CINCINNATI — In an empty courtroom in Cincinnati, three women watched in awe as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson spoke during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Like Jackson, the three women sitting in the jury box Tuesday were Black women.
“To see a reflection of yourself in the highest court is just a feeling that you cannot describe,” Municipal Judge Janaya Trotter Bratton said.
Trotter Bratton, Common Pleas Judges Nicole Sanders and Alison Hatheway are three of the five Black women serving on the bench for Hamilton County. They said Jackson's nomination to the highest court is not only historic because she is the first Black woman to receive the nomination, but paves the way for other women of color.
Sanders noted that Jackson reflects her community — one that has never been represented in the Supreme Court. Justice Thurgood Marshall was the court's first Black justice. Clarence Thomas became the second Black man to serve on the court in 1991.
“She has wonderful life-lived experiences that may not be professionally represented on the court," Sanders said.
While Jackson's father attended law school in her youth, the journey to the bench for Trotter Bratton, Sanders and Hatheway was not entirely traditional.
Trotter Bratton is the first in her immediate family to go to law school. She said her uncle through marriage went to law school and was an inspiration to her.
While in college, Hatheway was an athlete and began a career in radio before turning to law. Sanders was a young mother who received her GED and had a career in phlebotomy before becoming a lawyer.
“Sometimes when you don’t always follow the traditional path, people write you off,” Sanders said. “That is really one of the reasons I love the position that I’m in because I have the opportunity to give people second and third chances. I get to show that everyone's life, no matter what they have done, has value."
That's why Sanders and her colleagues said they are happy to see Jackson at the table.
“I think it makes for better problem solving, better decision making when you have that diverse perspective," Hatheway said. "I think it's great for me personally, people that look like me, but it's great for our community at large,” said Hatheway.
The three said they will be watching as another round of questioning begins Wednesday.
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