Ketanji Jackson, the Supreme Court nominee, returned to the Senate Wednesday for a third day hearings. Republicans tried to portray her as softon crime while Democrats celebrated the historic nature her nomination to be the first Black woman to serve on the high court.
As Jackson began his second and final day of answering senators’ questions, Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, stated that “America is ready to see the Supreme Court glass floor shatter”.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina continued GOP questions about Jackson’s record when it comes to sentencing convicted criminals into prison, but in a more respectful manner.
Tillis stated that Tillis seemed to be a kind and compassionate person.
He acknowledged that Jackson would likely be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Republicans aggressively interrogated her about the sentences she handed to sex offender in her nine-year tenure as a federal judge, her support for terror suspects at Guantanamo bay, her views on critical race theory, and even her religious beliefs. One point, Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, read from children’s books he claimed were she had taught her daughter.
Jackson was questioned by several GOP senators about her child pornography sentences. They claimed they were lighter that federal guidelines recommended. Jackson claimed that she used many factors to determine the sentences and not only the guidelines. She also said that some cases gave her nightmares.
Are her decisions a danger to children? She said that she was a mother and a judge, but “nothing could have been further from the truth.”
Durbin called it “a trial-by-ordeal” and Jackson spent the first day answering GOP questions and demonstrating her empathy on the bench. Many Republicans on the committee, many of them with their eyes on presidency, tried to label Jackson and Democrats as soft on crime. This is a common theme in GOP midterm elections.
Jackson explained to the committee that Jackson’s brother and her uncle were police officers. Jackson also said that crime and its effect on the community, as well as the need for law enforcement, are not abstract concepts or political slogans.
Wednesday’s hearing will be the second day for questioning and the third day for hearings. This is after Jackson opened statements and 22 other members of the panel made opening statements Monday. The committee will hear from legal professionals on Thursday before deciding whether to vote to send her nomination to the Senate floor.
In February, President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to fill a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court. She will take the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer. He announced in January that after 28 years, he would be retiring. Jackson would become the third Black justice after Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas and Clarence Thomas and the sixth woman.
If nothing unexpected happens, Democrats, who hold the Senate by the smallest of margins, hope to confirm Jackson before Easter. However, Breyer will not be leaving until the end of the current session.
Jackson stated that Jackson’s potential to become the first Black woman to serve on the court was “extremely significant” and that she had received letters from many young girls. Jackson stated that Jackson’s nomination “supports public faith in the judiciary.”
Democrats were full of praises for Biden’s Supreme Court nomination, noting that she would be not only the first Black woman on the court but also the first public defense attorney and the first to have experience representing indigent criminal defendants, since Marshall.
Republicans also praised the experience but also questioned it. They mainly focused on her work 15 years ago representing detainees in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) at U.S. facilities. Jackson stated that public defenders do not pick their clients and are “standing for the constitutional value” of representation. She explained that she continued to represent one client as a private practitioner because she was assigned his case.
Cruz took up a thread by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and made it more prominent by the Republican National Committee through fundraising emails. He questioned Jackson about her sentences for child pornographers. At one point, he brought out a large poster board, and circled sentences he thought were egregious.
In the majority of these cases, prosecutors and others representing Justice Department argued for sentences that were less severe than those recommended in federal guidelines.
Jackson said that she considers not only sentencing guidelines, but also the stories and histories of victims, the nature of offenses, and defendants’ histories.
She said, “A judge does not play a numbers game.” “A judge looks at all these factors.”
Cruz, Hawley, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are all potential presidential candidates in 2024. Their rounds of questioning were fierce and hit on issues that are very popular with the GOP base. Cruz asked her about critical racism theory, which focuses on the notion that racism is a systemic problem in our institutions. Jackson stated that the idea didn’t arise in Jackson’s work as a judge and “wouldn’t” be something she would rely upon if confirmed.
She was also asked by the Texas senator about her daughter’s Washington private school. He brought up Antiracist Baby, which he claimed was taught to younger students at the school.
Cruz asked, “Do you agree that this book is being taught to children that babies are racist?”
Jackson was clearly annoyed and took a long pause. Jackson stated that children shouldn’t be made to feel like they are victims, racists or oppressors. She said, “I don’t believe in any one of that.”
Jackson was asked about abortion and readily agreed to make comments about the landmark cases that conservative Justices Amy Coney Barrett (and Brett Kavanaugh) made when they were up in confirmation. “Roe & Casey are the established law of the Supreme Court regarding the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy. Jackson stated that they have created a framework which the court has confirmed.”
Jackson’s answers missed a crucial point. The court is currently deciding whether to ignore cases affirming a nationwide right for abortion.
Jackson asked Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) when life starts near the end of the day. He asked her if she knew and she replied that she did not know. She also said that she had a religious belief that was ignored when deciding cases.