‘A Momentous Day’: Valley, State Officials Cheer Jackson Confirmation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Thursday’s confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the newest associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court had special meaning for two local Black women also in the legal profession.

The U.S. Senate approved Jackson’s ascension to the high court on a 53-47 vote, with three Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah – joining Senate Democrats to confirm her.

When Jackson joins the court following the retirement of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer later this year, she will become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

“Today’s historic ceiling-shattering Senate vote confirming America’s first Black female on the U.S. Supreme Court is one I will never forget,” Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Carla Baldwin said.

Just over four years ago, Baldwin shattered her own local barrier with her election to the municipal bench, the first Black woman to do so. Now, she said, she will see a reflection of herself on the nation’s highest bench.

“It is my hope that young women, especially women of color, will see that they are capable of leading in spaces that have never been occupied by someone who looks like them,” Baldwin said. “I hope they dream as big as they dare. My hope is that this moment will remind us that anything is possible.”

Youngstown attorney Kim Akins likewise was “elated” following the Senate vote to confirm Jackson.

“It’s a great day for America in pursuing its goal of being a more equal country,” Akins said. “Today represents the best of what this country is supposed to be.”

Nearly all Supreme Court justices – all but seven of 115 total since the nation was founded – have been White men. By adding individuals from more diverse backgrounds like Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now Jackson, “You get a different story as they look at cases,” Akins said.

She cited Jackson’s experiences as a public defender who “worked with people who are going through the criminal process” and as an appellate judge.

“It’s important to have the diversity of viewpoints,” said Akins, a Black woman who has her law practice in Youngstown.

The incoming associate justice sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and previously served as judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She also was vice chairwoman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and clerked for Breyer at the Supreme Court.

Akins, who knew she wanted to be a lawyer when she was a child and by high school wanted to be a Supreme Court justice, called Thursday a “momentous day.” She characterized Jackson as a “hyper-qualified” candidate who “finally broke through a system that has not taken into account the talents of a huge part of the population.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who voted for Jackson’s confirmation, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan acknowledged the day’s significance in separate statements.

“This is a historic day in our nation’s history, and I was proud to be able to vote to confirm Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Jackson’s diverse set of experiences and perspectives have long been lacking from our nation’s highest court. These experiences make her an ideal justice,” Brown, D-Ohio, said.

“Ketanji Brown Jackson is the epitome of who we need on the Supreme Court – an exceptionally qualified jurist with a career as a public defender and a proven track record of supporting workers, protecting abortion rights, and upholding the rule of law,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said. “I applaud her historic confirmation this afternoon and look forward to a Supreme Court more reflective of America.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio issued a statement Tuesday advising that he planned to vote against Jackson’s confirmation. While he acknowledged the historic nature of her nomination and found her to be “engaging and thoughtful with strong credentials,” he said he could not support her because of her responses to his questions, her record and her answers at her confirmation hearing.

“We simply have a different judicial philosophy. I believe the job of a Supreme Court Justice is to fairly and impartially apply the law and protect our rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not to advance public policy goals by legislating from the bench,” Portman said.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, joined Brown and Ryan in congratulating Jackson on her confirmation.

“The highest court in the land will now reflect those who have historically been kept from the aspirations within our Constitution, our Constitution that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will uphold with her brilliant legal mind,” Lepore-Hagan said. “Congratulations to Judge Jackson on this historic confirmation, and breaking the glass ceiling for Black women on the U.S. Supreme Court. What an inspiring moment for all of our daughters looking on.”

Image courtesy of the White House Facebook page.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.