J. Soedradjad Djiwandono: Confirmation Process of Associate Justice At US Supreme Court


J. Soedradjad Djiwandono: Confirmation Process of Associate Justice At US Supreme Court

Confirmation Process of Associate Justice At US Supreme Court

By: Prof. J. Soedradjad Djiwandono, Ph.D., Emeritus Economics Professor, FEB-UI, Jakarta and Professor of International Economics, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.


Independent Observer – (1-7/4/2022) It is interesting to follow the discussions in the US Senate Judiciary Committee for the confirmation of a new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Judge Kitanji Brown Jackson has been proposed to fill in the seat of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who will retire soon.

For one thing, it sounds strange for a country that has been established as a democratic state for 244 years, having already seen 115 Associate Justices come and go, to find it difficult to accept a black woman as a member. Some people still make big deal of the possibility, as if black women have no right to this top legal job, one with a life appointment, the same as others.

Her credentials are certainly not the reason for denying her. She has a Law Degree from Harvard Law School, graduated summa cum laude. In addition, she has pursued a distinguished career in law enforcement and as a public defender. The current position she holds is Judge of the US Court of Appeal for Washington DC. So, what could hold her up from assuming the position as the 116th Associate Justice then? This six-million-dollar question is hard to answer. Her family background is very good, both in terms of her own parents and uncles, high-ranking police officials, one in Miami-Dade County. Her husband, Dr Patrick G. Jackson, is a surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. They have two beautiful teenager daughters. Dr Patrick Jackson came from a well known Boston-Brahmin family. So, all this history should not stand as a problem for her confirmation. In other words, if there is still a hurdle it must come from the fact that she is a black woman, right? This is just plain common sense.

Associate Justices from a minority background

Frankly, for me it is also surprising that in this long history of the US Supreme Court, the participation of minority judges only started in 1916, when Louis Brandeis was confirmed as the first Jewish Associate Justice, nominated by President Woodrow Wilson.

According to my background check, the first Judge with an American-Italian background appointed to the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, only took place in 1986; he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. The first black judge confirmed was Thurgood Marshall, nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The first woman confirmed was Sandra D. O’Connor, nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Amazing, considering the US long history as a democratic state, known for its racial and ethnic mix, known as a “melting pot”, for a member of a minority to have to go through such long road to be admitted to this prestigious chamber. Now Judge Kitanji Brown Jackson has been nominated by President Joe Biden. I personally hope she will be confirmed, and pass with flying colors.

Criticism from Republican Senators

If what I wish above comes true, the credit should go to President Biden, who nominated her in the first place. But of course all the credentials that I mentioned above should be the basis for the decision. Hurdles are there, but her credentials and performance during days of grueling sessions at the confirmation hearing, meticulously answering all the questions, proper and otherwise, should be what count. I must say I learned a lot from her way of answering tricky questions and explaining complexed legal issues. Some Republican Senators accused her as soft on crime, drug addicts and child pornography, while others reminded her of having accused President George W. Bush of committing war crimes. Judge Kitanji Jackson answered all with clarity, denying the incorrect accusations, explaining what she had publicly stated, all in plain English, always politely and with a ready smile. If this had been an oral exam for my class, I would not hesitate a bit to give her A plus, for sure.

Final note.

Frankly I do not know why I was inspired to write about this issue, such an unimportant issue for us in Indonesia, as some might argue. I am sure most do not even listen or read the news about this confirmation hearing, meant to fill the seat of a US Associate Justice, soon to be left empty with the retirement of As sociate Justice Stephen Breyer. But I think these are relevant issues for us, proof that we still must continue fighting for equal rights for women, and fair treatment for everybody under the law. And for legal issues that pop up occasionally, such as efforts to change the nation’s history of what happened during the counter-offensive by our Army against the Dutch military occupying the nation’s capital, Yogyakarta, on March 1, 1949, known as “Serangan Umum Satu Maret 1949”in Indonesian. Also, the public discourse on postponing General Election, allowing the President to serve a third term, which violates our Constitution. So, it is important to keep upholding the Constitution and remember to uphold equal rights under the law for everyone, irrespective of ethnic, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Sad to say, but we still have to uphold the need to have a Supreme Court or Constitutional Court comprised of both male and female Associate Justices with impeccable credentials, academically, legally and morally.


Source: Independent Observer. Edition: Friday, April 1-7, 2022. Page 7.

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