Jackson, the Nominee for the U.s. Supreme Court, Has a Tough Sale on Racial Bias Claims

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WASHINGTON– Because he is Black, a US Park Police officer claims he was demoted and ultimately fired by the government. Because she is Black, a Bureau of Land Management employee claims she has been treated unfairly by her bosses. A pharmacist at a Washington hospital said he was fired because he is African-American.

In all three of these cases involving claims of racial discrimination, Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s choice to become the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, presided as a federal trial court judge. She ruled in favor of the defendants in all three cases.

Jackson faced Republican inquiries about whether race plays a part in how she executes her work as a judge during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year after Biden nominated her to a federal appellate court. She stated that it did not, however, the matter could come up again during her four-day confirmation process, which begins on Monday.

From 2013 to 2021, Jackson served as a U.S. district court judge in Washington, issuing substantial opinions in 25 cases involving plaintiffs alleging racial discrimination, the majority of which involved the workplace. In only three of the cases, she decided in favor of the plaintiffs.

Black litigants were involved in 22 of the 25 cases. Jackson ruled against 19 of the plaintiffs who were African-American.

Employment law expert Kim Forde-Mazrui, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Center for the Study of Race and Law, said, “Plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases lose a lot, so this strikes me as consistent with the pattern I would expect because they are notoriously hard to win.”

Jackson ruled against a white man and an Asian man who claimed workplace racial discrimination in two of the three instances that did not include Black plaintiffs.

In the third instance, she dismissed a challenge to the validity of a US legislation that gives precedence to small firms owned by “socially disadvantaged individuals,” a group that includes racial minorities, when it comes to awarding government contracts.

In one case, Jackson refused to certify racial discrimination charges made by two Black workers against defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp as a class action that might have affected over 5,000 workers. Jackson also turned down a $22 million compensation fund established by the workers with Lockheed, claiming that it was unclear whether the figure was equitable to those who were not involved in the lawsuit. In 2020, the matter was finally resolved.

“If people are worried that she will side with Black plaintiffs because of her race, there are plenty of cases in her record that show she is not afraid to side against a Black plaintiff if the facts and the law require it,” said Aron Zavaro, a Washington-area employment lawyer who has represented plaintiffs in cases against government agencies.

Jackson’s findings, according to Zavaro, demonstrate that she followed Supreme Court precedent in analyzing claims brought under the federal law against job discrimination, a claim that is difficult to prove because plaintiffs rarely have clear evidence of bias.

A SENATE THAT IS EQUALLY DIVIDED

The Senate is charged with confirming a president’s judicial candidates under the United States Constitution. Jackson’s confirmation to a lifetime position on America’s top judicial body, replacing retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, would require only a simple majority vote.

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The Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties, with Biden’s Democratic colleagues in charge thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break a tie.

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority, which includes three justices appointed by Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump, has flexed its muscles by hearing cases that could limit abortion rights, expand gun rights, and end affirmative action policies that universities use to increase Black and Hispanic student admissions.

Biden’s nomination of Jackson fulfilled his 2020 campaign promise to appoint the nation’s first Black woman justice – a “long overdue” milestone, he said – while several Republicans criticized him for discriminating against males and non-Black women by not considering any of them for the position.

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Some Republican senators questioned Jackson on race during her confirmation hearing for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April 2021, after Biden nominated her to the court.

“What role does race play in the kind of judge you have been and the kind of judge you will be?” Republican Senator John Cornyn questioned.

“I don’t believe race has ever played a factor in the sort of judge I have been or would be,” Jackson said, adding that race “would be wrong to infuse” into her case assessment

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