Biden Nominee Faces Recusal Questions After Harvard Ties Come Out

Biden Nominee Faces Recusal Questions After Harvard Ties Come Out

( – President Biden kept his campaign promise to nominate the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. So far, it seems she will soon have a seat on the bench, replacing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. As her confirmation continues, her first action as a Supreme Court Justice may be to remove herself from the equation due to her ties with Harvard University.

Early Test

With her next confirmation hearing on March 21, Ketanji Brown Jackson can expect to receive some probing questions regarding her status at Harvard University. The Supreme Court plans to evaluate the way race plays a role in college admissions, meaning Jackson may have to sit out her first case as a Supreme Court Justice. That’s what Republicans want to know: Will she do the right thing?

GOP Senator’s on the Judiciary Committee, like John Cornyn of Texas, will be seeking a reasonable explanation for Jackson’s position on Harvard’s Board of Overseers. Cornyn mentioned if Jackson is going to choose not to recuse, she needs to be truthful about what her position has entailed. The high court’s case looking into Harvard’s admission policies could be an early test for the Supreme Court nominee.

Not Much Choice

Jackson herself hasn’t made a public comment on how she would handle the case, but Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, asserted the nominee would abide by the highest ethical standards regarding recusals. Experts in ethics note Jackson seemingly removes herself even when it’s unnecessary, claiming she’s more cautious than she needs to be.

A Senate questionnaire Jackson filled out shows she is extremely aware of concerns regarding partiality. Susan Fortney, a professor in law at Texas A&M University, says Jackson’s upcoming hearing will be a chance for her to display the kind of justice she will be. Fortney added Jackson’s position within Harvard may not constitute a recusal as long as the board isn’t involved with the admission process.

The professor mentioned that the question of impartiality comes down to personal opinion, which could lead to people reasonably questioning Jackson’s given her position on the university’s board. Fortney detailed how if Jackson chose to remove herself from the case, she would send a clear message indicating her intention to hold herself to the highest possible ethical standards.

While the high court justices claim to follow federal law requiring them to disqualify themselves if their impartiality is reasonably questioned, it’s ultimately up to the justice whether they recuse themselves or not.

Jackson is tightly knit with Harvard and several members of the administrative staff. As Republican Senators Josh Hawley from Missouri and Thom Tillis from North Carolina point out, the question of recusal is reasonable given the unique circumstances and Jackson’s significant involvement with Harvard.

Jackson’s hearings seem to have gone well, aside from Cornyn’s accusation that she avoids answering questions directly. The nominee is inching closer to becoming the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court’s bench, but her upcoming hearing may be her greatest test to date. Will she give senators the answers they want? Or will President Biden need to find a new candidate?

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