A Tale of Two Judges
April 4, 2022
Two women, whose legal experience could not be more different, are expected to wrap up their proceedings for prestigious judge positions this week. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is awaiting confirmation as Supreme Court Justice after rigorous hearings, and Jennifer Rearden is expected to face the Committee on the Judiciary as the judicial nominee for the Southern District of New York, a court that reviews cases involving white-collar and corporate crime, among other key issues.
Even though Jackson and Rearden are not vying for the same position it’s crucial to note the importance of judges and their influence on our country’s future. Both Jackson and Rearden are being considered for different lifetime judicial appointments at a time when our planet is in peril. Because environmental laws are only as strong as the judges who uphold them, it is now more urgent than ever to choose judges who have people and the planet’s best interest at heart.
While Jackson’s stellar record outshines her future colleagues, it’s worth comparing the two.
Private Law vs. Public Interest Law
Private-sector lawyers, like Jennifer Rearden, choose their clients based on who can afford huge hourly fees (and perhaps choose the ones that will line their pockets). Public defenders, like Judge Jackson was during her career, don’t choose their clients. Instead, they ensure proper legal defense for many vulnerable populations who would not have representation otherwise.
Plus, Rearden’s chosen clientele is not looking so good.
A letter signed by 32 public interest groups to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Rearden’s record describes defending housing discrimination, seeking to overturn worker protections, and challenging improved access to transportation for wheelchairs, making her “unsuitable for this appointment.” She helped Uber and other ride-hailing companies weaken rules meant to help disabled people, fought a discrimination case by a disabled AIDS patient against the LeFrak Organization, and worked on a case that allowed city charter schools to pay workers below the prevailing wage.
Another similar letter, signed by Greenpeace USA and others, says “Rearden has worked against the interests of historically oppressed members of our communities, exacerbating social inequalities.”
And while Jackson was grilled during her hearings about her work as a public defender, providing legal support to individuals who might not have representation otherwise, it is in no way comparable to the decision by highly-compensated private-sector lawyers who represent one of the world’s largest oil companies (and other companies that repeatedly violate environmental laws and regulations).
The Future of our Planet
When big corporations release toxic pollution into the air we breathe and water we drink, people can use courts to fight back and hold them to account.
But, Jennifer Reardon is no friend of the environment. Jennifer Rearden and her firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, have made it their business to represent corporations against efforts to hold them accountable for lying about climate science and blocking solutions to the climate crisis, preventing measures to address systemic racism, opposing vital protections for workers, and violating human rights at home and abroad.
We need fair and equity-minded judges, like Judge Jackson, who understand the difference between science and politics and recognize the government’s responsibility to protect people, our health, and our planet. Fair judges, like Ketanji Brown Jackson, can help bring justice to Black and Brown communities who have suffered disproportionately from pollution and dangerous contamination of water and air.
For generations, Black women have been locked out of the opportunity to serve on the Supreme Court. With the nomination of Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson, we are taking a step towards making our justice system one that respects and reflects the very best of every kind of American.
Make your voice heard for Judge Jackson!
The Supreme Court determines whether the government can take action on the most important issues of our time, from combating the climate crisis to upholding our right to clean air and water, and protecting our right to vote. It is urgent for Judge Jackson to be confirmed without delay, because this year, the Court is expected to decide on several important environmental cases.
What can you do about Rearden?
Many big-firm lawyers and many prosecutors get appointed to our courts. Judge Jackson is the first former public defender ever nominated to the Supreme Court and that is long overdue. Additionally, Judge Jackson’s decade on the federal bench demonstrates that she is a judge who serves the people, not polluters.
We don’t need another Trump nominee as one of our next federal judges. Jennifer Rearden should not be chosen as a judge on one of the nations’ highest courts.