Here’s How Ketanji Brown Jackson should prepare to join the U.S.Supreme Court

Here’s how Ketanji Brown Jackson should prepare to join the U.S. Supreme Court | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun

Apr 10, 2022 at 10:34 am

by George Liebmann

The recent hearings on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, since confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, fall into the middle ground on measurements of disgracefulness.

We were spared the last-minute sexual slanders of the Clarence Thomas and Brent Kavanagh hearings, which reminded the public of the wisdom of the old jury instruction: “Rape is a charge easily made and with difficulty refuted.” We were also spared the one-track obsession with “privacy,” i.e. abortion, of the hearings of Robert Bork, who was ultimately defeated in a 58 to 42 vote, after five days without a single question being asked about his attitude toward criminal sentencing, federal criminal jurisdiction or the necessary elements of criminal offenses.

The grandstanding of certain Republican senators at the Jackson hearings was not to their credit. Her famous answer to the question asking her to define “woman” was not really deplorable; she could have talked about X and Y chromosomes, but her referring the matter to biologists was an easy way out. Her alleged lenient approach toward child pornographers is recommended by critics of the relevant legislation, including the novelist John Grisham. The most serious charge against the nominee involves her disregard of jurisdictional limitations in a single immigration case, not a mortal sin. It is folly to judge, or appoint, judges on the basis of today’s burning issues, which are unlikely to be burning issues 10 years hence.

And while Ketanji Brown Jackson is a beneficiary of an outrageous form of affirmative action, that is not her fault. Her Harvard and District of Columbia background are not reassuring in a “woke” age, either; she has the appearance of a cloned, ticket-punching judge. On the other hand, she married across racial lines, an experience which has undoubtedly taught her that bigotry has many faces. She has a pleasant and calm demeanor.

The admonitions that should be addressed to her are of a procedural nature. She should abandon her custom of windy opinions, including 25-page discussions of standards for summary judgment. The late Philip Kurland suggested that opinions be limited to 2,000 words, a practice that did not hurt the reputation of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

She should forswear reliance upon, or even allowance of, amicus curiae briefs, especially those of the Solicitor General with their impulse toward nationalization of all issues. She should reject all plaques, awards and honorary degrees. If she feels a compulsion to teach, she should choose an obscure law school and accept no emoluments beyond those given to obscure adjuncts on the faculty. She should pay her own way, beyond the federal per diem, to all conferences, especially those at such places as Aspen and Salzburg, and she should take up golf, so as to be able to absent herself from indoctrination attempts at such places. She should peruse with care Professor Daniel Meador’s little book on “Mr. Justice Black and His Books” and endeavor to follow his example. She should model her extracurricular speeches, if any, after those of Judge Learned Hand, anthologized in “The Spirit of Liberty.”

As a role model for women and African Americans, she should forswear the examples of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley in favor of the self-effacement of two more distinguished federal judges, Harry Edwards of the D.C. Circuit and Amalya Kearse of the Second Circuit. In short, she should be a real judge, not a juristocrat or public idol.

George Liebmann is president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar and the author of numerous works on law and history, most recently “Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks At Four Failed Administrations.”

Posted in: Culture Wars, Judiciary and Legal Issues, The Right, Welfare and Other Social

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,