On Port Of Harlem Talk Radio, we discussed with author and lawyer Rawn James, Jr. the significance of President Biden’s appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It’s “the second most important federal court in the United States,” explained the author of “Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall and the Struggle to End Segregation,” “The Double V: How Wars, Protest and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military,” and “The Truman Court: Law and the Limits of Loyalty.”
The D.C. Circuit’s prominence among American courts is second only to the U.S. Supreme Court because its jurisdiction contains the U.S. Congress and many U.S. government agencies. Also, three of the current nine justices on the Supreme Court were previously judges on the D.C. Circuit: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.
In May 2020, Joe Biden promised that if elected president, he'd put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
It is part of the current political process and citizen’s expectations for a Supreme Court judge to have sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, says James. He added a “nomination would be hard pressed to get through for someone to come from private practice straight through to being on the (Supreme) Court.”
Justice Thomas, he pointed out, barely was unpacked when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. In October 1989, President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas to the D.C. Circuit, following Robert Bork's departure. After Justice Marshall, the only African-American justice on the Court, announced his retirement, Bush called Thomas the "best qualified at this time,” when nominating him to the Supreme Court to take Marshall’s place on July 1991. Thomas served in the DC Circuit for 16 months.