Tufts community reacts to Ketanji Brown Jackson’s SCOTUS nomination

The Tufts Democrats club discusses Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was recently nominated by President Biden to be a justice on the Supreme Court, at a meeting on March 9. Nate Hall / The Tufts Daily

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden on Feb. 25. If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson will fill the seat currently held by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer once he retires at the end of the current judicial term.

Alexandra Dingle, a member of Tufts Democrats, expressed her support and belief in Jackson.

“I think that she is going to only bring wonderful perspectives and viewpoints to the Supreme Court,” Dingle said.

Sam Brenner, a first-year and another member of Tufts Democrats, highlighted Jackson’s qualified experience as both an attorney and a judge.

 “She’s also placed a large amount of focus throughout her career on civil rights, which I think is a perspective that the Court has desperately been missing,Brenner said.

 Brenner is confident that Jackson has proven herself throughout her career to be a judge that cares about both civil and human rights.

Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court and only the third Black person ever nominated. 

Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Political Science, said Jackson’s nomination is significant in more ways than one.

“She will be a historic figure on the Court, not only for being the first African American woman to sit on the Court, but also the first federal public defender,” Lantos Swett said. “[The] Supreme Court needs someone who comes to their calling and to their high position from the perspective of having defended those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Breyer was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1994 and votes with the liberal wing of the Court in most cases. Thus, it would be unlikely for Jackson to dramatically shift the ideological standing of the Court if she is confirmed.

However, Supreme Court justices may persuade colleagues to change their points of view, especially if they bring different insights and perspectives, according to Lantos Swett.

 “If somebody is particularly compelling, if they bring their own personal life experience to those discussions … they can sometimes, I think, persuade a colleague who is wavering,” Lantos Swett said.

Jackson has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2021 and served on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for eight years prior to that.

Jackson’s confirmation hearings will begin on March 21, when she will field questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee and face a vote there before making her case to the entire Senate.

Deborah Schildkraut, chair of the Department of Political Science, does not believe that Jackson’s confirmation process will be as contentious as those of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

“The ideological balance of the court does not seem to be up for grabs right now,” Schildkraut said. “I think if [the balance] was going to change, it would be much more likely that she would have a harder time [getting confirmed].”

Although she expects Jackson to be confirmed, Dingle worries that her hearings will become too politicized. 

I’m a little nervous for the hearing[s], because I do think the Republican Party is going to bring some problematic, divisive questions,” Dingle said.

Lantos Swett agrees that Jackson’s confirmation is likely but believes she will face difficult questioning from senators.

[Jackson] will be pressed to commit at her confirmation hearings to recuse herself from … the affirmative action case involving Harvard that is coming to the Court later this year,” Lantos Swett said. 

At some point in the next two years, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving Harvard, which will determine the fate of affirmative action in college admissions. Since Jackson currently serves on the Harvard Board of Overseers, this poses a conflict of interest.

Democrats currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, meaning Jackson could be confirmed without the support of any Republican Senators. However, three Republican senators, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, voted to confirm Jackson to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year. 

Once Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court was announced, however, Graham signaled dismay on Twitter.

 “The radical Left has won President Biden over yet again,” Graham tweeted.

While Jackson may not write many majority opinions in the near future, Lantos Swett noted that it is not uncommon for powerful dissents to become the precedent for future majority opinions. 

“I think she has the potential to … write what are likely to be dissenting opinions that are rhetorically very compelling,” Lantos Swett said.


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