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Photographer from the Bay Area captures viral photo of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Leila Jackson smiles at mom Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Leila Jackson, right, smiles at her mother, Ketanji Brown Jackson, on the first day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
(Sarahbeth Maney / New York Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 18. I’m Justin Ray.

Sarahbeth Maney recently received a lot of attention online for a photo she took during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Maney, who is from the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from San Francisco State University in 2019. She’s also served as a photo intern at the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle. She began a yearlong fellowship at the New York Times in June.

Maney raised her hand to be one of the photographers documenting Justice Jackson’s historic moment. It was a personal assignment to her; Jackson was the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Maney was the first Black photography fellow for the East Coast paper. She also knew that the D.C. pool of photographers would not be very diverse, so her presence would be valuable.

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“When I found out that President Biden was nominating a Black woman, I knew that it was something I wanted to cover. Similar to my time in California, in D.C. I never work alongside any other Black women photojournalists. And for that reason, I knew my voice was important. I knew that I wanted to be in the room to document confirmation hearings from my perspective,” Maney told me.

How she got the shot

Ketanji Brown Jackson stands and raises her right hand in a Senate chamber as photographers kneel in front of her.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on March 21. Leila Jackson is just visible at lower left.
(Bloomberg)

During these hearings, Maney says the most desired spot is at the center on the ground, which is called the well (which you can see above). However, Maney went the extra mile to capture a candid image of Jackson’s daughter, Leila, grinning at her mother.

“It was taken from the side of the room,” Maney says. “I work around a lot of men who are a lot taller than I am so I was on a stepstool trying to be the same height as everybody. And that’s when I looked over and saw Leila smile at her.”

The photo has since been retweeted over 16,000 times and received over 119,000 likes. Maney has a guess as to why the image received so much attention.

“It was really special and a really big honor to make a photo that resonated with so many people on an intimate level because we don’t usually see these intimate photos coming out of political coverage,” she says.

Maney has since received a message from Leila over Instagram thanking her for taking the “touching” photo. The message was gratifying, but it was also a relief because she wondered how the 17-year-old would feel about all the attention created by the image.

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“She also said she read some of the articles about me and that she really admired me as well, which just made me smile from ear to ear,” Maney says.

Maney also got to briefly speak to the woman herself. Judge Jackson told her she was happy to see the response to the photo. “She congratulated me, which I thought was a huge honor because I felt like I should be congratulating her,” Maney says.

While she couldn’t know how much the photo would resonate with the public when she snapped it, Maney certainly did know at the time how much it meant to herself.

“It made me feel seen, it made me feel represented, and that’s why I took the photo,” Maney said.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

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What’s happening in Joshua Tree is a ‘dream’ — and possibly a curse. As more and more people arrive in the towns along Highway 62 near Joshua Tree National Park, those visitors and newcomers are spending freely on everything from neo-bohemian lodgings to vintage goods. In their eagerness to feel those desert vibes, they’ve set off a full-blown boom. But it’s the desert, so there are thorny questions. Los Angeles Times

Two men sit in a vehicle outside the Station store in Joshua Tree.
Glen Steigelman, left, and Steve Halterman are owners of the Station, a gift store in Joshua Tree that was once a filling station.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. STORIES

Column: Everyone has a theory of why crime is rising. This one doesn’t get discussed enough. Recently the Los Angeles Police Department said that gangs — mostly from South L.A. — have been dispatching crews to target and rob wealthy Angelenos. Columnist Erika D. Smith talked to the executive director of L.A.’s Urban Peace Institute, who said that one of the things that’s getting glossed over at the moment is the role of straight-up economics. Los Angeles Times

An image from a surveillance camera shows three men standing near a parked car.
Surveillance video captured a man being chased down and robbed on the street in downtown Los Angeles in October.
(Los Angeles Police Department)

Grocery workers get double-digit pay raises in new contract. After four months of bargaining, Kroger agreed to raises of 19% to 31% over current pay levels for most workers. “The companies were afraid of a strike,” said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 in Los Angeles. “Our members were more unified and militant than they’ve been in a long time.” Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Alex Padilla on life in the Senate, and spicing up Capitol Hill. California’s freshman U.S. senator, Alex Padilla, says the last year has meant a lot of adjustment — and a regular 4,600-mile roundtrip commute. “Public service comes with sacrifice,” he said during a conversation about his first year and three months in Washington. The hardest thing about life in the Senate, Padilla said, has been the separation from his family. Los Angeles Times

Sen. Alex Padilla in his office on Capitol Hill
Freshman Sen. Alex Padilla talked to The Times about his first year in office.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

Records obtained by Knock.LA shed light on the Long Beach Police Department’s use of facial recognition software. “Instead of crimes, most of these searches simply referenced the 2020 George Floyd demonstration — a constitutionally protected activity,” Kevin Flores writes. The records span 2009-2020 and contain information about each of the more than 4,000 facial recognition searches it ran through a vast mugshot database maintained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Knock.LA

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

California needs more medical workers, but are they being stalled at community colleges? A new report from the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity found that community college students, who are more likely to be Black and Latino, struggle to transfer to universities to finish their schooling. A major problem is confusion around associate degrees for transfer (ADTs) and how they don’t always clearly lead students on a path to graduation, according to the report. Fresno Bee

The pandemic has drastically impacted some areas of the Los Angeles County housing market, helping to push up rents by an average of 12.1% since the onset of the lockdown in March 2020, according to data compiled by online rental housing marketplace Apartment List. “In a reversal from earlier trends, the steepest increases hit inland enclaves, not coastal cities. That, in turn, is rapidly reshaping communities that had previously dodged some of the worst aspects of Los Angeles’s chronic housing shortage,” writes Hanna Kang. One driver behind the inland rent price surge: “During the pandemic, well-educated and high-skilled workers left urban neighborhoods in search of more space and greenery.” Crosstown

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Chargers’ Donald Parham Jr. on injury: ‘A life-flashing-before-your-eyes kind of thing.’ Nearly four months ago, a national television audience of 18 million people – which included his family — and a sold-out crowd watched as tight end Donald Parham Jr. was strapped to a stretcher after a violent impact with the turf left him trembling. “I was just thinking about if I’ll ever play again,” Parham said. Los Angeles Times

Donald Parham Jr. runs in sunglasses and a hat.
Donald Parham Jr., tight end for the Los Angeles Chargers, trains at Stetson University.
(Jacob M. Langston / Los Angeles Times)

Missing California teen found safe in Utah after three years. The family of Connerjack Oswalt is overjoyed after the teenager was found this week in Park City, Utah. In 2019, the then-16-year-old, who had been diagnosed with autism, was reported missing by his family in Clearlake, Calif. In recent weeks, reports came in to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office of a man pushing a shopping cart. One concerned citizen reported the same man sleeping in front of a store, according to CBS. Officers located Oswalt and the family has been reunited. SFGATE

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Overcast, 75 San Diego: Overcast 68 San Francisco: Overcast 64 San Jose: Overcast 72 Fresno: Overcast 79 Sacramento: Overcast 70

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Casey Kuhn:

I visited my friend in SF around 2015. The woman sitting next to me on the plane was from SF and offered to drive me downtown at night. My phone died right as we made it to his apartment complex and I didn’t write down his phone number. The driver didn’t have an iPhone charger, so I knocked on the locked door of an art institute across the street until a student let me in to charge my phone. The woman from the airport waited until my friend finally came down to let me in. SF truly showed me the extraordinary kindness of strangers that day.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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