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What Ketanji Brown Jackson’s public defender experience would bring to SCOTUS

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at SCOTUS hearing.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at SCOTUS hearing.

A Syracuse University law professor said if confirmed, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will bring a perspective to the U.S. Supreme Court that no one else has in its history.

You’ve probably heard by now that Jackson is the only nominee who has served as a federal public defender. Professor Paula Johnson said that means she had to represent clients who were often poor and people of color and could see the disparities in their treatment and access to resources. Johnson said the court would be less one sided with her on the bench.

“Someone will be in a position to say, ‘well, what about this? Have we heard from the position of the accused? What do we know about their experience?’ — all of the relevancy of matters that may otherwise go unaddressed, unconsidered," Johnson said.

Johnson said Jackson’s presence would shed more light on the parts of society that often don’t get the benefit of a full hearing.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a particular outcome after hearing these voices, but it does mean there will be a full airing of all of the positions that ought to be considered when we’re talking about, in this instance, criminal justice matters,” Johnson said

The only other justice to share a similar background was Thurgood Marshall, who served as a defense attorney for the NAACP. But Johnson said the difference was the organization could pick and choose its cases, where public defenders don’t have that discretion. In the end, she felt Jackson has presented herself extremely well, maintaining her composure in light of what the professor calls disingenuous, disturbing, and borderline disrespectful lines of questioning from Republican senators.