We congratulate soon-to-be Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson on the Senate vote yesterday confirming her appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Brown Jackson, who will be the first woman African American appointed to the Court, is extremely well qualified for the position. Having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992 she went onto to Harvard Law School and became supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review.  After law school she served as a law clerk for a United States District Judge, a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then for retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.  After her clerkship with Justice Breyer, she went into private legal practice with a couple of law firms and eventually took a position as an assistant federal public defender in Washington D.C. In 2009, Judge Brown Jackson was nominated by President Obama to serve on the United States Sentencing Commission.  This was followed by her appointment in 2012 as a sitting judge to the United District Court for the District of Columbia and then in 2021 to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  Suffice to say Judge Brown Jackson’s well-rounded legal career has been a very illustrious one and we are confident she will be an effective and valued member of the United States Supreme Court once sworn in.

Judge Brown Jackson’s historic appointment to the Court brings to mind the late Martin Luther King, Jr.’s astute observation that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  This statement is especially apropos given 155 years have passed since then Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Roger B. Taney, a virulent racist and slaveowner, read from the bench on March 6, 1857, the decision he authored in Dred Scott v. Sandford 60 U.S. 393 (1857) where he declared Scott, then a slave, “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” and therefore had no standing to bring a lawsuit in a court of law. By way of background, in 1846, an enslaved Black man named Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, sued for their freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court claiming that they should be deemed free persons due to their residence in Missouri, a free territory in the North where slavery was prohibited. Their lawsuit started an 11-year legal battle culminating in Chief Justice Taney reading the most abhorrent decision ever issued by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Taney framed the question before the Court as to whether a black person whose ancestors were brought into this country, and sold as slaves, could be entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to any of its citizens. The Court in a 7-2 decision concluded that people of African ancestry were not intended by the founder of this country to be considered as “citizens” as the word is used in the Constitution and therefore could not claim any of the right and privileges which the Constitution provides for its citizens.  Dred Scott further held that because slaves were property, not citizens, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 prohibiting slavery north of the 36’30 line was unconstitutional because it violated citizens’ constitutional rights prohibiting unlawful seizure of property. Many historians believe this decision which virtually made it impossible to stop the spread of slavery in the United States and was widely decried in the North served to hasten the onset of the Civil War. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment granting citizenship and equal civil and legal rights. to all persons born in the Unites States, regardless of color, effectively overturned the Dred Scott decision.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) which prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, gender, national origin, ancestry age, disability, and sexual orientation, et. al., arguably serves as a modern-day rejection of Dred Scott.  This is because the LAD’s goal is, “nothing less than the eradication of the cancer of discrimination.” Raspa v. Off. of Sheriff of Gloucester, 191 N.J. 323, 335 (2007) (quoting Fuchilla v. Layman, 109 N.J. 319, 334 (1988)). LAD makes clear that it is “an unlawful employment practice” or “unlawful discrimination” for an employer “to refuse to hire or employ,” “to discharge or require to retire,” or “to discriminate . . . in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.” Id. N.J.S.A., 10:5-12(a).  In the statute itself, the Legislature declared that “discrimination threatens not only the rights and proper privileges of the inhabitants of the State but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic State.”  N.J.S.A. 10:5-3. LAD also recognizes as a civil right “the opportunity to obtain employment.” N.J.S.A. 10:5-4.  LAD is intended to protect “the civil rights of individual aggrieved employees” as well as “the public’s strong interest in a discrimination-free workplace.” Lehmann v. Toys ‘R’ Us, 132 N.J. 587, 600 (1993) (citing Fuchilla, 109 N.J. at 335.)

If you believe you are the victim of discrimination, call the well experienced New Jersey employment lawyers at Mashel Law, LLC for immediate help or fill out the contact form on this page. At Mashel Law, LLC, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.

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