Guest Editorials, Opinion

Treat Supreme Court pick with fairness, honesty

Floridians don’t often expect their elected leaders to rise above partisanship, in part because they know it’s unlikely to happen. But as the U.S. Senate considers the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, Floridians should demand that senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio deal with her nomination fairly and honestly — and that they hold their fellow senators to the same standard.

It won’t be easy. President Joe Biden announced Jackson’s nomination during the opening days of CPAC, the annual event that has evolved into a four-day tent revival for the radical wing of the Republican Party that still appears to be firmly in the grip of former President Donald Trump and his acolytes. Conference attendees quickly turned the nomination into red meat to sharpen their knives on, flinging muddy innuendos and making barely veiled appeals to racism. One common theme insists that Biden only chose Jackson for her race and gender — ignoring her exceptional qualifications to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

Jackson, who grew up in Miami, will certainly make history on the high court — but not only as the first Black female ever to serve. Her reputation for thoughtful, insightful legal analysis defies the liberal firebrand tag that some politicians are already seeking to brand her with. And her qualifications are unique and valuable, making her well-suited to evaluate the big questions before the court.

Several media outlets have pointed out that she would also be the first ex-public defender to serve on the nation’s high court. That sets her apart from the court’s current members, most of whom worked as prosecutors before being named to the bench. Her nomination doesn’t mean she will be soft on defendants; in fact, her record at the trial and appellate level has been remarkably balanced, and her reputation is that of a jurist who seeks to build consensus while respecting the reality that laws have boundaries that the judiciary is obligated to follow.

Her background does give her knowledge that has been in short supply on the bench — and that’s important, because public defenders are often the first line of defense for rights that many of us take for granted. Unfortunately, many of the attacks on Jackson have come from the kinds of cases she handled as a public defender, including her representation of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It’s disheartening to hear prominent members of the GOP — who certainly know better — acting as if Jackson somehow endorsed her clients’ actions.

Leaders can also expect the kind of I’m-rubber-you’re-glue innuendo meant to smear Jackson’s reputation without context. Rubio and Scott should urge their fellow senators to rise above such political chicanery. They may not have supported Jackson’s confirmation, in June, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  But they should insist that her nomination be evaluated on her record, and her answers to questions about the law — not on rumors, innuendo and outright falsehoods. And Floridians should make it clear that’s what they expect.

This editorial first appeared in The Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.