offered praise to President Biden for his
nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the high court.

At long last, the bench has a chance to include a Black woman as a sitting justice.

In 1856, justices of this very institution decided in Dred Scott v. Sandford that the
Constitution was not meant to recognize African-Americans as citizens in this
nation. Now, in 2022, the very makeup of those who are tasked to define what
the framers of our nation intended when they wrote our Constitution will include
an African-American woman amongst its chambers. With roughly twenty-million
African-American women living in the United States, it is long overdue for a Black
woman to receive the nation’s most esteemed judiciary consideration.

While the milestone of Judge Jackson’s nomination will deservedly garner
significant headlines, we must not let it overshadow the accomplished yet distinct career our nominee has had in the legal profession and the value her insight would provide amongst the other justices on the Supreme Court. Graduating from Harvard University for both undergraduate and law school, receiving appraised honors at each academic turn, Judge Jackson then clerked for multiple judges, including Justice Stephen Breyer whose seat she would be filling on the Supreme Court.

While her resume in these regards fits the mold of an aspiring Supreme
Court justice, Judge Jackson’s career differs from the typical path of her potential colleagues on the high bench, and gave her a diverse and valuable perspective on the justice system that she would ultimately be responsible to help shape.

Judge Jackson walked away from a lucrative position in private practice to work
with the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a governmental body tasked with crafting
criminal sentencing guidelines in the federal court system.

Driven by her devotion to understanding every breadth of the justice system, she then transitioned to a position as an assistant federal public defender serving those with lower incomes and in dire need of representation. There she upheld a core principle of our justice system: every American’s right to counsel.

Judge Jackson describes this shift to a defense attorney as a desire to be “in the
trenches.” Graduating from one of the world’s most recognized law schools, she
used her knowledge and talents to aid clients who are too often forgotten and, at
times, hidden underneath our criminal justice system. Much like Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Jackson has a knowledge of the law that is not just developed from the textbooks, but practical experience within the justice system of where it works … and where it may not.

Judge Jackson represents a new face of legal achievement in both appearance and the road she traveled to get to this point. Prior to her 2013 appointment to
the Federal Court of Appeals, she served as vice-chair of the Sentencing Commission for nearly half a decade. Her path represents one of both brilliant legal excellence and a commitment to understanding and developing a justice system that is fair and in accordance with the Constitution.

When Judge Jackson was in high school, she wrote in her yearbook that she
“want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment.” Through her
efforts and accomplishments, it is remarkable to consider how many other young African American girls will also feel inspired and empowered to now have the same goal Judge Jackson once did. Judge Jackson followed through with her dream and will encourage generations of young African-American girls to do the same. I urge the United States Senate to swiftly and confidently confirm
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

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