Dozens of former Supreme Court clerks, Justice Department officials and law professors are throwing their support behind President Joe Biden’s highest-profile judicial nominee to date as the Senate Judiciary Committee gets set to consider his first batch of selections for the federal courts.
The endorsements, in a series of letters obtained by CNN, show a range of support for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s selection for the influential US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The letters of support come as the hearing is being viewed by some on Capitol Hill as a window past Jackson’s current nomination toward a possible Supreme Court nod in the future.
“Each of us fully appreciates the significant authority of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and understands how critical it is to have appellate jurists with a steadfast commitment to independence, impartiality, and integrity,” a group of 35 former senior Justice Department officials and US attorneys said in one of the letters sent to the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate panel. “Judge Jackson possesses these values and is exceptionally qualified for the position.”
Jackson, 50, is considered by Democrats to be one of their brightest judicial stars, a current DC district judge who is viewed as a, if not the, top candidate for a Supreme Court nomination should a current justice retire, according to Democratic officials.
Lawmakers are expected to use the hearing to probe the more than 550 judicial opinions she has authored, including several high-profile rulings against the Trump administration.
Biden pledged during the campaign to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court should a vacancy arise. Administration officials have stood by that pledge since Biden entered the White House, and Jackson has repeatedly come up as a leading candidate in the wake of the President’s pledge.
While Jackson’s district court nomination was approved by voice vote in 2013, the added dynamic of a new job seen as a potential steppingstone to the highest court in the land is expected to bring a new level of intensity to her confirmation hearing, Democratic and Republican aides told CNN.
A group of 23 Supreme Court law clerks who served with Jackson when she clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer called her “fully qualified” for the position, according to another one of the letters of support.
“We have followed many different paths since our clerkships, in private practice, government service, academia, and business. And our positions on politics and judicial philosophy vary widely,” the group, composed of former clerks who worked for justices appointed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, wrote to lawmakers. “Yet we all write to support Judge Jackson’s nomination, because we know her to be eminently qualified in intellect, character, and experience.”
A Supreme Court vacancy has become a major point of discussion among progressive advocates in recent weeks, with outward pressure on Breyer, a member of the liberal bloc on the court who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, to step down while Democrats hold the narrowest of majorities in the US Senate.
Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy group led by Brian Fallon, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, launched what it called its “Retire Breyer” campaign earlier this month.
The White House, for its part, has declined to engage in the pressure or general speculation about Breyer, who is 82. Senate Democrats have also been publicly cautious on the issue, even though speculation has been rampant on Capitol Hill throughout the spring months.
Regardless of Breyer’s decision, Biden’s judicial selections carry a new level of importance and urgency for Democrats in the wake of the unprecedented success that President Donald Trump – along with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican – achieved in filling open seats throughout the federal judiciary – more than 200, including three Supreme Court justices.
Democratic lawmakers and outside progressive advocacy groups have pressed the administration to move quickly to fill the 72 currently open vacancies. There are an additional 28 future vacancies where judges have noted their intent to retire, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The White House has pledged to do just that, announcing 11 judicial nominees, including Jackson, on March 30. Several others are expected in the coming weeks, administration officials say.