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Black law students react to Judge Jackson navigating GOP senators questions

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court. For many Black future attorneys, her nomination gives them hope. NPR's Alana Wise has the story.

ALANA WISE, BYLINE: Dozens of Black law students traveled to D.C. this week to watch the confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Coming in from law programs across the country, the students enjoyed a sense of camaraderie. In watching Judge Jackson field tough questions about her credentials, the future jurors saw themselves and their own struggles reflected in her responses. Stacie Dukes (ph), a student at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, put it this way.

STACIE DUKES: I think her being in this position shows that it's possible. We can do anything. The sky is the limit.

WISE: Dukes was one of 100 Black students and 50 Black public defenders to attend a series of events hosted by the group Demand Justice. In order to be selected, Dukes wrote about the impact Judge Jackson had already had on her career.

DUKES: It was a reflection of myself. And it just further confirmed that - you know what? - I can do this. I can do anything in this field.

WISE: Jackson faced tough questions from Republicans, questions like this one from Senator Ted Cruz...

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TED CRUZ: Do you believe the voice of the children is heard when 100% of the time, you're sentencing those in possession of child pornography to far below what the prosecutor is asking for?

WISE: ...And this one from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, who was trying to pin down the judge's opinion on life as it relates to abortion.

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JOHN KENNEDY: When does equal protection of the laws attach to a human being?

WISE: But she also found support from Democrats, like New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who at one point brought tears to the Supreme Court hopeful's eyes.

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CORY BOOKER: Today we should rejoice because President Biden nominated someone that we've heard to be the 116th associate judge of the Supreme Court, who is extraordinarily talented and who also happens to be a Black woman.

WISE: That was a feeling shared by Thomi Dudley (ph), a third-year student at Harvard Law School.

THOMI DUDLEY: I knew I had to be there.

WISE: Dudley was able to watch the second day of the hearing live from the Senate chamber.

DUDLEY: I see a lot of myself in her. I see a lot of my friends in her. And I wanted to be there to support.

WISE: For Edrius Stagg, this moment held a special importance. Stagg is the father of three girls. And like Jackson's own father, Stagg is juggling attending law school while also raising daughters.

EDRIUS STAGG: Like, they are all excited about it, you know? And me going through law school, and they're looking at me going through law school - I just thought that, you know, it's a great story to tell.

WISE: Stagg said that while watching the hearing, he was especially aware of the optics, a Black woman justifying her qualifications to the largely white male Senate. But Stagg said Jackson held her own. And for that, he had this message for her.

STAGG: Thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration to my daughters and for their future generations.

WISE: The Senate is expected to hold a vote on her confirmation by April 8.

For NPR News, in Washington, I'm Alana Wise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.