Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson delivers celebratory speech at the White House on April 8. (Courtesy of Nyah Marshall/HUNS)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson delivers celebratory speech at the White House on April 8. (Courtesy of Nyah Marshall/HUNS)

D.C. statehood advocates aren’t happy that District native Ketanji Brown Jackson ascended to the U.S. Supreme Court last week while city residents had no voice or vote regarding her U.S. Senate confirmation.

“District of Columbia residents take great pride in seeing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed by the Senate to the Supreme Court,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, noting Jackson’s bipartisan 53-47 approval for the nation’s highest court. 

“Jackson, who was born in the District, lives in the District and was a public defender in the District, is the first Black woman to be nominated for the Supreme Court. I am proud to have recommended her to President Obama for the U.S. District Court for D.C,” Norton said. 

Despite the confirmation, Norton said last week’s process serves as a reminder that the District has no senators and played no role in her approval.

“The lack of voting representation in Congress for D.C. residents can be remedied by Senate passage and the president’s signature on my D.C. statehood bill, which has passed the House twice,” she said.

Norton and D.C. statehood leaders have long argued that residents, who pay federal taxes and must serve in the military when drafted, have a right to representation in both chambers of the U.S. Congress and full political and legislative autonomy over their local government like the states.

Residents Rejoice With Jackson but Lament Over Process

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed delight at Jackson’s confirmation but noted the snub of District residents by the Congress.

“While we are disappointed that Justice Jackson’s fellow 700,000 Washingtonians were not represented in the vote, on behalf of our entire city, I want to share how proud she has made Washington, D.C.,” the mayor said. “Justice, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you, ready to move our nation forward – ready to persevere.”

Jamal Holtz serves as an organizer for 51 for 51, an organization working to convince the Senate to vote on D.C. statehood legislation without going through the filibuster process. Senate rules mandate that any legislation, except for Supreme Court appointments and a few other matters related to the budget, must have 60 senators supporting the matter to be presented to the floor for a vote. 

Holtz’s group wants the 60-vote requirement to be lifted, at the very least, regarding statehood legislation. U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) has sponsored a companion bill to Norton’s House statehood piece that has a record 45 co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I was very excited about the confirmation of Justice Jackson but disappointed that she did not have two votes from D.C. to help her,” Holtz said. “The whole process made me feel like a second-class citizen. Justice Jackson was born here and worked here for much of her professional life. She understands what it means to be disenfranchised.”

Holtz said the District’s inability to weigh in on Jackson’s confirmation has become the latest argument for statehood.

“The Jackson situation is among many other issues District residents face regarding self-determination,” he said. “We have to rely on other Americans for our rights. Our country is not living up to its one of its ideals which is no taxation without representation.”

Douglass Sloan, a political analyst who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 4 and currently serves as the first vice president and political action chair for the District’s NAACP branch, said Jackson’s confirmation process shows how important the city becoming a state would be.

“Unfortunately, citizens don’t have full representation that other residents of states take for granted,” Sloan said. “While I am happy and elated Jackson has been confirmed, it is a tragedy that D.C. residents didn’t have any input in her confirmation.”

Sloan said D.C. statehood must be “front and center” as an American issue.

“I am calling on all citizens of this country to pay attention to D.C. statehood,” he said. “I am calling on particularly the Democrats to pay attention to this issue because of the support the party has in this city. We are entitled to our full rights as Americans.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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