Reflections on KBJ, RBG, and the arc of history

Like many Americans, watching the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings has caused me to reflect––on this historic moment for our country, on the ugliness of today’s politics, and on a few classmates.

Between my first and second year of law school, I worked as a summer law clerk for the US Senate Judiciary Committee, when President Bill Clinton nominated a DC Circuit Court judge to the US Supreme Court. I took part in the vetting of soon-to-be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when everyone involved came away with the distinct sense that this brilliant, kind woman with a wonderful sense of humor would be extraordinary. And it’s notable that in a more bipartisan era, the US Senate confirmed her by a vote of 96-3.

Today, 29 years since that confirmation, another impeccably qualified DC Circuit Court judge who we all know will be extraordinary has been confirmed by a vote of 53-47. Unfortunately, she did not receive the support of almost four dozen Senators on the other side of the aisle in her confirmation vote, and that is shameful.

During my days at Harvard Law School, I had several classmates whose paths crossed again in recent weeks during the confirmation hearings. While I didn’t know her well, Ketanji Brown Jackson was a year behind me, and we had many mutual friends. The future justice was known to everyone as thoughtful, hardworking, and, of course, incredibly smart––all qualities on display during the confirmation hearings, qualities we should want for the Supreme Court. (And we both had the same favorite college course, a political philosophy class aptly called “Justice.”)

Ted Cruz was also in my law school class, and is also exactly the same today as a Senator as he was back then, unfortunately for my classmates and our country. Watching one classmate shamelessly attack another, tying her to conspiracy theories and Fox News talking points, was embarrassing. While Senator Cruz came away from the hearings looking petty, and Justice Jackson’s conduct demonstrated even more why she should be confirmed, she should never have had to go through the public harassment.

What happened in the Senate during this confirmation process reflects how our nation’s politics have become broken over time. And the process also painfully reflected the enduring legacy of racism. Despite her impeccable qualifications, Justice Jackson was unfairly accused of nefarious intent and subjected to a barrage of inappropriate questions only because she was a Black woman.

While the attacks were incredibly unfair, Justice Jackson has now been confirmed to the highest court in the land. Given that backdrop, it’s important we celebrate today. We can’t allow others to interfere with our joy in this special moment in history, particularly in the context of over 400 years of African Americans in our country.

As a Ninth Circuit law clerk and former lawmaker, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of the decisions of the Supreme Court. As City Attorney, I lead a public law office that has fought many battles at the Court, including Arizona v. San Francisco, which we argued a few weeks ago on behalf of immigrant families. For Californians and Americans, we need the Court to hold the powerful accountable, to defend those who are left out, and to stand up for our constitutional rights.

With Justice Jackson now on the bench, there’s a greater chance that will happen.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this historic moment for our country and applaud our newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice.

Onward,

David