During Judge Jackson’s rise to the federal bench, during which she received some Republican support in confirmation votes, she was asked more than once about the role of race in the judicial system. Responding to such a question from Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, during her confirmation process to join the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year, she said that when she received a case, “I am methodically and intentionally setting aside personal opinions, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think race would be the kind of thing it would be inappropriate to inject into my assessment of a case .
She has recused herself from a number of cases to eliminate any suggestion of bias, including those that might pose conflicts given her role on Harvard’s board of trustees, according to his Senate questionnaire. One involved a professor who had sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Another challenged the Department of Education’s on-campus sexual assault rules, to which Harvard was considering its own response.
When Justice Jackson was elected to the board in 2016, she was supported by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, an alumni group that endorsed her as a candidate to help “save campus diversity.” . The coalition backed the school’s policy of making race a consideration in admissions, according to one of its advisories at the time, and hoped its list would beat one that included applicants who had publicly opposed affirmative action.
At the time, Judge Jackson declined to answer an affirmative action questionnaire question in a survey the coalition gave to candidates, saying that as a sitting federal judge, “I feel obligated not to express my personal opinions on important issues that have the potential to come before me in court.
By choosing Justice Jackson, President Biden delivered on his campaign promise to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, is among several legal scholars who have argued that Mr Biden used “exclusion criteria” by considering only black women as potential candidates. In an opinion columnMr Turley claimed the president’s criteria were unfair to whoever he ultimately chose as his nominee, in part because she would then have to hear a case that would determine whether those same criteria should be used in college admissions .
But Mr Turley said in an interview that his belief that Judge Jackson should recuse herself has nothing to do with his race. “Most citizens would be surprised by a judge, let alone a judge, voting on a matter involving a university on which she sat on the board,” he said. “It would be akin to a court ruling on an Exxon lease dispute after serving on an Exxon board.”