Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks after being nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 25, 2022. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Advocates Warn Jackson Alone Will Not Halt Court's Threat to Planet

"We must expand the court if we're going to protect climate justice, reproductive justice, and ensure the government is working for us," said Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement.

Environmental justice advocates on Friday joined other progressive groups in applauding President Joe Biden's history-making nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court--while noting that the current threats to climate action demand an expansion of the court as well.

The Sunrise Movement praised Biden "for making a truly historic pick in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson," with executive director Varshini Prakash adding, "We are excited for Judge Brown Jackson to sit on the court--and look forward to seeing her vocal commitment to racial, social, and environmental justice."

"But she can't do it alone," the group added on social media.

If Jackson is confirmed, Republicans will still hold a 6-3 supermajority on the high court--as the justices are considering a case that could gut reproductive rights by overturningRoe vs. Wade and are set to hear arguments in cases which could significantly weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate water pollution and climate-killing emissions.

"Putting a Black woman in the Supreme Court's private conferences for the first time in history will mark an important step forward, but unless we send her four more colleagues who share her commitment to equal justice under the law, we won't be doing right by her or our democracy."

"As the SCOTUS hearing on EPA vs. West Virginia looms, we are also sobered by the reality that even if Judge Brown Jackson is approved, her appointment won't change the fact that the Clean Air Act could be gutted, likely allowing SCOTUS to have veto power over future federal policy, and Roe v. Wade may be overturned," said Prakash. "That is an existential threat to our generation."

Jackson's nomination was announced three days before the court is set to hear arguments in West Virginia vs. EPA, in which Republican-led states are claiming the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the authority to regulate fossil fuel emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act.

"This case, decided by a Republican stacked court, will define the U.S.'s ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and could go as far as allowing SCOTUS to have 'perpetual veto over federal policy,'" said the Sunrise Movement.

As Common Dreamsreported last month, later this year the high court is also expected to hear arguments in Sackett vs. EPA, which involves the official definition of the "waters of the United States" which the Clean Water Act is meant to protect.

With a right-wing majority--secured through years of what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called "Republican court-packing"--progressives fear Jackson's confirmation will not be enough to ensure justice is served by the nation's highest court.

"We must expand the court if we're going to protect climate justice, reproductive justice, and ensure the government is working for us," said Prakash.

Prakash's comments came days after Tamara Brummer of Demand Justice, Meagan Hatcher-Mays of Indivisible, and Tristin Brown of the People's Parity Project published an op-ed at The Grio warning that "the presence of a Black female justice cannot fix the structural issues facing our court," and calling for passage of the Judiciary Act of 2021.

The legislation would add four more seats to the Supreme Court--as Congress has added seats seven times previously.

"We should celebrate what it means for Black women and girls to finally see themselves on the highest court in the land," they wrote. "But, if we then turn our attention away from the broken institution she will work within, it would mirror the way we too often treat Black women in America: celebrating diversity without reforming the institutions and structures so that they actually value the input and work of Black women."

"Putting a Black woman in the Supreme Court's private conferences for the first time in history will mark an important step forward," they added, "but unless we send her four more colleagues who share her commitment to equal justice under the law, we won't be doing right by her or our democracy."

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