Verdict on Ketanji: ‘Supreme’-ly heartless

When running for the presidency 2020 Joe Biden pledged to appoint the first black female Supreme Court Justice. When a spot on the pitch became vacant in January, he repeated that promise. Just worried murmurs. Do things really have to be this way in America?

Last week the President announced he would propose Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for lifetime appointment. democrats were amazed. Most Republicans saw a trap and stayed away. Hardly anyone dug deeper. But they should.

Because if they did, they would find out a number of things. Not only that there are far better qualified candidates out there, including better qualified black female candidates. But that Jackson’s own career shows she’s unfit for the role.

It is now eight years since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 crashed into the sea, killing all 239 people on board. Among them was an American, Philip Wood, a 50-year-old IBM executive from Texas.

In the traumatic months after crash, Wood’s family sought justice for their family in court. They believed the American court system would help them. You were wrong.

Philip Holz
Pictured is Philip Wood, a passenger on Flight 370.
Handout / People’s Magazine
airplane flap
The flap was found in June by residents of Pemba Island, off the coast of Tanzania, and officials had previously said it most likely came from flight MH370.
ATSB over AP

They initially lodged their complaint against it Malaysian Airlines and Boeing in Illinois state court. But as they began to go through the slow grind of the US justice system, they found themselves utterly abandoned. The case was eventually bundled with a number of other cases in what was known as an MDL (Multi-District Litigation), which eventually went to DC. And that was it Judge Ketanji Jackson was assigned to the case.

At this point, three years after her father’s death, the family thought they had a ray of hope. As Wood’s eldest son told me this week, “The attorneys thought, just like I’m sure Biden and the Democrats think, oh, that’s a great thing. Here is a woman. She’s a public defender.” She might want to stand up for “the little guy.”

Far from it. As the family was to find out, Jackson was on the side of big business.

From the start, Judge Jackson treated the case with indifference and a careless lack of attention, Wood claims. Lawyers said they expected the verdict to take several months. More than 13 months passed before a verdict came. It was full of mistakes. First, according to the family, it was not only scarce, but largely copied and pasted from the commission Jackson had received. She dismissed the family’s case, saying it was better to be heard in Malaysia than in America. Maybe she knew how unpopular it could be and released her verdict just before Thanksgiving, when the story would be buried.

“The United States’ keen public interest in ensuring a remedy for its citizens,” Jackson wrote, “is nonetheless overshadowed by Malaysia’s overwhelming interest in settling claims related to this national disaster.”

Indian Ocean
HMAS Success scans the southern Indian Ocean as a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion flies overhead while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
AP Photo / Rob Griffith

Terrible precedent

Because of their dismissive verdict, the family had no doubt as to where the judge’s sympathies lay. Nor that she herself was playing a cautious political game in seeking a seat on the Supreme Court.

“She knew exactly what she was doing,” says Nick Wood, now 32. “She waited until the 2018 election to release a very pro-business ruling that allowed the defense’s motion to dismiss our case.”

According to Woods, she did not address any of the underlying issues and simply denied an American family the right to seek justice through the American courts for the loss of an American citizen. After spending a few hundred thousand dollars seeking justice (money they wouldn’t have had if their father didn’t have life insurance), Judge Jackson’s decision meant they had to turn to the Malaysian courts if they ever wanted to achieve anything A hearing. A beautiful view.

Joe Biden and Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson will address the US Supreme Court as his nominee on February 25, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The consequences of Jackson’s verdict must not be limited to one family. Pending review by a higher court, her verdict can be taken as setting precedent, mirroring every other American seeking justice for the loss or injury of a loved one abroad.

This means that every other American family that has suffered like the Wood family will find themselves in exactly the same position. To be essentially helpless in the eyes of the law. The family is understandably bitter.

Considering Jackson would go to the country’s highest court, Nick Wood said this week: “I believe everything she stands for and everything she exists for is a lie. She has the right skin color according to President Biden’s specifications. She has the right sounding name. She went to the right schools.”

Joe Biden
Many people believe that Biden chose Jackson because of her skin color.
Getty Images

According to Wood, she is the perfect example of the nepotistic “swamp”. “I’ll never be able to find out what happened to my dad as she didn’t even grant us a US-style discovery. It really is a travesty. It cannot be the case that an American family suing an American company in an American court should be denied access to their own legal system. That is not right. And it sets a terrible precedent for all of us in the United States, because like the average person trying to get justice for a loved one who has been killed.”

“She’s either lazy, calculating, or both,” says Wood. “A political opportunist.”

Has she ever expressed sympathy for the family, I wonder? “No, absolutely not. Why should she? Who are we to her? You know, we’re just a stepping stone to her ultimate goal. We’ve been treated with contempt.”

There are at least two other prominent black women judges who the still-grieving Wood points out are far better qualified for the Supreme Court role. But taking Jackson to the Supreme Court would be a tough one for the family to swallow.

“I don’t think she’s an idiot. On the contrary, I find her very smart. I just think she’s heartless. And, to be perfectly honest, mad that she would do that to a family.”

Maybe she could be asked about it when Judge Jackson goes to her hearings. Not the credentials Biden thinks she happened to have from her birth. But the testimonies of her actual career, her track record and the sacrifices she left behind. Verdict on Ketanji: ‘Supreme’-ly heartless


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