5 takeaways from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Jackson’s opening statement touched on her humble background and the gratitude she felt towards those who have strengthened her lawful ascension. She and her supporters stressed the “independent” approach she brings to the bench, while Senate Judiciary Democrats argued that her confirmation will make the High Court more reflective of the country it serves.

While previewing the parts of Jackson’s record they intend to scrutinize, Republicans launched a series of broadsides against Democrats for how they have handled the confirmation of GOP nominees.

Much of Jackson’s introductory remarks were weighted in relation to her upbringing, and the gratitude she felt toward her parents as well as her faith.

When she confirmed her “thank you to God,” she said, “The first of my many blessings is the fact that I was born in this great nation” in 1970, in the decade after Congress passed two major bills on civil rights.

Her name, “Ketanji Onyika,” means “lovely one,” she told the committee – an expression of her parents’ “pride in their heritage and hope for the future.”

She talked about the interest in law she developed from watching her father study law, while praising the “excellent mentors” she had in high school and in the judges she was a clerk for.

What Ketanji Brown Jackson's hearing reveals

“Justice (Stephen) Breyer not only gave me the greatest job any young lawyer could ever hope to get, but he also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court justice with the highest level of skill and integrity, courtesy and grace. , “she said, referring to the justice she both advocated and would replace if confirmed.

“It’s extremely humiliating to be considered for Justice Breyer’s seat, and I know I could never fill his shoes,” she added. “But if it is confirmed, I hope to be able to continue his spirit.”

Jackson promises an ‘independent’ approach to the law, which supporters reiterated

Jackson said she took “very seriously” her responsibility to defend the constitution and her “duty to be independent.”

“I decide cases from a neutral position,” she said. “I judge the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case, without fear or advantage, in accordance with my legal oath.”

This description of her approach comes as Republicans have criticized her refusal to conform to a specific philosophy of law, such as originalism or pragmatism.

On Monday, a prominent conservative judge vowed how she approached her role as a lawyer.

“Judge Jackson is an independent lawyer who judges based on facts and the law and not as a partisan,” said retired Judge Thomas Griffith, a Republican nominee who served on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Again and again she has shown that impartiality on the bench.”

Democrats are seeking to get her to hear about the public’s belief in the court

Democrats repeatedly reminded their public audience of the high stakes in these confirmation battles, referring to the big cases of a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives as they tried to connect the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination with the public’s belief in the court.

As is common in these hearings, Democratic senators touched on legal issues that resonate with their foundations – with allusions to Supreme Court cases on health care, abortion rights, gun control, and the environment.

READ: Ketanji Brown Jackson's opening statement at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing

“The American people, our voters … and their faith in the courts, that’s central to our democracy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. “They lose their faith, then democracy loses. The decisions made in our courts – and ultimately in the Supreme Court – affect the everyday lives of each and every one of us.”

Because Jackson, if confirmed, will replace a fellow liberal, her appointment in itself is unlikely to change the number of 6-3 conservative-to-liberal votes on these various issues. But Democrats stressed other ways Jackson – through the demographic and professional diversity she would bring – would give the court new perspectives and enrich the trust Americans have in it.

“If you are confirmed, we will take another step toward making our government better reflect the America it serves,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat.

Several Democrats hailed her background as a federal public defender, the first for a justice, and how it helps her “understand our legal system uniquely through the eyes of people who could not afford a lawyer,” as Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat , say it.

Republicans are focusing on the treatment Kavanaugh received from the Democrats

It is more than three years ago that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed after a tumultuous and high-octane set of hearings that tested the case of the Judiciary Committee. But despite the time, their victory, and subsequent affirmation of another Conservative justice, Republicans made it clear Monday that they can not see Jackson’s nomination unrelated to Kavanaugh’s.

Despite Republicans promising to seize her past writings, rulings and judgments, almost all Republican members of the panel promised to draw a line.

“No Republican senator will trigger an attack on you about your character when the hearing is practically over,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in her inaugural statement, alluding to how late in the process the charges against Kavanaugh were revealed.

“None of us, I hope, have been sitting on information about you as a person for weeks or months. You come into our offices and we never share them with you to allow you to give your side of the story. We are waiting for the very last moment, when the hearing is to be held, concluded and say: ‘Oh by the way, I have this letter’. ”

Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley recounted how, when he chaired the Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh hearings, he was shouted down so intensely in the hearing room that he was delayed in making his opening remarks. Late. Ted Cruz of Texas promised Jackson that Republicans would act differently than he said Democrats had done during the Kavanaugh hearings.

“I can assure you that your hearing will not show any of the shameful behavior,” Cruz said. “No one will inquire into your teenage dating habits. No one will ask you with scornful rigor: ‘Do you like beer?’ But that does not mean that this consultation should be non-substantial and non-substantial. “

Lawmakers suggest where their questions to Jackson will go

Amid the streaks of democratic tactics in previous confirmation battles, Republicans gave a preview of what their questions to Jackson will explore.

Several senators noted that they wanted more clarity on Jackson’s legal philosophy, an area that senators like Missouri’s Josh Hawley told CNN they were investigating in a private meeting with Jackson, but which still had no clarity.

“What she told me is that she does not consider herself to have a legal philosophy. You know, I do not know if I’m buying it,” Hawley said.

Hawley also posed a series of questions about how Jackson had convicted a number of child pornographers who came before her when she was a federal district judge.

Late. John Cornyn of Texas said he was “concerned” about Jackson’s advocacy on behalf of the Guantanamo Bay detainees and the arguments Jackson “put forward to represent people who have committed terrorist acts against the United States and other dangerous criminals.”

GOP Senators Accelerate Misleading Ketanji Brown Jackson's Record in Child Pornography Cases

In what was perhaps the harshest opening statement from a GOP senator, Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn suggested that Jackson had a “hidden agenda” to scrutinize as she listed vague concerns about critical race theory, schoolworm mandates and letting “violent criminals, police killers , and child predators back on the streets. ”

Blackburn said Jackson had written about the judges’ “personal hidden agendas.” The sentence comes from Jackson’s bachelor’s dissertation, where she wrote about the “hidden agendas” of “court professionals” that lead to coercive objections.

Other Republicans argued that they wanted Jackson to provide clear answers to her position on a number of political issues and the future of the court, including the left’s push to expand the number of judges. It’s an area that former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who has played the role of Jackson’s “sherpa” on Capitol Hill, said Jackson is unlikely to respond to.

“Everyone understands that the size of the Supreme Court is a matter for this body, for Congress. It is not for the court, and I do not think you will see any candidate address,” Jones said.

Still, the opening statements provided a roadmap for Jackson’s team, with Monday offering one of the first public options the Democrats had to see where Republicans would take this confirmation hearing.

“There will be some very sharp questions about her record. That’s what the senators are there for. She will be prepared,” Jones said.

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