ORLANDO, Fla. – Justice James E.C. Perry made history in Florida. Now he says it’s about time history is made in our country’s highest court.
Perry became the first African American appointed to the 18th Judicial Circuit Court, comprised of Seminole and Brevard counties, in 2000. Nine years later, he was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Perry recently sat down with Real Talk Real Solutions host Ginger Gadsden to talk about the importance of breaking barriers and rising to the top as Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gets closer to earning her spot as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Check out the Real Talk, Real Solutions podcast in the media player below:
“Black females have been in the forefront of Black progress throughout the history of this nation and it’s important they have a voice at an important table,” Perry said.
He believes Jackson is ready for the job.
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“Her credentials are far superior to any of the last seven or eight appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Perry said.
According to the White House, Jackson has served as a public defender, a Supreme Court clerk and a judge on both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
While Perry says it’s important to be educated and driven, he says other things also have to go right if you want to be a judge.
“Being a judge entails more than you wanting to be one,” he said. “It’s a political process, that the right person has to be in office to appoint you. They have to have the philosophy that diversity is important.”
Despite her qualifications, Perry says many are still making digs about the fact that she is Black. It’s something he says is familiar to him.
”Some call her an affirmative action appointment. I was (also) told, “Jim, you got this because you’re Black and I said, ‘It’s about time I got something because I’m Black because I was kept out of so many things because I am Black.’”
Perry said he decided to go to law school when he heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
“I still didn’t know what law school was about, didn’t know any lawyers. But I needed the credibility to try and continue Dr. King’s fight and law would give me the credibility to do it... so I had no hopes and dreams of being a judge or a lawyer and it’s made all the difference in the world,” Perry said.
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Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson says her road was different.
“My father, in particular, bears responsibility for my interest in the law. When I was four, we moved back to Miami so that he could be a full-time law student. And we lived on the campus of the University of Miami Law School,” Jackson said. “During those years, my mother pulled double duty, working as the sole breadwinner of our family, while also guiding and inspiring four-year-old me. My very earliest memories are of watching my father study. He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books.”
But Perry stresses even if you don’t have examples of what you want to do in your own circle, you can still achieve it. He added his parents had very little education.
“If I had waited for my parents, where would I have been?” Perry said. “Education is an individual thing. It has to come from within. You have to want it so you can get it irrespective of what your conditions were when you were growing up.”
Perry is excited about the prospect of Jackson being the first African American woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
“I’m happy it’s finally about to happen. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be close,” Perry said. “Hopefully, it will be bipartisan, but it probably won’t be. Because that is just the nature of politics in this nation today. I think we are probably a very divided nation. It’s time for us to come together as Americans. Not as Republicans or Democrats, not as blue, red or white, but as the United States of America.”
After Perry’s conversation on Real Talk Real Solutions, Susan Collins, a Republican Senator from Maine, came out to say she would vote to confirm Jackson.
Collins’ support gives Democrats at least a one-vote cushion in the Senate, split 50-50, and likely saves them from having to use Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick.
Collins says Jackson has “the experience, qualifications and integrity” to serve on the Supreme Court.
Listen to the full Real Talk Real Solutions episode for more perspective on this historic moment unfolding during Women’s History Month.