WASHINGTON – After the Supreme Court landmark ruling in 2004 that inmates at Guantánamo Bay could file lawsuits demanding their indefinite detention, the federal agency for public protection in the District of Columbia has handled a number of such cases and assigned a young attorney in the office. His room handles them: Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“They were involved with very complex legal issues that were being worked out and needed someone who was extremely discerning and who had a very good lawyer,” recalls public defender AJ Kramer. “We think Ketanji is the best fit.”
Miss Jackson, who became a federal trial judge and then an appellate court judge, is now President Biden’s Supreme Court Candidate. But her two-and-a-half years as an assistant public defender, including her work on behalf of accused terrorists and criminal defendants, will likely receive scrutiny. especially in the light of her upcoming confirmation battle.
Lawyers who aspire to be judges – as she made clear, writing in her high school yearbook that the goal of a judge is hers – often act as prosecutors helping put criminals in jail. If confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the first modern court justice with experience as a public defender.
She also had to navigate the politics of representing non-celebrity clients. At her confirmed as district court judge in 2012For example, Senator Charles E. Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, challenged her about her Guantánamo job, saying her profile raises “some concerns about how you will be treated. handle cases of terrorism that may happen before your eyes.”
Ms. Jackson assured Mr. Grassley that she believes terrorists pose a danger to the United States and the country at war with them, while staying away from the Guantánamo cases she did.
“In all of those situations, the views expressed are those of my client that I represent,” she told him, adding, “The brief does not necessarily represent a personal opinion. mine about the war on terror or anything else. ”
Judge Jackson is deeply rooted in thinking about criminal law from many perspectives. One of her uncles was sentenced to life in prison for cocaine charges. But another is the sheriff of Miami, the third uncle is a sex crime detective, and her brother worked as a police officer in Baltimore – before he took the job of investigator in the same security office federal government, where she has mostly handled appeals, Mr. Kramer said.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard, she wrote a senior thesis in 1992 titled “The Hand of Repression: The plea bargaining process and the coercion of criminal defendants”.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, clerking for several judges – including Judge Stephen G. Breyer, with whom she would succeed – and practicing corporate law, Ms. Jackson spent several years in law. Advocate for the United States Sentencing Commission.
There, she then wroteshe realized that she had “a lack of practical understanding of the actual workings of the federal criminal justice system, and I decided that serving ‘in the trenches’ was, so to speak, very helpful. .” She thinks the public defender’s office will provide that knowledge as well as an “opportunity to help those in need and promote core constitutional values.”
Mr Kramer, who interviewed her for that job, recalls that her previous role at the Sentencing Commission focused on a “data and numbers-driven” approach to the criminal justice system. the.
“She clearly wants to see how the system works in practice and is more interested in the protective aspect of trying to help people from very disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said. “And I think it also gives her an opportunity to work with the people involved in the system.”
Judge Jackson served as an assistant public defender from February 2005 until June 2007, before returning to corporate law. In one Senate Questionnaire for her first judicial nomination, in 2012, Judge Jackson said that as a public defender, she argued before the appellate courts about 10 times.
One of her cases involved a man named Andrew J. Littlejohn III, who was found guilty of illegally possessing a firearm as a felony after police found a concealed gun in his possession. laundry basket when searching the house where he lived with his mother. Ms. Jackson appealed her conviction for a number of reasons, including because the trial judge questioned jurors in a way that could conceal the fact that some of the relatives were policemen and may be biased.
In a unanimous decisionA panel of three judges agreed that the juror’s interrogation was flawed and missed Mr. Littlejohn’s conviction.
“In the specific circumstances of this case, the district court’s use of compound questions violated Littlejohn’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair jury,” wrote Judge David S. Tatel.
In his 2021 confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, asked Judge Jackson in writing Does she ever worry that her time as a public defender “will lead to more violent criminals – including gun criminals – being put back on the streets?”
She replied that for the justice system to function effectively, those accused must be represented by “legal counsel competent to hold the government accountable for providing a fair process and assist in the preparation of defenses for the charges.” The attorneys in the federal public defender’s office, she continued, “perform this important function.”
She also won an appellate court decision overturned the conviction of a former lawyer convicted of tax evasion in connection with the theft of a Mercedes-Benz 500SL that the mother of a drug dealer had entrusted to him as an underling. The case sparked a complex dispute over the presentation of documents that the court ruled violated a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
And she won a judgment gets a new verdict against a man who pleaded guilty to possession of fraudulent identification tools because the trial judge failed to follow a federal rule on a disputed matter of fact affecting the deadline. of prison sentences.
Mr. Kramer recalls her as a friendly, attentive co-worker who never complained about the heavy workload. He said that they often discuss their parenting. Ms. Jackson loves the reality TV show “Survivor,” he added, and “will talk about the different contestants’ strategies.”
It was in that job that Mr. Kramer commissioned Ms. Jackson to help with class-action habeas for several Guantánamo detainees. And then, at a corporate law firm, Ms. Jackson also filed briefs with a friend of the court on behalf of two groups advocating challenges to Bush-era detention policy, including the statement that the government may detain a lawful permanent resident arrested. land in the country without charge and as a warrior of the enemy.
During her 2021 confirmation hearing, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, challenged her on some of those jobs. Judge Jackson intervened, telling him she had been assigned those cases and noting that her brother had been deployed to Iraq with the military.
But in one Follow-up written feedbackShe is more open-minded, describing herself as one of “many attorneys who are acutely aware of the threat the 9/11 attacks pose to fundamental constitutional principles, in addition to the obvious danger clear to the American people.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/us/politics/ketanji-brown-jackson-supreme-court.html As a Public Defender, Ketanji Brown Jackson has helped clients that others have avoided