Category Archives: US Supreme Court

Benicia mom Amira Barger: I’m a Black Bay Area parent. The Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings were disappointing — though not surprising

A Black Bay Area parent and community activist reflects on the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings

SFGate, by Amira Barger, March 30, 2022

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes emotional during an impassioned speech by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. | Andrew Harnik/AP

I hope my daughter never has to endure the treatment Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been subjected to.

Being a Black woman and the mother of a young Black girl, I felt it was important for her to witness this historical moment. But instead of the positive experience it could have been, the scene that played out was sadly familiar. As we sat together watching the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, my nine-year-old wondered why Texas Sen. Cruz frequently interrupted Jackson.

“May I say a word I’m not supposed to?” she asked. “Isn’t he kind of being…a jerk, and why isn’t anyone doing anything?”

I explained a lesson from bell hooks: “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.” Black women have a common experience — we are often required to respond with restraint and calm in the face of misogynoir (misogyny directed towards Black women where both race and sex play a role), so as not to disrupt the dynamics of power. I witnessed this misogynoir with my daughter as Jackson smiled and paused — a response born of hard-earned wisdom. It was triggering to watch.

We have waited 233 years to be represented. The Supreme Court has had 115 judges — of these, there have been two Black men and five women — none of them Black. Interestingly, confirmation hearings have only existed since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson put forward Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish man nominated. Hearings were not previously required for the white Christian men who had historically held these seats. Many might suggest the treatment of Jackson is some sort of retribution for treatment received by the last two Supreme Court nominees — particularly Brett Kavanaugh. Several GOP senators alluded to as much. However, in presuming this, one chooses to conveniently forget the circumstances surrounding those hearings.

Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault. The consternation surrounding Amy Coney Barrett had less to do with the nominee than it did with whether, only weeks from the presidential election, confirmation proceedings should be happening at all. Senators blocked President Barack Obama from replacing Justice Antonin Scalia in the spring of 2016 — months before the election. During her hearing, Barrett repeatedly sidestepped questions, stating she shouldn’t give an opinion on matters she might have to rule on as a justice. Such answers have long-standing precedent, and did not seem to ruffle too many feathers among the GOP members of the committee. Contrast that with their treatment of Jackson, berated for not answering questions even as she was interrupted time and again. Still, she sat composed as she was met with conjecture and infighting amongst senators. Compare that with Kavanaugh, red-faced and shouting at the committee about how much he liked beer.

One might also be tempted to write off the treatment of Jackson as merely partisan politics as usual. However, you would only have to go back so far as the nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to note the marked differences in tone and tenor of those hearings compared to the Jackson hearings. A desire for the “most qualified candidate” has been the GOP rallying cry in response to President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman. Of course, the quiet part of that seemingly reasonable request is the underlying assumption that no Black woman could possibly fit the bill as “most qualified.” As a federal appellate judge, a district court judge, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an attorney in private practice, and as a public defender, Jackson has broad experience across the legal profession. A visual from the Washington Post paints a poignant picture of the totality of Jackson’s unparalleled qualifications in comparison to her would-be colleagues. Kagan, for example, had never been a judge at any level before her appointment to the Supreme Court, yet her nomination was met with a far greater degree of civility.

What Jackson endured is a result of inequitable procedure propped up by decades of empty diversity, equity and inclusion promises without accountability. True commitment to inclusion requires opportunity for any historically excluded or marginalized person to enter without constant monitoring of the system. Black women, who must overcome the bigotry of both race and gender, are most often the last to be allowed in the room. As it stands, there are no Black women in the U.S. Senate, nor are there any Black women serving as governor. Yes, Kamala Harris is the vice president. And Jackson’s confirmation would be a step. But these singular exceptions do not themselves break the ceiling too many of us encounter.

I consult in diversity, equity and inclusion, and my professional experience leads me to believe that the linguistic and mental contortion we saw Jackson masterfully navigate was not nearly as difficult as assumed. She is a trained contortionist, as are many Black women. We anticipate the questioning, racism, sexism, and blatant contempt. We know that, once in the room, the fight to prove ourselves only intensifies. We embody the age-old adage of exceptionalism: “twice as good, to get half as much”. This often manifests as an alphabet soup of degrees and certifications behind Black women’s names, mine included. The problem with exceptionalism is that it falsely espouses one will, having achieved the exceptional, be treated well. Sadly, these hearings have served to reinforce that, not only was Jackson’s humanity not sufficient to be treated well, but neither were her exceptional qualifications.

