The third day of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing begins soon, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will continue to question the nominated Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Jackson’s first full day of questioning included explanations of her approach as a judge, discussions of abstract legal concepts that could be crucial in controversial Supreme Court cases, and her defense of a sentencing that Republicans have claimed was not harsh enough against certain crimes.
The Democrats gave Jackson ample opportunity to push back the GOP attacks while letting her discuss the background that will make her a unique addition to the Supreme Court.
The Republicans, who on Monday promised to take a high-pitched tone on the matter, nonetheless grilled her about the issues echoed in their culture war announcements ahead of this year’s mid-term.
Here’s a look at some key takeaways from Tuesday’s session:
Jackson gives an insight into how she approaches her job: Faced with GOP skepticism for not adapting to a specific legal philosophy, Jackson provided new details about the way she approaches her job and the “method” she uses to decide a case.
“I am fully aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power, and I try in every case to stay in my lane,” she said.
The three-step process she described involved clearing her mind of all preconceived notions about the case, receiving the various inputs – the written messages, the factual documentation, the hearings – she will have to decide a case and embark on a interpretation of the law that sets the “limits” of her role as a judge.
She said she was trying to “find out what the words mean as they were intended by the people who wrote them.”
Jackson pushes back on allegations about her record in child pornography cases: The judge finally had the chance on Tuesday to rule on what have been the most controversial allegations leveled against her, telling the allegation committee that she is lenient with child porn offenders that “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“These are some of the most difficult cases a judge has to deal with,” Jackson said when she was first given the chance by presiding judge Dick Durbin to respond to the allegations made last week by the Missouri GOP senator. Josh Hawley.
Later in the hearing, she said she still has nightmares about the witness in one of the cases the Republicans are now investigating, adding, “These crimes are, are horrible. So I take them very seriously, just as I did all those crimes. , but especially crimes against children. “
Republicans have sat at zero after what they say is Jackson’s tendency to issue verdicts in these cases that came under the sentencing guidelines – a pattern that places her in the mainstream of judges. Less than a third of the convictions handed down in cases of non-production of child pornography fell within the 2019 guidelines.
When she was grilled by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Jackson noted that the guidelines are only a starting point for judges.
GOP leans into culture war issues ahead of mid-term periods: Broad cultural war topics that Republicans hit the Democrats on prior to the midterm periods got into GOP issues for Jackson.
Cruz, for example, asked Jackson several questions about “critical race theory” – a concept that Jackson said “does not come up in my work.”
“It’s never something I’ve studied or trusted, and it would not be something I would trust if I were in the Supreme Court,” she said.
Cruz tried to link it to Jackson through a presentation she held as vice president of the U.S. sentencing commission, in which Jackson said she listed it among a “wash list of various academic disciplines that I said relate to sentencing policy.” He also raised it in connection with children’s books taught at Georgetown Day School, where Jackson is on the board. Jackson said the board does not check the school’s curriculum.
Abstract questions try to suggest how she would approach controversial cases: GOP senators examined Jackson’s approach to abstract legal ideas that sound academic but could be crucial to how she would resolve controversial cases.
Cornyn raised the concept of “unspoken rights” – meaning the rights that are not explicitly written in the text of the Constitution, but which the court has interpreted to be covered by the protection of the Constitution.
Utah Senator Mike Lee also focused some of his questions on the 9th Amendment. Its language thinks of unspoken rights, and he asked Jackson how judges should proceed to weigh what rights could come from it.
Read more takeaways here and see photos from the confirmation hearings here.