By: Keilah Cook
June 30, 2022, marked a monumental milestone in the history of our country, the swearing in of the first African American female Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. With the new Supreme Court term, she is making her first debut and has already proven to be an influential presence.
As a new member of the Supreme Court, Justice Jackson has become a significant topic of conversation. She began the term by asking a substantial amount of probing questions to the lawyers that were presenting the arguments to the court, as well as clearly establishing her perspective. During Supreme Court hearings, lawyers from both sides of a case will state their claims before the justices, who will then ask questions to assist with how to advise their decisions about how to rule.
According to political scientist Adam Feldman, in the eight arguments presented to the term thus far, Jackson asked more than 11,000 words. This number is more than twice the amount of Jackson’s closest competitor, Amy Coney Barrett, in her first eight arguments. This gap appears to grow even more when looking at the comparison of Jackson to the other new justices of the Supreme Court, although a direct comparison is not exact given that oral argument processes have changed since these justices were sworn in.
As a new justice, Jackson has a unique motivation to share her positions on arguments during Supreme Court hearings. When voting takes place in private conferences, they talk in order of seniority, with Jackson last. Her comments will have little significance if she is the fifth to speak on a particular outcome. All of her public statements from the bench will hold the most weight in having an influence.
In addition to her extensive questioning ability, Judge Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. Jackson is the first former public defender on the Supreme Court, offering a unique perspective into the criminal justice system and a greater representation of the role of public defenders. She also served as a trial court judge for eight years before being appointed by Biden to the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is already beginning to make her mark on the United States Supreme Court, bringing new perspectives and the required ambition to actively pursue ‘liberty and justice for all.’
Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post