April 8, 2022

Dear Campus Community,

I hope you will join me today in reflecting on the enormity of yesterday’s Senate confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as our nation’s next Supreme Court Justice. She will replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires this summer, becoming the first Black woman appointed to serve on the Supreme Court since it was established in 1789.

Judge Brown Jackson is the 116th justice appointed in the 233 years since then, bringing the total percentage of female Supreme Court justices to 5% - with all six of those women having been appointed since 1981.

She will also be the first Justice with experience as a Public Defender - an essential perspective on our legal system that resonates deeply with me on personal and professional levels. The great majority of the forensic psychology evaluations that I did in Nevada was for the Public Defender's Office, where I developed a deep and abiding respect for its role in actualizing some of the foundational values in our legal system. That this perspective will now be represented in the Justices' deliberations and decisions is also a monumental shift in the Court's composition.

Let's each pause deliberately at some point during this day to celebrate this moment for our nation. It is an overdue celebration, to be sure, making it all the more significant to honor.

Richard Yao, Ph.D.

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