While clerking for a federal judge, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denounced a Boston Herald columnist as "irredeemably evil" for criticizing unrestricted immigration.
Jackson wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald in response to a piece from columnist Don Feder that noted that the population of white people in America could decrease steeply as a result of open borders immigration policy. The text of both 1997 writings were obtained by the Free Beacon through a news archive.
"To my mind, he's also like the liberal's purported view of American history—irredeemably evil," Jackson wrote of Feder, whose column also attacked black civic leaders such as Louis Farrakhan. The judge disclosed the letter in a questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Law clerks seldom share political opinions in a public forum during their terms of service. Clerkships run one or two years in the federal courts and are highly coveted by law students. Clerks are expected to reflect their judge's neutrality in public and avoid overt political participation or expression to protect public perception of the courts as nonpolitical entities. Today, clerks often go dark on social media—or delete online accounts altogether—for the extent of their clerkships.
"The Code of Judicial Conduct that prohibits federal judges from engaging in any activity that would undermine their independence or impartiality likewise binds their law clerks, so it is troubling that Jackson would write such a letter while serving as a clerk," said Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network. "It shows a lack of awareness on her part regarding the role of the judiciary."
The Herald letter is a mixed blessing for Republicans as they prepare for Jackson's confirmation hearings. Probing the judge's departure from normal law clerk practices is a legitimate avenue for lawmakers to assess her impartiality. But the Herald exchange broaches deep racial divides that Republican lawmakers might be wary of approaching, particularly since Democrats would like nothing more than to paint Judiciary Committee Republicans as racially obtuse throughout the proceedings.
Feder's column argued that race remains salient in America because of "race hustlers intent on exploitation" and Democratic coalition politics. He wrote the column to defend himself from allegations of racism arising from a prior piece, in which he expressed concern that an open border immigration policy will diminish the population of white people in America.
"I'd sleep a bit easier if Louis Farrakhan wasn't the most admired man in the black community," Feder wrote. "I wish minority voters didn't feel compelled to elect a gonif (the late Harold Washington), a total incompetent (David Dinkins), or a coke-head (Marion Barry) to high public office because he's a brother."
Jackson specifically takes issue in her letter with Feder for "denouncing black voters for selecting incompetent, incorrigible, or inebriated leaders."
"For someone who claims not to consider certain groups morally or intellectually inferior to his own," Jackson writes, "Don Feder spends much of his column spewing out disagreeable facts about the high-crime rate in the black community and denouncing black voters for selecting incompetent, incorrigible, or inebriated leaders," Jackson wrote.
"By his own definition, Feder is a racist," she added before calling him "irredeemably evil."
Efforts to reach Feder were unsuccessful. He left the Herald staff in June 2002 after almost two decades with the paper.
Though the fact of Jackson's intervention is striking, asking questions about it could be risky for the GOP.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is already signaling he will hold Republican feet to the fire on tone. He accused Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) of disrespecting the nominee after Hawley aired concerns about Jackson's record on child pornography cases.
"I'm troubled by it because it's so outrageous," Durbin said in an interview with Politico. "It really tests the committee as to whether we're going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee."
The fact that Jackson disclosed the piece to the committee is likely to assuage serious concern. In the past, omitting pertinent items has been a larger problem for judicial nominees than the substance of what they did or wrote.
The Trump administration had to withdraw one of its nominees for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ryan Bounds, after a disclosure dustup. As an undergraduate student at Stanford in the early 1990s, Bounds wrote opinion columns for the school's conservative paper that he failed to include on the standard Senate questionnaire because he did not understand the form to call for pieces he wrote as a college student.
Democrats and left-wing advocacy groups accused Bounds of concealing the writings when they came to light. Republican senators Tim Scott (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) were troubled at both the substance of the writings and the manner in which they came to light, so they joined with Democrats to sink the nomination.
Jackson's confirmation hearing begins Monday with opening remarks and continues Tuesday and Wednesday with questions from lawmakers.