Senate hearings on SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson


Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: CNBC

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had her third and final day of Senate hearings on Wednesday, with critical Republican Senators and supportive Democratic Senators lobbing dozens of questions her way regarding her experience with prison time rulings, critical race theory, her sentencing regarding sex offenders and even her empathy as a human being. These questioning hearings have been described as marathons, with Brown being before the podium for hours at a time. Here is a breakdown of some of the major takeaways from all three hearings:

In the opening remarks on Monday, the Republican Senators stated that this nomination would be pivotal to the future of the systems of government in place in the U.S., referencing frequent attacks on the Supreme Court’s legitimacy by political analysts and representatives as well. Democratic Senators echoed the importance of this nomination, instead opting to refer to current political topics that the Supreme Court may weigh in on in the coming years such as access to, and support of abortion. Both sides of the aisle agreed, at least publicly, that the nomination of Jackson is monumental in U.S. history as, if confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. On the third day, Dick Durbin, D-IL, began the session as Senate panel’s Judiciary Committee chairman stating that “America is ready for the Supreme Court glass ceiling to shatter.”

Expectedly, Ted Cruz, R-TX, used his time slot in the opening remarks to bash Democratic Senators and how they have handled the last few Supreme Court nominations, barely making mention of anything related to Jackson or her history in law. Several other Republican Senators including Mike Lee, R-UT, echoed this sentiment in their remarks, additionally hitting Democrats for their suggestion to expand the number of justices on the court. Democratic Senators also strayed from discussion of Jackson herself quite a few times, with Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, referencing cases that the Supreme Court will soon weigh in on such as health care reform.

When actually addressing Jackson, or speaking to their colleagues about Jackson, most comments came back to Republicans insinuating that Jackson was too soft on crime during her time as judge, and Democrats stating that just because she was a federal public defender does not correlate to her being overly-empathetic toward defendants.

At the end of the first day’s event, Jackson was allowed to issue a closing statement, and in a lengthy speech, she said “I stand on the shoulders of so many who have come before me… I have dedicated my career to ensuring the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building, ‘equal justice under law’, are a reality and not just an ideal,” a motto she has frequently upheld in her rulings in the past.

Boston Globe

Some common themes in questions from Republican Senators on following days included questioning Jackson’s rulings on sex-related crimes during her service as a federal judge. Some questions and criticisms for Jackson by Republicans stated that she tended to issue shorter or lighter sentences to sex offenders than is recommended federally, accusing her of endangering children and people because of her actions. To this Jackson responded that regulations are not one size fits all and that “As a mother and a judge, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Jackson represented Guantanamo Bay detainees in court in the aughts, and Republican Senators seemed to be under the impression that this made Jackson a terrorist-sympathizer despite public defenders having little control over who they defend and that she was doing her duty as a federal employee.

When questioned on her beliefs regarding critical race theory, Jackson responded that as a judge she is to be impartial, therefore it “wouldn’t be something I would rely on.” Some criticized her as dodging the question, but others have supported her that her personal beliefs regarding the sanctity of the government have little to do with her actions as an arbiter of the law and constitution.

She also managed to avoid answering questions regarding policing, again declining to answer on the grounds that her opinions on policing have little to do with her service as a lawyer, judge or justice.

In a third and final attempt to crack open Jackson’s personal life and beliefs in order to disparage her character, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, asked Jackson to discuss her religious beliefs to which she responded that there is a separation of church and state in the U.S. and that she would uphold this within herself and her service as a court justice.

On the subject of abortion, one that was put toward her from both Democrats and Republicans, Jackson said that she has a personal religious belief regarding abortion, but, as was stated before, would put that aside when ruling on cases and intends to uphold the precedents established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

A question came from Thom Tiillis, R-NC, and again accused Jackson of being soft on crime. But, rather than attacking, like Cruz and others, he implied that Jackson was too sympathetic as a person to rule as judge, a concern that pundits and political commentators from both parties have expressed in the past and is her main blocker during this nomination period.

After being repeatedly targeted by Senators regarding her rulings on sex crimes in the past, somewhat heatedly, Jackson snapped back at Josh Hawley, R-MO, stating “Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences.” “No one case, Senator, can stand in for judging an entire record,” said Jackson.

The Democrat-majority senate is likely to affirm Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. An update will be applied to this article when the voting comes to a close.

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