Jackson fends off GOP criticism and defends his record

Facing questions from senators for the first time, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson forcefully defended her record as a federal judge on Tuesday, saying she will rule “from a position of neutrality” if she is confirmed as the first black woman in the high court.

Jackson began the hearing by responding to Republicans who questioned whether she was being too liberal in her judicial philosophy. She said she tries to “understand what the people who created this law intended”, drawing on the words of a law but also looking to history and practice when the meaning may not be clear.

Responding to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, she also pushed back against Republican suggestions that she gave light sentences to child pornographers.

Could his decisions have endangered children? “As a mother and a judge,” she said, “nothing could be further from the truth.”

These are some of the toughest cases a judge has to deal with, she said. She described looking into the eyes of the defendants and explaining the lifelong effects on the victims.

It’s “important to me to represent that children’s voices are represented,” she said.

In what Durbin described as “a trial by ordeal,” Jackson answered questions upfront that attempted to deflect GOP concerns and also highlight the empathetic style she frequently described. Republicans planned to use their questioning to brand Jackson — and Democrats in general — as soft on crime, an emerging theme in GOP midterm election campaigns.

Tuesday’s hearing was the first of two days of questioning after Jackson and the 22 committee members gave opening statements on Monday. On Thursday, the committee will hear from legal experts before a possible vote to move his nomination to the Senate.

Barring unexpected developments, Democrats who control the Senate by the tiniest margin hope to wrap up Jackson’s confirmation before Easter, although Breyer won’t leave court until the end of the current session this summer.

In her own 12-minute statement, Jackson did not mention specific cases, but told the committee she would “apply the laws to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, in accordance with my judicial oath.” , if it was to be confirmed.

While Republicans promised pointed questions, Democrats praised President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said that to be first “often you have to be the best, in some ways the bravest”.

Biden chose Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign promise to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history. She would take the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he would retire after 28 years on the court.

Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., spoke movingly of the “joy” he felt about his historic appointment and acknowledged his family’s pride. Booker, who is black, said the white men who served on the Supreme Court for two centuries were “extraordinary patriots who helped shape this country,” but many people could never have dreamed of serving on the Supreme Court. the courtyard.

Jackson would be the third black judge, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman.

“As the next generation behind us look to the highest courts in the land, that ideal will become more real,” Booker said.

Democratic leaders are hoping for some Republican support, but can confirm it with the support of only Senate Democrats at 50-50, as Vice President Kamala Harris can vote in the event of a tie.

In opening statements, Democrats on the Judiciary Panel sought to preemptively rebut Republican criticism of Jackson’s criminal record as a judge and before that as a federal public defender and member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency created by Congress to reduce disparity in federal prison sentences.

Jackson “is not anti-law enforcement” and is not “soft on crime,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noting that members of Jackson’s family worked in the law enforcement and has the support of some national police organizations. “Judge Jackson is not a judicial activist.”

The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, promised Republicans “would ask tough questions about Jackson’s judicial philosophy,” without turning the hearings into a “show.”

Even though few Republicans are likely to vote for her, most GOP senators have not been aggressively critical of Jackson, whose confirmation would not change the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Several Republicans used their time to rail against Senate Democrats instead of Jackson’s record.

Questions about her sentences for child pornographers first came from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who said in her opening statement that her research showed she had a habit of handing down lighter sentences in child pornography cases, repeating comments he wrote in a Twitter thread last week. The Republican National Committee echoed his claims in bombastic messages to supporters.

The White House, along with several Democrats present at the hearing, dismissed Hawley’s criticism as “poisonous and weakly presented misinformation.” Sentencing expert Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State, wrote on his blog that Jackson’s record shows that she is skeptical of the range of prison sentences recommended for the cases of child pornography,” but so are prosecutors in the majority of his cases and so are district judges across the country.

Hawley is one of several Republicans on the committee, along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who are potential 2024 presidential candidates, and their aspirations could collide with other Republicans who would rather not not pursue a scorched earth approach to Jackson’s nomination.

Members of the judicial panel are already familiar with Jackson, who appeared before them last year after Biden selected her to fill a position on the federal appeals court in Washington. She was also reviewed by the committee and confirmed by the Senate as a district court judge under President Barack Obama and to her position on the sentencing commission.

In her opening statement, Jackson expressed her thanks and love to her husband, Patrick Jackson, a Washington surgeon who wore socks with an image of George Washington and occasionally wiped away tears. Their two daughters, one in college and one in high school, were also in attendance, as were Jackson’s parents and in-laws.

While the focus was on Senate hearings, the Supreme Court itself was in session Monday, but one chair was empty. Thomas, 73, the longest-serving judge currently on the court, was in hospital being treated for an infection. He does not have COVID-19, the court said in a statement.