For Immediate Release
March 18, 2022
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Bazelon Center and 45 other organizations and individuals representing the interests of millions of individuals with disabilities sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in enthusiastic support for President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the United States Supreme Court.
Sent on the eve of her confirmation hearing, set to begin Monday, March 21, the letter, addressed to Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Dick Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, describes Judge Jackson’s important decisions interpreting federal disability civil rights laws. These include decisions regarding the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires schools to provide children with disabilities an ambitious education that will help them meet challenging goals.
Based on our review of her judicial record, we believe that Judge Jackson has demonstrated an understanding of disability rights and other civil rights laws and their importance to people with disabilities—and a steadfast commitment to fair, thorough adjudication of their legal claims. We believe she will be a worthy successor to the retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom she would replace on the Supreme Court.
“As our letter states, we celebrate and heartily support Judge Jackson’s nomination,” said Holly O’Donnell, President and CEO of the Bazelon Center. “Judge Jackson has a sterling record as a thoughtful and thorough judge, notably including her decisions regarding the rights of people with disabilities. She has also represented individuals with mental health disabilities, including as a federal public defender. With Justice Jackson on the Court, we know that people with disabilities will get their fair day in court.”
The letter from individuals and organizations representing the disability community describes many of Judge Jackson’s important disability rights cases:
In Pierce v. District of Columbia, Judge Jackson held District officials liable for failing to provide a deaf inmate the accommodations he needed to communicate with jail staff—including the time leading to and during 14 days of solitary confinement. She held that the jail staff were deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s rights, and awarded him money damages as compensation.
In Equal Rights Ctr. V. Uber Techs., Inc., Judge Jackson held that an individual who uses a wheelchair had standing to sue Uber, after its wheelchair-accessible cars took longer to arrive, cost more, and were less reliable than its other cars.
In Von Drasek v. Burwell, Judge Jackson held that an employer has a duty to work with an employee with a disability to determine which reasonable accommodations the worker needs to perform her job—and that this duty lasts as long as the worker’s request for accommodations can be considered and met.
In Schiff v. District of Columbia, Judge Jackson rejected a school district’s contention that it was “impossible” to find a student with behavioral issues a school where he could receive an education, or that the student’s behavior excused the district from placing him in a program that could meet his needs. Ruling otherwise “would undermine the purpose of the IDEA.”
The letter concludes:
[O]ur review of her decisions supports our strong belief that Judge Jackson will be a Supreme Court Justice who understands the importance of disability and other civil rights laws—which protect people with disabilities from other types of discrimination—and who is committed to a fair day in court for people bringing claims under these laws. She appears to understand that Congress intended these laws to have a broad remedial effect on the relationships between persons with disabilities and covered entities like employers, schools, state agencies, and public accommodations. She has been unafraid of taking strong positions on issues where she believes her reading of the law and facts is correct. Like Justice Breyer, Judge Jackson understands the impact of Supreme Court decisions on people with disabilities and other historically marginalized populations. Her thorough, thoughtful approach as a judge indicates a respect for those who come before her seeking justice.
The Bazelon Center will continue to support Judge Jackson’s nomination throughout her confirmation hearing and the Senate’s vote on her nomination. Follow our updates on Judge Jackson’s nomination on Twitter, @BazelonCenter.
Read the full text of the letter from the Bazelon Center and 45 other organizations and individuals here.