U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

February 26, 2022

SCOTUS History

February 26, 2022

Dear Fellow Marylanders:

I want to describe someone to you. This person graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and cum laude from Harvard Law School after being an editor of the Harvard Law Review; clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and later served as a federal public defender; confirmed by the U.S. Senate by voice vote to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and later confirmed – again unanimously – to serve on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. After eight years, this person was confirmed again with a bipartisan vote to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The person I am describing has written nearly 600 judicial opinions on a wide range of issues facing this nation.

Without knowing anything else about this person, you could clearly see an extremely impressive background and deep legal experience.

This is the resume of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. President Joe Biden announced yesterday that she is his pick to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

When I first arrived in the Senate, I was a member of the Judiciary Committee. I had the privilege of chairing Judge Jackson’s first Senate confirmation hearing in 2009, when President Barack Obama nominated her to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Through the vetting process, I was able to learn more about her dedication to public service and legal experiences. At the time, she and her family lived in Montgomery County, Maryland.

I was impressed when I first met Judge Jackson and I have watched her rise through our judicial system. If confirmed, she would join Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the only judges in our nation’s history to serve at all three levels of the federal judiciary – District or trial court, Circuit court and the Supreme Court. And she

would bring a unique professional perspective to the court given her service as a federal public defender and work on criminal justice issues.

If Judge Jackson is confirmed by the United States Senate, she also would be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.

It is long past the time when we should have had a Black woman on the court. Representation matters. Our government, including the Supreme Court, should reflect the very people for whom it works. In the history of our country, there have been 115 justices. So far, only three have been people of color and only five have been women.

I take serious my constitutional responsibility of “advice and consent.” Now that we have a nominee, the Senate should engage in a thoughtful, timely and fair process that allows the country to learn more about her background and approach to the law. As part of this vetting, I look forward to meeting with Judge Jackson again to learn even more about her view of the Constitution, respect for the separation of powers and checks and balances in our system, and her commitment to upholding the rights of all Americans.

Jurists are charged with upholding the Constitution and the civil rights and civil liberties it confers on Americans – all Americans. Equal justice under the law is not just a theory, but it must be put in practice daily. Throughout her career, Judge Jackson has made racial justice and equity a priority. President Biden made clear that Judge Jackson “has not put her thumb on the scales of justice … but she understands the broader impact of her decisions.”

As the first Black female Supreme Court nominee, the confirmation process provides Judge Jackson with an opportunity to share with the country how her intelligence, hard work and dedication to the law got her to this point in history. She already is a role model for young girls, especially young Black girls, as well as boys. I want young people to follow the lead of a young Ketanji who ignored the school counselors and naysayers who thought she should lower her life goals when she wanted to go to Harvard.

With an understanding of the moment before us, yesterday at the White House, Judge Brown said:

If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, I could only hope that my life and career, my love of this country and the Constitution and my commitment to upholding the rule of law and the sacred principles upon which this great nation was founded, will inspire future generations of Americans.”

Judge Jackson may the first Black woman nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, but she should not be the last.

It’s been more than 40 years since Sandra Day O’Connor became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. At the time, President Ronald Reagan made public his intention to nominate the first female justice. Likewise, President Biden made public his intention to nominate the first Black woman. These two women share a common place in history among the greatest legal minds in our country’s history who shattered the highest of glass ceilings along their way.

Time will tell how Judge Jackson will influence the high court, if she is confirmed by the Senate. Thank you for spending a few minutes of your Saturday with me. Please be safe. Get your COVID-19 shot and booster, if you have not already.


Ben Cardin