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Opinion Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court is historic and sound

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Capitol Hill on April 28, 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File)

President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is historic, fulfilling his campaign pledge to appoint a Black woman. As he said in January, the move is “long overdue.”

There has been carping from some on the right — as though politics and demographics have never played a role in the selection of justices in the past, including when Ronald Reagan as a presidential candidate declared he would appoint the first female justice. “It is time for a woman to sit among our highest jurists,” Reagan said in October 1980, which set the stage for the selection of Sandra Day O’Connor. Four decades later, Mr. Biden had a notable pool of experienced Black female jurists from which to choose. One hundred eight White men have been elevated to the court, many of them with credentials less impressive than those possessed by the contenders under consideration this time around.

Judge Jackson by all accounts possesses the qualities essential in a Supreme Court justice: a devotion to the rule of law; a commitment to judicial independence; an ability and willingness to collaborate with colleagues whose views and philosophies differ from her own. She also appears to be a keen and careful legal thinker. A graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, she was an editor of the law review and went on to clerk for Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom Mr. Biden has chosen her to replace. She put in eight years as a trial judge before ascending to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2021. And compellingly, she would bring even more diversity to the court as the first public defender on the modern court — an especially proud legacy for a president who has proclaimed his devotion to criminal justice reform.

Senate Republicans should judge her on the basis of her career and character, and refrain from obstructive maneuvering designed to deprive the nominee of a fair hearing. This may seem like a fantasy considering the poisoned state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. Yet the signs so far are somewhat encouraging. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) rhetoric in advance of her nomination had been conciliatory — with the minority leader refusing to criticize the president’s pledge to pick a Black woman for the job. He should urge members of his caucus to consider her on her merits. Indeed, three of these Republicans — Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have already voted for Judge Jackson once, to confirm her for her current role.

That the Supreme Court could now look a little more like America is worth celebrating, not least for how it might help preserve the public trust in the institution, which has taken a beating in the eyes of the country. The court’s integrity would be further enhanced if senators approached the confirmation process not as a partisan battle but as the constitutional duty it is.

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