The Washington Examiner reports that Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, is now planning on participating in a case involving a school’s affirmative action policies despite her plan to recuse herself from the case.
Jackson promised to recuse herself from the case in March, during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There, she said that she planned to recuse herself from a case dealing with alleged discriminatory admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill.
The reason that Jackson said that she would recuse herself is that, up until May 26, she had a role on Harvard’s Board of Overseers. Judges are supposed to recuse themselves from a case anytime their ability to be impartial might reasonably be called into question.
So, why is Jackson now going back on her recusal plan?
It is because the Supreme Court has decided to break the two cases up. In other words, after initially consolidating the two cases, it is now splitting them back up. The court will now hear one case dealing with the situation at Harvard, and it will hear another case dealing with the situation at the University of North Carolina.
Accordingly, Jackson will be able to participate in the University of North Carolina case. But, she will still not participate in the Harvard case.
As for why the U.S. Supreme Court decided to decouple the two cases, it comes down to the fact that Harvard is not a state school, whereas the University of North Carolina is. Accordingly, the University of North Carolina may be subject to constitutional requirements that Harvard is not.
We will have to see whether this fact plays a key role in the justices’ decision-making in the cases.
Dates have yet to be set for these cases to be heard by the justices.