A ‘pile of big, polarizing cases’ awaits Ketanji Brown Jackson on the US Supreme Court: reporter

A ‘pile of big, polarizing cases’ awaits Ketanji Brown Jackson on the US Supreme Court: reporter

On Thursday, April 7, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — President Joe Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court — was confirmed, 53-47, by the U.S. Senate. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to confirm her, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, and they were joined by three Republicans: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The 51-year-old Jackson will be the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve on the High Court, and she will have a busy schedule after she is sworn in. Journalist Sam Baker, in an article published by Axios on April 8, takes a look at the “pile of big, polarizing cases” awaiting Biden’s nominee.

Baker reports, “Jackson will take her seat on the Court just as it’s diving headfirst into the most controversial issues in American politics — and at a moment when its conservative majority is poised to lock in victories that the right has been chasing for years, sometimes decades…. Jackson will start hearing cases when the Court's next term begins in October. And even with only about a dozen cases on the docket so far, that term is already shaping up to be a dramatic one.”

Jackson won’t be ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which deals with a draconian anti-abortion law in Mississippi and is likely to result in Roe v. Wade being overturned. The High Court will be ruling on that case before Jackson is sworn in. But Jackson, Baker reports, will be ruling in cases having to do with affirmative action, same-sex marriage and voting rights.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states when the Supreme Court handed down its historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015. But Baker notes that later this year, “The Court will hear a suit in its next term filed by a graphic designer who wants to make wedding websites, but not for same-sex weddings. She lives in Colorado, and Colorado law says businesses that are open to the general public can’t turn away customers because they’re gay. The Court will debate whether there should be an exception to accommodate business owners’ religious objections to same-sex marriage.”

Republicans have been attacking affirmative action for decades, including college admissions practices.

Baker observes, “The Court is set to hear challenges to the admissions processes at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Both schools give added weight to Black and Hispanic applicants; the lawsuits say that’s a form of discrimination against Asian- Americans…. The Harvard and UNC cases not only ask the Court to throw out these specific programs, but also, to overturn its own precedent and close the door on all uses of race in the admissions process.”

Jackson, Baker points out, has said she will recuse herself from the Harvard case because of her association with that university.

Jackson will also have a chance to rule in an Alabama voting rights case.

“When Alabama drew new boundaries for its congressional districts last year, it ended up with one majority-Black district and smaller numbers of Black voters dispersed through several other districts,” Baker observes. “Critics sued, calling it an illegal act of racial gerrymandering. A trial court agreed, and told the state to draw a new map. But the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, allowed Alabama to leave its district lines in place while the courts sort out whether those lines are illegal.”

Baker adds, “Alabama will be able to carry out its primaries this year before the Court reaches a ruling on the merits. This case matters not just for Alabama, but as part of the Court's approach to voting rights cases overall.”

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