It’s the Judicial Nominees for Me, Joe
By Sidney Essex
“It’s the _____ For Me, Joe” is a short weekly breakdown of Joe Biden’s policy plan for a specific issue, with the aim of encouraging and energizing college students across the Democratic political spectrum—particularly those who are less than excited about Joe Biden. It is written by Sidney Essex (instagram: @sidney.essex, twitter: @essexsidney), a Biden Policy Expert on the Campaigns Committee.
This week, our nation is in mourning. We have lost a hero. We have lost a 5’1 giant of jurisprudence, a champion of progressive values, and a standard bearer in the fight for a more perfect union guaranteed at our founding. Justice Ginsburg was more than simply a brilliant legal mind; she was a brilliant legal mind whose brains, morals, and gumption allowed her to rise to the top of a male dominated legal establishment and prove that her principles of equality and justice for all were rooted in and protected by the law.
Her death must be a wake-up call for every American who believes in a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, immigration, and climate action. It must be a reminder that we will be dealing with the legacy of the Trump presidency for much of our adult lives, through the long list of his judicial appointees—not only Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, but 53 appellate judges and 159 district court judges, nearly all of whom have been recommended and vetted by the Federalist Society, a deeply conservative legal group advocating for an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. His prolific judicial appointments have also solidified his support among Evangelical Christians, who see Trump and his judges as crusaders against Roe v. Wade and LGBTQ rights.
Our best and probably only hope to stop this conservative takeover of the judiciary is to elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. President of the United States. Hopefully Biden will have the opportunity to replace Ginsburg; if not, he may well have the opportunity to replace Justices Breyer, Thomas, or Alito, all of whom are septuagenarians or older. Biden has sworn that if a Supreme Court vacancy were to open during his presidency, he would fill it with a Black woman, reaffirming his commitment to appointing American leaders who reflect American diversity.
The most likely candidates are Justice Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Court and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the federal district court in Washington DC. Justice Kruger is an alumna of Harvard College and Yale Law and a former clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens. She argued 12 Supreme Court cases at the Office of the Solicitor General, rising to the number two position in the office, as well as working for the Office of Legal Council at the Department of Justice. She is known for being prudent, fair, and legal-minded, not a strict ideologue. Perhaps best of all, she is only 44 years old—she accomplished all of this before she was 40—and could probably serve for the next 35 years. Brown Jackson is a 50-year-old Harvard and Harvard Law alumna and former Breyer clerk who slipped past Mitch McConnell’s Senate to the federal judiciary in 2013. She has also previously worked as assistant special counsel and later Vice President of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she oversaw a plethora of sentencing reforms. Her most notable career case thus far was in 2019, when she presided over a case where the House Judiciary Committee sought to subpoena White House counsel Donald McGahn. She tore the White House’s claim of absolute immunity to shreds, writing that “Presidents are not kings.”
Biden will also appoint judges to the federal judiciary that reflect his and his supporters’ core values: the rule of law, a holistic understanding of personal civil rights and liberties, and respect for the foundational precedents of Brown vs. Board of Education and, crucially, Roe vs. Wade. While he has not mentioned specific names, fairly influential activist groups affiliated with Democratic politics such as Demand Justice and She Will Rise have floated civil rights attorneys, law professors, and state jurists as possible federal judges. They are almost uniformly staunch supporters of reproductive justice, expanded voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and other progressive causes.
The former Vice President is an old hand at partisan warfare over control of the courts, as a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was instrumental in one of the fiercest judicial battles in modern American history, opposing Reagan’s nomination of conservative firebrand Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Biden was also vital in blocking Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first Attorney General and first Senate endorsement, from the federal judiciary by exposing his record of prosecuting civil rights activists as Attorney General of Alabama in the 1960s. His finest accomplishment as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee was undoubtedly shepherding Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation through the Senate in 1993, sending her to the bench with 96 votes in favor.
I am well aware that not every College Democrat is excited to vote for Biden and Harris; I would not be writing these articles if this were not the case. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing must be a reminder that we cannot afford to vote for only the candidates who excite us, because we are not only voting for a President. We are voting for their judicial nominees—the people who will decide what is just in our republic for life.
Note: The mission of the GW College Democrats Blog is to highlight, empower, and facilitate the political expression of GWCD members. As such, the views expressed in this article are based on the opinions of its author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the whole of GW College Democrats, its executive board, or its deputy director board.