The Key Political Views of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson


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Okayetanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court docket on April 7, which is able to quickly make her the first Black lady to serve on the nation’s highest courtroom. The historic affirmation follows a Senate vote of 53-47, whereby all Democrats and three Republicans backed Jackson, fulfilling President Joe Biden’s marketing campaign promise of making certain a Black lady be on the Supreme Court docket. Although her affirmation received’t swing the Court docket’s political steadiness—she is changing retiring liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer, leaving the six-three conservative supermajority intact—her views on key political points are nonetheless important to notice, given Supreme Court docket appointments are for all times.

Justice Breyer is essentially recognized for his pragmatic and cooperative method, and now we have motive to count on the identical from Jackson: She instructed the Senate Judiciary Committee throughout her affirmation to her present seat on the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that she doesn’t “have a judicial philosophy, per se, apart from to use the identical methodology of thorough evaluation to each case, whatever the events.”

Taking a look at Jackson’s profession trajectory, nonetheless, can shed extra gentle on how we will count on her to rule, notably on extremely divisive points. Notable is her expertise as a federal public defender, representing indigent purchasers—lots of them individuals of colour—who usually don’t perceive how they’ve grow to be entangled with the legislation within the first place. She’ll be the first Supreme Court docket justice to have held this position, which can inject into the Court docket a strong perspective on the shortcomings of our felony justice system (extra on that under).

“The Supreme Court docket serves all of America, and subsequently, it ought to mirror our fantastic variety.” —Elizabeth Cooper, JD, Fordham College Faculty of Legislation professor

It was largely this similar expertise, nonetheless, that shaped the premise of the conservative argument in opposition to Jackson’s nomination, specifically that she can be “mushy on crime,” as a situation of getting “extra sympathy for the victimizers than for the victims,” as Republican Senator Tom Cotton stated throughout her affirmation hearings. Particularly, he and different Republican senators pointed to youngster pornography instances over which she dominated throughout her time as a federal D.C. choose, noting her determination to impose lighter sentences on the offenders than these known as for by federal pointers (which, it’s value noting, have been recognized by judges of all stripes as being overly harsh).

As a result of the remainder of Jackson’s résumé leaves little room for query that she’s certified for the Justice position—having graduated from each Harvard College and Harvard Legislation Faculty, clerked for 2 federal judges, and later served for years as a federal choose—it was largely on these racially charged problems with felony sentences that her affirmation hearings centered, alongside (additionally race-focused) problems with affirmative motion and demanding race idea. Undoubtedly, her private expertise as a Black lady in America will inform her tackle all the above, bringing a much-needed dose of illustration to the nation’s preeminent decision-making physique.

“The Supreme Court docket serves all of America, and subsequently, it ought to mirror our fantastic variety,” says Elizabeth Cooper, JD, professor at Fordham College Faculty of Legislation. To the extent that Jackson’s perspective will probably mirror the Court docket’s present minority liberal opinion, Cooper expects that Brown will “draft and be a part of rigorously worded dissents, explaining why a unique final result could also be required, and laying the muse for a unique method sooner or later.”

Reviewing Jackson’s previous rulings presents additional perception into simply what that method could also be, notably in the case of a number of the greatest points on the Supreme Court docket’s docket.

How Ketanji Brown Jackson’s views on key points may affect her courtroom rulings

Whereas Jackson has a prolonged judicial monitor file, nearly all of her opinions come from her eight years as a federal D.C. choose. Throughout that point, she was primarily deciding methods to apply the legislation primarily based on precedent (quite than establishing new precedent, as she’d have the prospect to do in her present position on the D.C. Circuit Court docket of Appeals, to which she was appointed simply final 12 months). Consequently, there are just a few points on which now we have actual readability concerning the place she stands and the way we will count on her to rule going ahead. However primarily based on patterns of her opinions and rulings, we will make sure conclusions. This is what we all know:


Entrance and heart on the Supreme Court docket’s docket is the query of how a lot affect the federal government ought to have the ability to wield over these searching for abortion. Jackson enters the dialogue at a charged time, given the Court docket’s latest controversial ruling to uphold a Texas ban on most abortions at six weeks, and a soon-to-come ruling on a equally restrictive Mississippi abortion legislation.

