• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

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For Black Women in Law, Jackson’s Confirmation Is a Source of Pride

ATLANTA — Black women in law from around the country celebrated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on Thursday, with many saying they felt proud and inspired by her accomplishment.

Nia Jolly, a second-year law student at the University of Louisville, who was recently elected the first Black female president of her student bar association, said she was thrilled for Judge Jackson and especially touched by her “resilience and tenacity.”

“Although Judge Jackson was put through the wringer, she came out successfully on the other side,” Ms. Jolly said. “This is a great day for Black women in the law and encouraging for Black women trying to make progress everywhere.”

Stephanie Goggans, a second-year law student at Cleveland State University and an intern for Judge Emanuella Groves, an appellate judge in Ohio, said she felt empowered by Judge Jackson’s success.

“I’m crying happy tears because for the first time, I can look at the highest court in the country — a country I would give my life for — and see a face that looks like mine,” said Ms. Goggans, 36.

Zenell Brown, a lawyer and court administrator for the Wayne County Third Circuit Court in Michigan, where she works with 58 judges, said before the vote on Thursday that Ms. Jackson’s confirmation would bring both pride and a sigh of relief after a process that had felt like an assault on her character.

Since February, when President Biden announced his nomination of Judge Jackson, Ms. Brown has been following the process closely. Each night of the hearings, she watched clips and read up on the day’s news, talking to friends and family and posting her thoughts on social media.

Her mother-in-law, who is in her 80s, was particularly excited because she never imagined a Black woman would be on the court in her lifetime, Ms. Brown said. Her youngest daughter, who is 30, has been joking that Judge Jackson must be family because they share a last name.

“We aren’t related, but it’s an example that we are all just wanting to get a piece of this exciting moment,” Ms. Brown said. “We have a sense of ‘this is a part of me,’ and I’m so proud.”

Judge Groves said that Ms. Jackson’s confirmation gave her hope for the current and future generations of Black lawyers, including her daughter who works in civil rights law and her son-in-law who is a voter protection lawyer.

Still, for Judge Groves, 63, the confirmation hearings were exciting but also sobering as she thought about the questioning Ms. Jackson had faced.

“The manner of the questioning of some senators was not a quest to ensure a qualified jurist was selected who would interpret the constitution fairly, but was a demonstration of their desire to select a judge that would interpret the law the way they want,” she said. “This desire was greater than being a part of history as the first Black female jurist was ushered onto the Supreme Court.”

Erin McNeil Young, a civil litigation lawyer in North Carolina, said that there were moments in the confirmation hearings that she found triggering, particularly as senators questioned Judge Jackson’s qualifications.

Yet what she found most stirring from the process was seeing the judge’s parents in the gallery in support of their daughter.

“Her hardworking, Black, loving parents, who grew up through segregation, were sitting there watching,” Ms. Young said. “And that they were both able to witness this moment after what they lived through just a generation ago stands out to me most.”

“That was beautiful to see,” Ms. Young added, noting that Judge Jackson, in that moment, “could have been any number of my friends with their moms and dads proudly sitting there.”

“I’m so excited,” she said after the judge’s confirmation. “I feel like the world is saved because that’s what Black women do.”