Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson (born September 1970), Harvard University (B.A.), Harvard Law School (J.D.), is a United States District Judge originally nominated on September 20, 2012 by President Barack Obama for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and confirmed March 26, 2013. She was reportedly interviewed in 2016 as one of Obama's potential nominees for the Supreme Court vacancy created upon the death of Antonin Scalia.
Committee on the Judiary, United States House of Representatives, Plaintiff, v. Donald F. McGahn II, Defendant. (Nov 25, 2019)
- [W]hen DOJ insists that Presidents can lawfully prevent their senior-level aides from responding to compelled congressional process and that neither the federal courts nor Congress has the power to do anything about it, DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards. In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny.
- Note included: See The Federalist No. 51 (James Madison); see also Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 120 (1976).
- Thus, when presented with a case or controversy, it is the Judiciary’s duty under the Constitution to interpret the law and to declare government overreaches unlawful. Similarly, the House of Representatives has the constitutionally vested responsibility to conduct investigations of suspected abuses of power within the government, and to act to curb those improprieties, if required. Accordingly, DOJ’s conceptual claim to unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity on separation-of-powers grounds—essentially, that the Constitution’s scheme countenances unassailable Executive branch authority—is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.
- DOJ... insists that, despite the fact that ordinary citizens bring subpoena-enforcement claims in the federal courts all the time, duly authorized committees of the House of Representatives cannot proceed against the Executive branch in court to seek enforcement of subpoenas for testimony and information issued to recalcitrant government officials in the context of congressional investigations. ... Meanwhile, says DOJ, the President has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior-level aides (both current and former) will respond to, or defy, the subpoenas that authorized House committees issue during constitutionally authorized investigations of potential wrongdoing within his administration. ...11
- Footnote 11: For a similar vantagepoint,see the circumstances described by George Orwell in the acclaimed book Animal Farm. ...("All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.")
- Unfortunately for DOJ... these contentions about the relative power of the federal courts, congressional committees, and the President distort established separation-of-powers principles beyond all recognition. Thus, ultimately, the arguments that DOJ advances to support its claim of absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level presidential aides transgress core constitutional truths...
- [T]he Constitution vests the Legislature with the power to investigate potential abuses of official authority—when necessary to hold government officials (up to, and including, the President) accountable, as representatives of the People of the United States—then House committees have both Article III standing and a cause of action to pursue judicial enforcement of their duly authorized and legally enforceable requests for information.
- What is missing from the Constitution’s framework as the Framers envisioned it is the President’s purported power to kneecap House investigations of Executive branch operations by demanding that his senior-level aides breach their legal duty to respond to compelled congressional process.
- [W]hen a committee of Congress seeks testimony and records by issuing a valid subpoena in the context of a duly authorized investigation, it has the Constitution’s blessing, and ultimately, it is acting not in its own interest, but for the benefit of the People of the United States. If there is fraud or abuse or waste or corruption in the federal government, it is the constitutional duty of Congress to find the facts and, as necessary, take corrective action.
- Conducting investigations is the means that Congress uses to carry out that constitutional obligation. Thus, blatant defiance of Congress’ centuries-old power to compel the performance of witnesses is not an abstract injury, nor is it a mere banal insult to our democracy. It is an affront to the mechanism for curbing abuses of power that the Framers carefully crafted for our protection, and, thereby, recalcitrant witnesses actually undermine the broader interests of the People of the United States.
- Thus, DOJ’s hand-waving over the Judiciary Committee’s purported failure to establish a “cognizable” injury for standing purposes... masks the substantial harm that results from an Executive branch official’s defiance of a congressional subpoena. But it is hard to imagine a more significant wound than such alleged interference with Congress’ ability to detect and deter abuses of power within the Executive branch for the protection of the People of the United States.
- [W]ith respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist. Indeed, absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level White House aides appears to be a fiction that has been fastidiously maintained over time through the force of sheer repetition in OLC opinions, and through accommodations that have permitted its proponents to avoid having the proposition tested in the crucible of litigation. And because the contention that a President’s top advisors cannot be subjected to compulsory congressional process simply has no basis in the law, it does not matter whether such immunity would theoretically be available to only a handful of presidential aides due to the sensitivity of their positions, or to the entire Executive branch. Nor does it make any difference whether the aides in question are privy to national security matters, or work solely on domestic issues.
- And, of course, if present frequent occupants of the West Wing or Situation Room must find time to appear for testimony as a matter of law when Congress issues a subpoena, then any such immunity most certainly stops short of covering individuals who only purport to be cloaked with this authority because, at some point in the past, they once were in the President’s employ.
- The United States of America has a government of laws and not of men. The Constitution and federal law set the boundaries of what is acceptable conduct, and for this reason... when there is a dispute between the Legislature and the Executive branch over what the law requires about the circumstances under which government officials must act, the Judiciary has the authority, and the responsibility, to decide the issue.
- This Court holds that Executive branch officials are not absolutely immune from compulsory congressional process—no matter how many times the Executive branch has asserted as much over the years—even if the President expressly directs such officials’ non-compliance.
- This result is unavoidable as a matter of basic constitutional law, as the Miers court recognized more than a decade ago. Today, this Court adds that this conclusion is inescapable precisely because compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law.
- [H]owever busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires. Fifty years of say so within the Executive branch does not change that fundamental truth. Nor is the power of the Executive unfairly or improperly diminished when the Judiciary mandates adherence to the law and thus refuses to recognize a veto-like discretionary power of the President to cancel his subordinates’ legal obligations.
- Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings. ...This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, as citizens of the United States, current and former senior-level presidential aides have constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, and they retain these rights even after they have transitioned back into private life.
- Robert Mueller Testimony before House Intelligence Committee
- Robert Mueller Testimony before House Judiciary Committee
Quotes about Jackson
- In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected Trump’s claim that McGahn was “absolutely immune” from being called to testify, even though he was no longer a White House employee.
- David G. Savage, In major win for Congress, judge rules Trump aides must testify (Nov. 25, 2019) Los Angeles Times.
- Committee on the Judiary, United States House of Representatives, Plaintiff, v. Donald F. McGahn II, Defendant (Nov 25, 2019) Civ. No. 19-cv-2379 (KBJ) @U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
- Jackson, Ketanji Brown short bio @Federal Judicial Center (fjc.gov)
- Ketanji Brown Jackson @Ballotpedia.org
- Ketanji Brown Jackson, Recent Appearances @C-SPAN.org
- 'Presidents Are Not Kings': Judge Says Trump Can't Block Subpoena, Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC @YouTube