The place does Jackson stand on the problem? As a legislation affiliate, she co-wrote an amicus temporary supporting a Massachusetts legislation that created a “buffer zone” round abortion clinics, requiring protestors to not block the entrances of those amenities. And in 2018, as a district choose, she dominated in opposition to former President Donald Trump’s early termination of grants for the federal Teen Being pregnant Prevention Program. Primarily based on this monitor file, it is truthful to conclude Jackson sees abortion as a reproductive proper and would oppose any legislation that interferes meaningfully with that proper.

Prison justice

Like her predecessor Justice Breyer, Jackson previously served as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Fee (as vice chair). This expertise, paired along with her time as a federal public defender, granted her a detailed have a look at federal sentencing coverage. Consequently, we will count on a few of her greatest contributions to the Court docket to be on this house.

Whereas Jackson was on the Sentencing Fee, it retroactively reduce sentences for a lot of crack cocaine offenses in 2011, permitting hundreds of incarcerated people to hunt lowered sentences, and liberating 1,800 inmates instantly. Her stance on loosening powerful drug legal guidelines—which disproportionately have an effect on individuals of colour—probably stems from private expertise, too; her uncle was sentenced to life in jail for a drug offense (for which he later obtained clemency from former President Barack Obama).

In Jackson’s rulings over latest instances, she’s been eager to keep away from unconscious bias in opposition to convicted plaintiffs and show empathy. For instance, as a district choose, she dominated in favor of a deaf man who was incarcerated within the D.C. Correctional Therapy Facility with out being offered any type of lodging, holding that “the failure of jail workers to conduct an knowledgeable evaluation of the skills and lodging wants of a brand new inmate who is clearly disabled is intentional discrimination.”


Jackson’s views on environmental coverage appear primarily based extra so on a measure of how a lot oversight sure federal businesses have over explicit actions, quite than a objective to guard the surroundings in any respect prices. She has dominated each in favor of environmental causes (for instance, permitting Guam to maneuver ahead with a lawsuit in opposition to the U.S. Navy for the creation of a water-polluting landfill) and in opposition to them (for example, allowing the Division of Homeland Safety to construct a phase of Trump’s wall that violated native environmental laws).

Even so, environmental teams like Sierra Membership and the Pure Sources Protection Council have not too long ago come out in favor of Jackson’s nomination, noting confidence that she respects the federal government’s position in defending public well being and the environment.


Significantly in the course of the Trump period of unprecedented border crackdowns, Jackson confirmed herself to be a supporter of immigrants’ rights to due course of, no matter citizen standing. In 2019, she issued an injunction to dam the Division of Homeland Safety from fast-tracking deportation for immigrants who had been within the nation for lower than two years and who hadn’t obtained authorized recourse.

And in October 2020, she sided with immigrant advocacy teams who sued the Trump administration over immigrant-officer coaching that toughened the vetting course of for asylum-seekers. Jackson agreed that the language within the coaching classes raised the bar too excessive, making it overly troublesome for asylum seekers to show their “credible worry” of persecution of their residence nation.


As with immigrants, many classes of employees are protected by legislation, which Jackson tirelessly labored to uphold within the face of flagrant government orders proposed by Trump. In 2018, she struck down three of his government orders that she dominated “undermined federal workers’ proper to cut price collectively.” (These orders would’ve allowed federal businesses to fireside individuals who they deemed have been underperforming in as little as a month, and restrict the period of time these employees may spend on union-related work.)

And in her first opinion presiding over the D.C. Circuit appeals courtroom earlier this 12 months, Jackson sided with labor unions representing authorities employees, discovering a Trump-era coverage proscribing their bargaining rights to be “capricious and arbitrary.” Her determination known as for reinstating the earlier (pre-Trump) requirement that any adjustments inflicted on employees’ circumstances be topic to collective bargaining, supporting the employees’ rights to barter on their very own behalf.

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