I want more than this for us. This being the vitriol, pain, and perseverance. This being hopes and dreams sandwiched between systemic barriers and misogynoir. This being agility and strength earned on a rigged playing field. I want more than what we have today. For me, for you, for my little Black girl, and all little Black girls to come. We are to be treated well because we are human. Full stop. Our success should be judged by more than proximity to an impossible and unnecessary white ideal. We are enough as we are. The preeminently qualified Jackson, with her own display of vulnerability and humanity, reminded us that being human is enough. I saw myself and my daughter in Jackson, as her daughter proudly looked on. I know many of us did. Because her story is our story.

With other supposed allies in the room, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker had to be the one to boldly disrupt the disgusting onslaught — to affirm, to encourage, to look her in the eyes and give a moment of reprieve. As Black women, we continue to navigate a world that so often demonstrates how little it values us. The sexism, racism, and discrimination are constant. Celebration of our perseverance only serves as a tacit reminder of the systemic inequity we face while offering little in the way of actual change. Do us a favor, if you will: 1. Lead from your chair to disrupt harm. Affirm, encourage, and look someone in their eyes and recognize their humanity. 2. Call your senator and demand confirmation of Judge Jackson.

A lesson I teach my nine-year-old is one we can all apply here: Leave people and places better than you find them. Also, don’t be a jerk.

Amira Barger is a Bay Area Black mom, an adjunct professor of marketing and communications and a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant.


WATCH: Judge Jackson tears up, Senator Booker says ‘No one’s stealing my joy!’

Senator Cory Booker is my hero…

Check out this incredible video of Senator Booker addressing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.  She wasn’t the only one brought to tears.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wiped away tears as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., delivered a passionate speech on how she earned her spot to become the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.

“You are worthy. You are a great American,” he told Jackson. In lieu of asking questions, Booker later told Jackson that “I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.”

As the Senate Judiciary Committee continued its Supreme Court confirmation hearings March 23, Booker also railed against GOP senators pulling out specific cases from Jackson’s past and said it would not steal his joy.

The senator referenced abolitionist Harriet Tubman and Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge in 1966, as role models in his life and who paved the way for Jackson’s historic path.

“Today, you’re my star. You are my harbinger of hope,” Booker told Jackson.

Wednesday was senators’ final day to question Jackson, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in February to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman on the high court. On the final day of the hearings March 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from friends and colleagues of Jackson about her temperament and approach to the law.

Vallejo Times-Herald’s not-so-subtle promotion of Trump’s Supreme Court judicial pick

By Roger Straw, October 16, 2020

The Vallejo Times-Herald’s headline writer was decidedly NOT impartial this week.

Local commercial news media in one-paper towns are obliged to do their best to present a balanced perspective, especially on controversial topics.  True objectivity is difficult, but the public’s primary source of news needs to do its very best.

And yet, consider the Times-Herald’s headlines Oct. 13-16, each of which accompanied a sweet photo of the fast-tracked Trump/GOP sham nominee, Amy Coney Barrett:

  • Original AP headline on Oct. 13: “Barrett vows fair approach as justice, Democrats skeptical
    • VT-H headline: Barrett vows fair approach
  • Original AP headline on Oct. 14: “Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing
    • VT-H headline: Barrett unscathed by tough questions
  • Original AP headline on Oct 16: “GOP pushes Barrett toward court as Democrats decry ‘sham’
    • VT-H headline: GOP pushes Barrett’s nomination ahead

When approached by email, Times-Herald Editor Jack Bungart let me know that staff does not write the paper’s headlines.  Their “pagination hub” converts from an Associated Press headline according to “what fits in each situation.”

So who or what is the “pagination hub” serving our friendly staff at the Vallejo Times-Herald?  Is there bias at work here?  Who, exactly, is responsible for the seemingly partial editing of the AP headlines that came up with these pro-Barrett Times-Herald headlines?!

Come on, Vallejo T-H “pagination hub”.  Who are you?  In the future, give us a more nuanced and accurate first look at the day’s highly controversial news.

The death of RBG; news orgs remember legal legend; election jolted; McConnell warns of ‘pressure from the press’; views from right and left

Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter

Oliver Darcy here. It feels wrong to tease any of the stories in this newsletter here when there is such significant and tragic news…

The death of RBG

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Only a tiny fraction of stories leave a control room in shock and a news anchor visibly startled. Only a small number of stories cause a host to interrupt their own script, mid-paragraph, for breaking news, cautiously digesting the information being relayed by his or her producers before conveying it to the audience. Only few stories cause newspapers to rip up and redo their front pages on a Friday night.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of those stories.

‘We have breaking news right now’

On MSNBCJoy Reid was talking about Trump University when she abruptly stopped in the middle of the segment. “I’m going to hold on because we have some breaking news that we have to report,” Reid said, before taking a breath and informing her audience that Ginsburg had passed away at the age of 87.

