People For the American Way

A Note from People For President on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Hearings

News and Analysis
A Note from People For President on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Hearings

I wanted to write up a quick post as this eventful and historic week wraps up, and to say thank you to all those who support our work – your time, activism, and generosity make everything we do to pursue fair courts possible.

This week, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson showed America – and indeed, the whole world – exactly why she is such a brilliant choice for our nation’s highest court. I had the honor of attending Day 1 of the hearing.

Evident right away was that Judge Jackson will bring a much-needed perspective to the court – as a Black woman, as a former public defender, and as someone who has demonstrated a deep commitment to upholding constitutional rights and values.

We also saw dangerous demagoguery from certain far-right Senators on the Judiciary Committee – some of whom have clear presidential aspirations – aimed at riling up the far-right base, from naked appeals to racism, to red meat for the Radical Right on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Some of the lowlights included:

  • Senator Josh Hawley’s ugly attempts to smear Judge Jackson for her rulings in certain sex offender cases, even though the criticisms had been widely and thoroughly debunked well before the hearings.
  • Senator Marsha Blackburn all but calling Judge Jackson a terrorist in leveling smears against her pro-bono habeas corpus advocacy involving prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay … and nearly everything Sen. Blackburn said, really, as she tried to drag Judge Jackson’s name through the mud, accusing her of having a “hidden agenda.”
  • Senator Ted Cruz taking Judge Jackson to task for books on anti-racism available in the library at a school where she serves as a trustee. Never mind that the same books are available at the school that Cruz’s own daughters attend in Texas, or that as a trustee Judge Jackson has nothing to do with the school’s curriculum – it was simply a chance for Cruz to trot out the Far Right’s new favorite election year boogeyman.

Those are just a few shameful examples, but there were certainly plenty more. The good news is that Judge Jackson did as well as any nominee ever has in her answers, maintaining her composure against the personal attacks and over-the-top partisan grandstanding.

Through events, videos, posts, op-eds, and more, this week People For has been helping to tell the story of what this proud and historic moment means to people and communities of varying perspectives, and highlighting their voices.

  • Coming into the week, we published a moving video about the case of William Pierce, a deaf inmate who was denied ASL interpreters and placed in solitary confinement – and who received justice thanks to the fair-minded judicial review of Judge Jackson.
  • As the hearings opened on Monday, we joined our coalition partners for a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court, including a powerful speech from our National Director of African American Religious Affairs, Reverend Leslie Wilson Watson.
  • I was honored to be present in the hearing room on Monday – and afterwards, had a great conversation outside with my friend Damon Hewitt, President of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, about this historic day.
  • Our fantastic digital team produced a Digital Activist Toolkit to help spread the word on how ordinary Americans can apply grassroots power to help counter the far-right smears of Judge Jackson’s record.
  • On Tuesday, I appeared on CBS News to discuss the second day of hearings and rebut Senator Cruz’s baseless attacks on Judge Jackson, especially with regard to the favorite far-right boogeyman of critical race theory.
  • We saturated social media with video, graphics, and commentary to build a strong movement behind confirming Judge Jackson. In one example, we amplified one of the most powerful moments of the hearings – when Judge Jackson was asked what she would say to young people across the country who aspire to follow in her footsteps and do big, scary, amazing things – with a video that at the time I write this has been viewed roughly 112,000 times on Twitter alone.
  • With Judge Jackson’s nomination to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court serving as an amazing inspiration to young people of color across the country, we are helping to lift up the youth perspective. See the powerful op-ed that we helped facilitate, by Washington, D.C. Youth Mayor Addison Rose, entitled “What Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Will Mean To Black Gen-Zers Like Myself.
  • While Judge Jackson’s confirmation won’t change the 6-3 conservative majority on the court, she will bring a particular – and much-needed – range of perspectives and experiences that have not been previously represented in the justices’ chambers. I spoke to those issues in a column for Newsweek, “Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Bring Moral Clarity to SCOTUS.

It’s been a whirlwind week, but on behalf of everyone here at People For, you have our deepest gratitude for supplying the fuel to this movement, working tirelessly alongside us, and allowing us all to do big things together.

Onwards to the confirmation vote, and we look forward to putting Justice Jackson on the Supreme Court!


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