The Phoenix Flyer

FL criminal defense lawyers: Supreme Court nominee Jackson shouldn’t be ‘shamed’ for serving as a public defender

By: - March 21, 2022 1:42 pm

U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson. Credit: Screenshot, C-SPAN

As the nation watched the confirmation hearing Monday for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spoke out in support of Jackson’s “eminently qualified” background, though she has some detractors.

“Unfortunately, some senators question Judge Jackson‘s capability to serve as a justice because she once was a criminal defense attorney and represented individuals accused of serious violent crimes. This obstructionist and odious thinking is intolerable–no lawyer should ever be castigated for his or her ethical and professional representation of any client,” the Florida association wrote in a press statement Monday.

The group added: “Judge Jackson should not be criticized or shamed for serving as a Federal Public Defender. Her wide-ranging legal experience makes her even more qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. The Committee should ignore the claims of her detractors and move forward with haste to send her nomination to the full (U.S.) Senate.”

In fact, the association wrote that practicing criminal defense is an asset for the nominee.

Jackson, who originally is from Miami and graduated from Harvard Law School, would make history as the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. She’s been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered the nation’s second-highest court, since last year.

According to the White House, “Jackson represented defendants who did not have the means to pay for a lawyer. She would be the first former federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Leading up to the confirmation hearings, a recent story by The New York Times referenced a “Republican effort to vilify and discredit Biden administration judicial nominees who have served as public defenders, by suggesting that they acted inappropriately in representing clients accused of serious, sometimes vicious crimes.”

The Times added: “The Republican strategy is a response to a concerted push by the Biden administration to diversify the federal bench by nominating more people with experience in criminal defense work, many of them women of color.”

The confirmation hearing, held by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, will continue this week.

Senators on the panel will question Jackson for two full days. Each member of the committee will have 30 minutes to question Jackson on Tuesday and another 20 minutes on Wednesday — though they may not use all that time.

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are not on the judiciary committee.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.