Ketanji Brown Jackson, Ginni Thomas and the integrity of the Supreme Court
The events from last week are important because they will help to judge the nonpartisan trustworthiness and credibility of one of the most important institutions in our society.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits with his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Last week, two events involving the U.S. Supreme Court occurred.
First, there were four days of hearings on the nomination and possible elevation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nation’s highest court.
Second, there was news of the 29 dangerous and wacky emails sent by conservative activist Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging him to take illegal and unconstitutional actions to preserve Donald Trump’s presidency.
Both events involve politics and will have an impact on the integrity of the Court.
President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to be the first African American woman on the Court. She appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about her views and qualifications.
Jackson’s qualifications appear impeccable: clerking for judges on all three federal levels of our courts; working as a federal public defender; three Senate confirmations, for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a D.C. district judgeship, and as a D.C. appellate judge; highly intelligent; educational achievements that anyone would be proud of; and no taint of scandal or corruption.
One would expect legitimate and tough questions, and cogent and thoughtful answers,so senators and the American people can make a judgment about her appointment.
Not so for this committee, equally divided among Democrats and Republicans. Of the 11 Republicans, seven are from former slave states: Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Tom Cotton, Arkansas; Ted Cruz, Texas; John Kennedy, Louisiana; Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee; Tom Tillis, North Carolina, the former state senator wrote the voting rights legislation that an Appellate Court found targeted Black voters “with almost surgical precision”; and Josh Hawley of Missouri, a former slave state that did not join the Confederacy.Those seven were the worst questioners and could not stop themselves from reflecting racism, sexism, past grievances and bad manners.
Graham complained that his choice from South Carolina was not selected, constantly interrupted Jackson, reminded Democrats of his grievance about treatment of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, inappropriately asked Jackson about her religion, accused her of being an activist, attributed her nomination to being bankrolled by dark money from the radical left, used foul language, went way over his allotted time for questioning, had to be shut down by Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, and ended up storming out of the hearing.
Cruz tried to turn her into a Black radical who would use the Court to affirm “critical race theory.” He asked her if she agreed with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book “Antiracist Baby,” “that babies are racist.” He too got into a shouting match with Durbin. Blackburn demanded that Jackson take a position on whether the Court should be expanded beyond the current nine, a political and policy question, not a question appropriate for a Supreme Court nominee.
The dominant question from virtually all the Republicans was her sentencing record, alleging she was soft on crimes involving child pornography. The committee is expected to vote on Jackson’s nomination on April 4.
Virginia Thomas also made news last week with her crazed texts to Mark Meadows, “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! ... The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
“This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote back. “Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it.”
Thomas replied: “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now ... I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”
Thomas has also supported discredited QAnon conspiracy theories. It is thought that her “best friend” was Clarence Thomas, alone among the justices to vote against releasing Meadow’s texts to the January 6 Select Committee. Those texts included the texts from his wife.
The questions now are whether she should testify before the January 6 Committee; and whether her husband should recuse himself from cases involving January 6 issues, resign or face impeachment.
How both events are handled will help us to judge the nonpartisan trustworthiness and credibility of one of the most important institutions in our society: the Supreme Court of the United States.
Follow Jesse Jackson on Twitter@RevJJackson