On Anniversary of Justice Jackson’s Nomination, New Report Highlights Our Ongoing Fight for an Equal Justice Judiciary

Courts Resources 02.24,23

For our democracy to thrive, it must be multiracial, inclusive, and work for all of us. But today, our democracy — and our hard-won civil and human rights — are under attack. In order to bolster our democracy, we must strengthen our federal judiciary so that it works for all of us. This includes insisting that the president nominate and the Senate confirm highly qualified judicial nominees who are professionally and demographically diverse and committed to civil and human rights.

This work of building a judiciary that lives up to the promise inscribed above the U.S. Supreme Court — “Equal Justice Under Law” — matters tremendously. And now, one year after President Biden’s historic nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, we are releasing a report to highlight the progress we’ve made during the first two years of the Biden administration in our efforts to build an equal justice judiciary — including Justice Jackson’s confirmation.

The Leadership Conference, our Fair Courts Task Force, and the civil rights community have been at the forefront of this work for decades because we know that each confirmation of a judicial nominee who is dedicated to equal justice makes a difference in the lives of people who appear in that judge’s courtroom and to all of us who are impacted by their decisions. Having judges who reflect and represent all of us also increases public trust in the judiciary and improves judicial decision-making. This is the work of every generation. And now, after four years of the Trump administration stacking our courts with many judges who were selected because of their anti-civil rights records, building an equal justice judiciary has never been more important.

During the first two years of the Biden administration, the Senate — with critical leadership from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin — confirmed 97 lifetime federal judges, many of whom possess the professional and personal experience that strengthens our judiciary, yet has been historically excluded. This included one Supreme Court justice, 28 circuit court judges, and 68 district court judges. Of these confirmations:

  • Three-fourths are women
  • Nearly half are women of color
  • More than two thirds are people of color
  • Three-fourths of circuit court judges are people of color
  • Nearly 60 percent of circuit court judges are women of color
  • More than a quarter have public defender experience
  • Nearly one-fifth have experience as civil rights lawyers

Our report details President Biden’s nomination and the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — who made history last year as the first Black woman and first former public defender to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her confirmation embodies not only the kind of important experience needed at all levels of our judiciary, but also the difficult confirmation process.

For us to continue to fortify our democracy, and our federal judiciary in particular, this report reinforces our task force’s priorities for the 118th Congress by recommending that the president and Senate ensure filling judicial vacancies across the country is an enduring priority, including the nomination and confirmation of more judges who identify as Latino/a, disabled, LGBTQ, and Native American, in addition to judges who have meaningful experience in civil rights law — including experience protecting voting rights, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, and other areas of civil rights law that remain underrepresented on the federal bench today.

In addition, we urge Congress to pass legislation to modernize and reform our federal judiciary by shoring up ethics and transparency reforms, such as extending the Code of Conduct for United States judges to apply to Supreme Court justices. This also requires Congress reconsidering the structure of the federal judiciary, including the expansion of our lower courts where the caseload, changing population, and numerous other factors merit authorizing more federal judges, and thoroughly exploring potential structural changes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read our new report, “Persevere: Our Ongoing Fight for an Equal Justice Judiciary,” here.