CNN, meanwhile, was on a commercial break when Erin Burnett suddenly cut in. “We have breaking news right now,” Burnett told viewers with an urgency reserved for only the biggest news stories. It took Fox News several more minutes to bring their viewers the breaking story. The network was airing the Trump rally in Minnesota. Eventually Martha MacCallum broke in with a Fox News Alert, cutting away from Trump as he attacked the “fake polls.”

How news orgs remembered her

>> New Yorker: “Ginsburg bore witness to, argued for, and helped to constitutionalize the most hard-fought and least-appreciated revolution in modern American history: the emancipation of women. Aside from Thurgood Marshall, no single American has so wholly advanced the cause of equality under the law…”

>> WaPo: “Born in Depression-era Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg excelled academically and went to the top of her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place. She earned a reputation as the legal embodiment of the women’s liberation movement and as a widely admired role model for generations of female lawyers…”

>> NYT: “Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough…”

>> CNN: “Ginsburg developed a rock star status and was dubbed the ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ In speaking events across the country before liberal audiences, she was greeted with standing ovations as she spoke about her view of the law, her famed exercise routine and her often fiery dissents…”

Front and center

Ginsburg’s death will place the Supreme Court front and center of not only the presidential race, but in Senate races all across the country. This is one of the issues that will define the weeks leading up to the election. The precedents set by landmark cases like Roe v. Wade are quite literally at stake, as well as a host of other issues the court will decide in the years to come. And as Jim Sciutto pointed out, “A 5-3 conservative court may have some very big decisions to make about the upcoming election.”

Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night to ensure Trump’s nominee — should he nominate someone, and all indications are that he will — gets a vote, and as Dana Bash pointed out on CNN, filling the bench has been the majority leader’s “singular focus.” Which is to say it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where Republicans don’t move forward at some point between now and January 20th. Brit Hume made a smart point on Fox, noting that Trump’s promise to appoint conservative judges was an argument that actually helped persuade some Republicans who were otherwise uncomfortable with voting for him in 2016. Biden’s campaign has made significant effort to win over Republican voters in this race. Will the future of the court hinder Biden’s efforts? Or will it rally the left even more?

McConnell warns of ‘tremendous pressure from the press’

In a note McConnell sent to GOP senators, the majority leader wrote, “Over the coming days, we are all going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination.” McConnell’s advice? “For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you to all keep your powder dry. This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”

>> McConnell is advising his colleagues that they should withhold from their constituents how they are leaning on an issue of incredible importance with an election fast approaching…

‘My most fervent wish’

Will Ginsburg’s dying wish be honored? We’ll see. Before she died, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara SperaNPR’s Nina Totenberg reported. The statement read, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Fox guests call for Trump to make nomination

Some guests on Fox wasted no time calling for Trump to nominate a justice to fill the vacancy. Ned Ryun said the President should “seize the moment” and make a nomination. Ted Cruz later told Sean Hannity that he believes Trump should “next week nominate a successor to the court.” Cruz added, “I think it is critical the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day.”

Expect this pressure to ramp up and be at full speed by the end of the weekend. Right-wing media will undoubtedly call for Trump to make a nomination. The mindset for conservatives has, for some time, been defined by what the late Andrew Breitbart used to say: “#WAR.” In other words, arguments about rules and precedent are not likely to be effective. There are no rules in war — and that is the state that right-wing media has conditioned its audience to be in.

Related: Matt Gertz at the progressive media watchdog Media Matters put together a compilation of “when Fox hosts said that you shouldn’t push a Supreme Court nomination during an election year…”

The view on MSNBC

Brian Stelter writes: “Chris Hayes‘ guest Rebecca Traister took a big gulp of wine as Hayes reported McConnell’s statement. Hayes ended his hour by saying, ‘The future is unwritten, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is wrong. We are utterly uncharted territory.’ Rachel Maddow agreed and said humility is essential in a moment like this. Maddow then interviewed Hillary Clinton, who said ‘She stood on the side of moving us toward a more perfect union…'”

NYT’s historic A1

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— CNN and Fox News are staying live until 1am ET and starting Saturday morning coverage early at 5am…

— “Trump is expected to put forth a nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court in the coming days,” sources told ABC’s John Santucci and Katherine Faulders… (ABC News)


— Trump is “likely to meet again with those on his short list in the coming days,” a source told NYT’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman… (NYT)


— “An already chaotic and corrosive presidential campaign was jolted anew,” Philip RuckerMatt ViserSean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey wrote… (WaPo)


— CNN’s Ariane de Vogue reported that Ginsburg, “even after her fifth diagnosis with cancer was working on a book with one of her former clerks, Amanda Tyler. It was based on her life on gender equality…” (CNN)

— Within thirty minutes of the bulletin, each of the top ten Twitter trending topics in the US were related to RBG… (Twitter)


— Watch the moment that Bill Maher broke the news to his panel. You can hear gasps from people in the audience… (“Real Time”)