Podhurst Orseck Partner, Childhood Friend of Ketanji Brown Jackson Says She’s a ‘Persuasive’ Consensus Builder
“Skeptics say that the court is already lopsided, so her appointment won’t make a difference. I disagree,” said Stephen Rosenthal, who’s a childhood friend of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kentanji Brown Jackson.
By Raychel Lean | March 10, 2022
Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) at Hart Senate Office Building, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.
Most of the legal world knows Kentanji Brown Jackson as President Joe Biden’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, but Podhurst Orseck parter Stephen Rosenthal knows the Miami native from high school and law school.
Here’s what Rosenthal says Brown Jackson’s confirmation means for the legal community.
How did you and Judge Brown Jackson first meet and what are some of your fondest memories together?
A school yearbook photo of U.S. Supreme Court appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson with Stephen Rosenthal of Podhurst Orseck.
We first met as classmates in the seventh grade at Palmetto Junior High School. We ended up being classmates all the way through law school. We shared many wonderful travel experiences during speech and debate tournaments in high school and had fun acting in an improv comedy troupe in college. As adults, I’ve enjoyed family visits and love that our kids know each other.
How do you think Judge Brown Jackson’s appointment could affect the court?
Ketanji Brown Jackson (KBJ) will contribute an important new perspective to the justices’ conferences. I think, in short order, her fellow justices will come to appreciate her principled pragmatism, influenced by the varied experience she brings to the job. Skeptics say that the court is already lopsided, so her appointment won’t make a difference. I disagree. Most of the issues that come before the court are not hot-button issues, but technical questions about the way our justice system works. I think KBJ’s skills as consensus-builder, and her force as a persuasive advocate, position her to influence the contours of decisions.
What would her appointment mean for South Florida and the broader legal community?
KBJ will immediately become a proud badge of honor for our community. She’s the product of our public schools and an example of the power of diversity. Miami’s strength lies in that diversity, and KBJ will symbolize how this city can contribute to the American story. Being the hometown of the first Black female justice will be a source of lasting pride.
How does Judge Brown Jackson’s experience position her for a role on the court?
Miami Podhurst Orseck partner Stephen F. Rosenthal.
She brings a wealth of useful experience to the job. Not only will she be the only member of the court, other than Justice Sotomayor, to have been a trial court judge, but she will be the only justice who served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and worked as a federal public defender. Particularly on issues of criminal justice, that varied experience should give her great credibility within the court.
Was there a specific moment or event during high school or while at Harvard where you knew Judge Brown Jackson would be destined for greatness?
I knew Ketanji was destined for greatness back in high school. She became a nationally known figure on the speech and debate circuit as early as our sophomore year. By our senior year, she was a perennial champion. She also had the panache to be elected our class president. She excelled academically at Harvard College and Harvard Law School and nabbed a coveted Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Breyer. The sky was the limit for her.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and tell yourself and Judge Brown Jackson one thing, what would it be?
Fortunately, we stay in close touch, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed an opportunity to tell her anything. As for telling my younger self something, I’d have recommended against borrowing my dad’s slacks for that high school yearbook photo shoot with KBJ, since 35 years later it would get widely circulated because of her fame. I’m still comfortable with the teddy bear, though.
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