Former U.S. District Judge, law students react to Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court appeared before Senate Judiciary Committee members on Monday.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faces four days of high-profile confirmation hearings from the committee's 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

Many African-Americans are beaming with pride over this historic event, including students at Texas Southern University.

TSU students at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law watched the hearing in-between classes on Monday. The school was named after the lawyer and civil rights activist who served as the Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and became the court's first African-American justice.

ABC13 spoke to students who said they had always hoped this would happen in their lifetime. They say watching it happen, some feel as though they are on this journey with Jackson.

"Seeing a Black woman finally make it up there in all of her Blackness. Her hair and her locks, I love it," said Naomi Howze who watched the Senate confirmation hearings Monday as she prepares for graduation from TSU's Thurgood Marshall School of Law in just a few weeks.

Howze says the nomination is long overdue.

"It does feel like getting picked last for kickball or something," says Howze. "There's been, like, 115 justices and this is the first Black woman that is actually been chosen."

Jayda Morgan is a first year law student at TSU who says, "For me, seeing the first Black woman that could possibly be confirmed to the Supreme Court and something that I think has been in my dreams. So to see somebody else doing incredible for me, truly."

Morgan says it's a dream she wants for herself someday.

"Seeing just the general reaction to her being confirmed has also made me want it for her more. Just the resistance that she has to face from people who think that she is not qualified when she's over qualified," said Morgan.

"We've been talking about it for years. Just getting more representation in the media and politics. I think it's a perfect way to show that everything's possible," said Kelly Ibekwe, a fellow student.

Students say seeing the possibility of a Black woman having a seat at the bench, which has historically been held by white men, and whose political ideas and looks align with theirs is encouraging for their own futures.

TSU law professor Craig Jackson hopes this week's hearings will inspire more Black students pursue law and go for every position possible in the legal system.

"I think this shows that the glass ceiling for women and for Black women in particular is coming down," says Jackson.

Former U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore watched her dreams come true 28 years ago as she became the youngest sitting federal judge in the U.S. at 36 years old.

"This is such an exciting time not just for judges, not just for African-American women, but for the country as a whole," said Gilmore.

Gilmore says watching Jackson's supreme court confirmation hearings on Monday reminds her of her hearing confirmations in 1994.

She served on the federal bench in the Southern District of Texas during the Clinton administration and retired in January 2022.

"I was fortunate to have both one of our U.S. senators, which was Kay Bailey Hutchison at the time, and one of our congressmen sit with me at the table during my confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Which is a big plus to have a senator and a congressman sit with you," said Gilmore.

Gilmore is headed to Washington D.C. and will be in the room to watch Jackson in person as she faces questions from the committee's 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats over two days starting Tuesday.

"Senator Cruz's chief of staff called me and told me that they had a seat for me in the hearing," said Gilmore.

Gilmore says the possibility of a Black woman sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court is long overdue, but this now is an opportunity for the country to see the highest court in the land reflect what America really looks like.

"It is an especially exciting time for those of us, particularly African-American women who've been in the judiciary to see one of our own, be elevated to the highest court in the land. Somebody who is immensely qualified. Somebody who has the background experience, the education and the temperament to serve as a Supreme Court judge," says Gilmore.

Gilmore says Jackson's role on the Supreme Court will have a tremendous impact especially in the Black community. By encouraging and supporting dreams many women only hoped for.

"They will see her place there as meaning that it is achievable, it is attainable and it is something that they can certainly set their sights on. We'll be able to point to her as evidence and prove that Black women are qualified and deserve to be in the spaces that they are in. We are sometimes always having to push back and prove we deserve to be here. We're qualified, we're educated, we have the experience, but seeing somebody like her rise to the top lifts all of us in many ways," said Gilmore.
Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.