If there is any group of people who understand the challenges Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced upon her nomination, it is Black people in law. In solidarity to support Jackson, every single Black law school Dean in the U.S. signed a letter to the U.S. Senate to see to her confirmation.
A total of 42 Black law school Deans came together to support Jackson’s nomination making note of her bipartisan support, 10 years of experience and exception credentials as well as her chance to make history.
Read an excerpt from the letter to the Senate below:
We, the Black Deans of U.S. Law schools, write to express our strong and unequivocal support for the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States. As leaders in the American legal academy, we believe this confirmation would represent a triumph for this nation. By confirming this honors graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, who has participated in civil cases at the highest levels and has also represented indigent criminal defendants, the Senate will not only add a supremely qualified justice to the Supreme Court, but will also ensure that people from all communities across our nation enjoy the promise emblazoned over the Court architrave that declares “Equal Justice Under Law.”
In an interview with The Root, George Washington Law School Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew revealed she spearheaded the composition of the letter and why the Black law school Deans rallied behind Jackson’s nomination. She also discussed the implications of Jackson’s nomination, the ways in which racial inequality in the law affects our community and how Black people can fight systematic racism.
The Root: Do you think Biden’s Supreme Court nomination is a way to fight against structural racism?
Until this point, in the Supreme Court’s history, Black women have not had an equal opportunity to sit on the Supreme Court. In fact, it’s ironic, in my view, that those who accuse President Biden of nominating her as an act of affirmative action completely overlooked the fact that for the first nearly 200 years of the Court, affirmative action in favor of white men kept her and all Black women from being eligible to sit on the Court. This was not because there were not Black women prepared and qualified and interested in ascending to the highest court in the land.
All women color who have broken glass ceilings as she is currently doing, are familiar with what we in the law called ‘specious attacks’ on our qualifications. A judge with nearly 10 years of experience, who has been confirmed three times by the United States Senate should not be subjected to inquiry about critical race theory, an academic theory that bears no relationship whatsoever to the execution of her duties as a judge. This is but one example of a wholly unrelated line of inquiry that is uniquely directed toward Judge Jackson for reasons other than to examine her qualifications to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
TR: What inspired the Black law school Deans to come together and rally behind Jackson?
I had the pleasure of drafting the letter with other Deans who felt as I do and, as it turns out, 100 percent of the Black Deans in the nation do that this is a historic appointment. We wanted to speak with one very powerful voice about the brilliant qualifications that we are uniquely situated to assess and that are possessed by Ketanji Brown Jackson. All of us have studied law, practiced law, taught law and lead the nation’s schools in training lawyers. I have served on law review and in the federal government so I uniquely know the path that she has traveled and excelled in. And I must say even beyond my wildest dreams she has an extraordinary record. Together we wanted to tell the Senate and Judiciary Committee ... Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an outstanding jurist who should be swiftly confirmed to sit on the Court.
TR: Why is it important for Black people to be in the decision making roles of law and government?
Because we are affected by the country’s failure to honor the promise of equal protection and justice under the law. For that reason, we are prepared to explain how the law should be reformed in order to fulfill the goals it falls short of today. That’s not to say that only Black people can make this reform occur. It’s important that we all unite collaboratively because it’s not just a Black or white equality issue. In fact when, historically, African Americans have pursued equal justice, it has been helpful and informative to other under-represented and subordinated groups (such as the disabled and LGTBQ+ communities) seeking equality as well. Equal treatment under the law would help and therefore is a cause that all of us should be engaged in.
TR: Some Black people have doubts that the government will actually make a change to help us and even lack faith in their power to vote. What would you say to change their mind?
I would say two things. First, let’s not let our ancestors’ blood, sweat and tears have been shed in vain since they faced hatred, beatings, bullets and opposition to bring us to where we are today. We honor our ancestors by continuing to fight against adversity and odds that may be stacked against us. Second, I would say I am inspired by the example set by Judge Jackson. She’s remained poised defending a record that she has amassed and a dream that she has held since childhood to be the best, to serve the country with her best and to elevate us as a nation to be our best. Since she has not given up, I will not either.