Ketanji Brown Jackson faces several questions in Supreme Court hearings

WASHINGTON Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced another full-day hearing from senators on Wednesday, in which some Republicans were set to further push the nominated Supreme Court over her convictions for convicted criminals, while Democrats maintain hopes of a bipartisan affirmative vote.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Opened the hearing with comments defending Judge Jackson’s record in terms of crime, citing her support from the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Law enforcement is on your side because you’ve been on their side at critical moments, and your family has dedicated a large portion of their lives to law enforcement, and you obviously believe in that at your core,” he said. “So the soft accusation of crime that leads everyone else falls on its face.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), Left, speaks with ranked GOP member Chuck Grassley of Iowa before the start of Wednesday’s hearing.


Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The hearing then revolved around questions from the last two senators on the panel for the first round. They get every 30 minutes, followed by another round of questions in 20-minute blocks.

On Tuesday, Judge Jackson answered the senators’ first round of questions about her background as a public defender, her sentencing decisions in child pornography cases, and her legal philosophy, among other topics. After several questions on Wednesday, the hearings will host testimony from expert witnesses on Thursday.

Late. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Mr. Durbin quarreled Wednesday over whether Judge Jackson had called former President George W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “war criminals,” extending the fight to another day.

Mr. Cornyn had on Tuesday asked Judge Jackson: “Why on earth would you call Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and George W. Bush war criminals” in habeas applications she had filed on behalf of the Guantanamo detainees she represented when she was public defender.

Judge Jackson said she did not recall saying that, saying she and colleagues in the records had “made allegations of preserving problems on behalf of my clients.”

The petitions, which named Mr Bush and Rumsfeld as respondents in their official capacity, argued, among other things, that the US government had sanctioned torture against individuals, which would constitute a war crime.

The U.S. government has said that the treatment of some prisoners was torture, and the Supreme Court mentioned this in passing in a recent statement.

Later Tuesday, Mr. Durbin to Judge Jackson that he had investigated the Republicans’ allegations and that “there was no time when you called President Bush or Prime Minister Rumsfeld a – quote – war criminal – quote.” She replied, “That was correct.”

Mr. Cornyn complained on Wednesday that Mr. Durbin’s refutation had misrepresented his position and facts.

“I asked her if she had called him a war criminal, and she said under oath to you, ‘No, I did not,’ though the record is clear, as it may be that she accused him of war crimes,” Mr said. . Cornyn and added. that Mr Durbin should not refute his points without giving him a chance to respond quickly.

“As I noted yesterday. ‘These charges do not hold up,'” Mr. Durbin said Wednesday, asking Judge Jackson to answer.

“Public defenders do not choose their clients, and yet they have to provide an energetic advocacy business,” the judge said. “And as an appeals attorney, it was my duty to file habeas applications on behalf of my clients.”

Some Republican senators have not ruled on convictions, as Judge Jackson ruled in child pornography cases, arguing that she had been too lenient, and those sentencing decisions promised to be a further focus on Wednesday.

In a tense back-and-forth about guidelines for sentencing Tuesday, Sen said. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) judges Jackson: “I want to be direct with you, I question your judgment and your judgment.”

She defended her record, saying that if it were stacked next to other judges’ records, it would show “a very similar exercise in trying to do what the judges are doing – trying to take into account all the relevant factors and provide justice on a case-by-case basis. “


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A report released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year showed that federal judges across the country typically pass sentences under federal guidelines in cases where the perpetrator does not produce child pornography, but instead possesses, receives or distributes it.

According to data from the financial year 2019, such offenders received sentences under the guideline in about two thirds of the cases. On average, judges issued prison sentences of at least two years shorter than the minimum period required by the guidelines. Yet the average prison sentence for offenders is greater than it was more than ten years ago.

While the hearing on Tuesday was largely polite and calm, there were some flashbacks. Late. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who pointed to Judge Jackson’s service on the board of a private school in Washington, cited several race-related books recommended by the school to question her position on the doctrine of social justice and critical race theory. Judge Jackson confessed to limited familiarity with the theory and said she, as a board member, does not review the curriculum.

Mr. Durbin said late Tuesday that he was pleased with how the interrogation has gone. The negotiations so far have marked a contrast to several heated confirmations of former President Donald Trump’s election in court.

Most senators on the committee “were not bad at all. They did their job and did it in a respectful and professional way,” he said, adding that a few senators raised issues in a way he thought went over a limit. .

“But that’s their business,” he said. “They have that opportunity.”

Aside from an unforeseen development, Judge Jackson’s confirmation is a virtual security. While the Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties, the Democrats have the majority with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as tiebreaker. Although no Republican will vote for her, she will be confirmed as long as all senators participating in the Democrats vote yes, as the threshold is a simple majority.

Still, a bipartisan vote would be seen as a symbolic victory for the Biden administration and Senate Democrats. Last year, three Republicans joined all 50 Democrats and Independents to confirm Judge Jackson of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

One of these three, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, again signaled that he might be no this time. Mr. Graham said he was angry that President Biden had chosen Judge Jackson to replace Judge Michelle Childs of South Carolina, whom Mr Graham had publicly defended.

“The fact that so many of these left-wing radical groups that would destroy the law as we know it declared war on Michelle Childs and supported you is problematic to me,” he said, addressing Judge Jackson.

Other Republicans seen as potential votes in favor of Judge Jackson’s confirmation are Sens. Mitt Romney from Utah, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine. None of them sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they have dropped few clues as to where they stand. Sens. Murkowski and Collins voted to confirm Judge Jackson before the Court of Appeals last year.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday dismissed criticism from the Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley on the fact that she gave lenient sentences against child pornography offenders during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Photo: Julia Nikhinson / Bloomberg News

The Supreme Court’s confirmations have become more and more partisan and controversial in recent years. In 2020, a Democrat did not vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by then-President Trump to replace the late Liberal Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A GOP senator, Ms. Collins, joined the Democrats in voting against Justice Barrett’s confirmation, citing the proximity of the election. It was the first time since 1869 that a candidate for the Supreme Court had been confirmed without a single vote from a major minority party.

In addition to being the first black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson, if confirmed, would be the fourth woman on the current court with nine members.

She told senators on Wednesday that her parents grew up in Florida under legal separation and were not allowed to go to school with white children, and she noted that the contrast between her upbringing in Florida and her parents’ reality was “like night and day compared to the opportunities that were available to me. “

“So what my being here is about, I think at some level is the progress we have made in this country in a very short time,” Judge Jackson said.

Judge Jackson’s nomination is part of a push from the Biden administration to diversify the federal judiciary. Of the approximately 50 full-time judges that Mr Biden has so far placed in the federal courts, three-quarters have been women and two-thirds have been members of a minority group.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearings in the Supreme Court

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected]

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