Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

During the 2020 United States presidential campaign, President Joe Biden pledged to appoint a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court should there be a vacancy.  Now, in 2022, this pledge may become a reality with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has a track record that proves that she is both qualified and capable.

I applaud Judge Jackson on her grace under pressure, as Monday, March 21, 2022, marked the beginning of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The grind of the hearing process for Judge Jackson was magnified on Tuesday, March 22, with the beginning of what would become more than 20 hours of questioning from the committee, which ended Wednesday, March 23.

At the conclusion, the public may have been left with one final question: was this confirmation hearing really about Judge Jackson or was this confirmation hearing really political grandstanding?  

Judge Jackson was repeatedly questioned regarding sentences she handed down in a select few child pornography cases. However, legal experts weighed in on this and found that the sentences she delivered, when compared to a bipartisan subsection of district judges, were in line with that of other judges.  However, this was of no moment to committee members that continued this line of questioning.  

Additionally, Judge Jackson’s work as a public defender was made to be an issue, in particular her work on cases for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  The committee members attacking her work on these cases, did not care about basic principles of the criminal justice system such as, “innocent until proven guilty” and an accused right to counsel.  

The attack on Judge Jackson had nothing to do with her qualifications, as her actions have unmistakably been in keeping with the actions of a great lawyer and judge.  As an attorney her job was to zealously advocate for her clients. As a judge, her duty is to be neutral and apply the law to the facts.  In both capacities, there is a duty to uphold and follow the law, which is exactly what her record shows she has done.  

The constant attacks were nothing more than political propaganda for those committee members, putting topics on rewind and repeat to support their claims of being tough on crime and high on national security.  Sadly, the attacks against Judge Jackson only affirmed for me the rights people are willing to trample in pursuit of what they believe is justice.  The ideology behind the attacks such as the ones aimed against Judge Jackson is the very reason the justice system fails when it does. Justice is about doing what is right, not always about doing what is popular.  

Judge Jackson was questioned extensively about critical race theory and responded that it doesn’t come up in her work as a judge.  She consistently outlined her approach to cases that come before her court, all with an aim on remaining impartial and applying the law.  However, committee members pressing this issue were not interested in her judicial competence and integrity. Clearly, this was nothing more than committee members using this platform to garner political support from people that have criticized critical race theory without even understanding what it actually is. Worse yet, they understand it, but want it erased because it shines light on the role race has played in framing the social institutions of America.

Judge Jackson was questioned regarding gay marriage, with opponents making it clear to their base that they remain opposed.  She was asked to define the word woman, an opportunity for committee members to bring gender politics into the arena.  She was questioned regarding court packing, a matter that is a policy issue for Congress.  It was a free-for-all for political grandstanding.

At the end of the day, aside for the historical significance of her nomination, Judge Jackson remains an outstanding selection for the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Established in 1789, with over 233 years of history, there have been 115 justices appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Of those 115 justices, 108 have been White males.  Only two have been African American – the first being Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1967. Five have been women, the first being Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. In 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Court, becoming the third woman in the Court’s history, but the first woman of color—the first Hispanic, first Latina.

Black women are just as capable of shouldering the responsibilities bestowed upon the U.S. Supreme Court. Today’s America is drastically different than that of 1789, it is well past the time for our courts to reflect that difference in meaningful ways and this is yet another opportunity to do so.

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Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.