Although it hasn’t happened yet, it is highly likely that Ketanji Brown Jackson will soon be confirmed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The question is will Future Justice Jackson be a friend or a foe of the registrant community?
It is clear that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first African American woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. It is also clear that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the first former public defender to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Both are long overdue.
What is not clear is whether Future Justice Jackson will help or hinder the registrant community during its continuing struggle for the restoration of its members’ civil rights. Why the lack of clarity?
During the Senate confirmation hearings, many senators questioned Ketanji Brown Jackson regarding sentences she rendered as a trial court judge. Some of those sentences involved individuals convicted of a sex offense, including but not limited to, possession of child pornography.
When answering the senators’ questions, Future Justice Jackson explained the federal government’s mandatory minimum sentences for child pornography offenses as well as a trial judge’s discretion to deviate from those guidelines based upon factors determined by Congress. She even suggested that some trial judges believe the federal government’s mandatory minimum sentences are too harsh. These answers appear to favor the registrant community.
However, the fact that senators continue to barrage the future justice with additional questions regarding sex offense issues sends a clear message. They are watching now, and they will be criticizing soon the future justice’s decisions on these issues. A wrong decision, that is a decision the senators interpret as soft on crime, could result in the lack of another African American woman or another public defender being appointed to that court.
Ketanji Brown Jackson knows this, and that knowledge could adversely affect her future decisions as a U. S. Supreme Court justice. We need Future Justice Jackson to be strong and to stick to her principles. We need Future Justice Jackson to help the U.S. Supreme Court correct the terrible mistake it made in 2003 when it decided that registration is not punishment and therefore new sex offender laws could be passed and applied retroactively.
Laws that affect where a registrant and family can and cannot live. Laws that affect where a registrant can and cannot work. Laws that affect where a registrant and family can and cannot visit (beach, fast food restaurant. dog park, etc.).
As we continue to watch the Senate confirmation hearings of Ketanji Brown Jackson, it is important to pay attention to what she has to say. It will also be important in March 2023 to communicate to her and her fellow U.S. Supreme Court justices the need to restore the civil rights of registrants and their families.