Despite countless dodges and non-answers on a range of topics from Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate confirmation hearings this week, one Republican senator managed to elicit an apparent commitment for future action from the federal judge.
Jackson acknowledged that, if confirmed, she would recuse herself from an impending Supreme Court case dealing with affirmative action and racial discrimination in terms of admissions at Harvard University, the Conservative Brief reported.
That is important because Jackson serves on the elite Ivy League university’s Board of Overseers, a connection that could raise questions of personal bias and her ability to be impartial if she were to hear arguments and pass judgment on the case involving her alma mater.
Recusal “is my plan”
The issue was raised during Wednesday’s hearing by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), himself a Harvard graduate, who spoke of the “explicit and, in my view, an egregious policy of discriminating against Asian-Americans” applying for admission to the university.
Harvard is currently being sued over allegations that it deliberately discriminates against Asians and White people in favor of Black and Hispanic applicants when considering which ones to admit as students.
Sen. Cruz first pointed out that, since he was not Asian-American and therefore not directly injured by Harvard’s alleged discrimination, he would not have the standing to join the class-action suit — an assertion that Judge Jackson appeared to agree with,
Noting her position on Harvard’s Board of Overseers, the senator then asked if she intended to recuse herself from the lawsuit if confirmed, to which the judge replied, “That is my plan, senator.”
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson says, if confirmed, she plans to recuse herself from Supreme Court case involving Harvard’s use of race as a factor in admission policies since she is on the university’s Board of Overseers. https://t.co/WTud7VJPVX pic.twitter.com/9gON966Jhc
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 24, 2022
A question of impartiality
The Washington Free Beacon reported that recusals at the Supreme Court level are fairly rare and typically occur only in instances where a family member of a sitting justice or a direct financial connection is involved in a particular case.
Furthermore, there aren’t any binding ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, though, generally speaking, federal guidelines suggest a justice should recuse themselves from a case when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
In this particular instance, given Judge Jackson’s position on Harvard’s board and status as a former Black student of the school, it seems eminently reasonable that she recuse herself from the case involving allegations of discrimination against and in favor of certain races in terms of the university’s admissions process.
This is a good thing and, hopefully, Jackson will follow through on that plan for recusal from the Harvard case if — or perhaps, when — she is formally confirmed and seated on the Supreme Court.