By LISA MASCARO, AP Congress correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) – The first full day of questions Tuesday for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson quickly plunged into very big questions about legal philosophy, terrorism and race, a grueling marathon of debate over President Joe Biden’s historic election.
Senators wanted to know her approach to the law, her view on “court packing” and her response to allegations by Republican Senator Josh Hawley that she has been too lenient in convicting child pornography offenders and is generally soft on crime.
For a moment, Jackson simply paused and sighed before answering Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who pulled children’s books rather than asking the Harvard-educated lawyer for her views on teaching the academic subject critical race theory.
Jackson writes history as the first black woman to be nominated to the court, who once maintained racial segregation in America and for 233 years has been largely filled with white men.
Democrats have the potential vote in the 50-50 Senate to confirm Jackson as Biden’s choice to replace retired Judge Stephen Breyer, even though all Republicans were against. Her nomination is on the way to voting before Easter.
If confirmed, Jackson would also become the sixth female judge in the court’s history, and with three now serving “the closest we’ve ever come to gender equality,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Takeaways from day two of Jackson’s week-long confirmation hearing:
Since Jackson is undeniably well-qualified to be a judge at the Supreme Court, senators say, the question then is, what is her legal philosophy – will she be an activist judge trying to establish policy, or one who adheres to strict interpretations of law?
“In any case, I try to stay in my lane,” Jackson told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Who asked it as the first question an opportunity for Jackson to proactively explain his approach to the case. law. “Without fear or favor.”
In the same way that Southern senators tried to portray the first black nominee for the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, who softened against crime 55 years ago, some Republican senators see Jackson’s treatment of criminal defendants as one of their strongest arguments against her.
Hawley, R-Mo., Set the tone even before the hearings began, raising concerns that Jackson was giving child pornography defendants lighter sentences than required. Cruz and other Republicans have been piling on.
On Tuesday, Jackson said bluntly, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The mother of two daughters told senators she still has nightmares after searching the graphic evidence from child pornography cases in her courtroom.
“These are some of the most difficult cases a judge has to deal with,” she told them.
She later stood by her work representing terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay as a federal public defender, saying the service ensures fair trial. And she spoke more personally about her own family’s work in law enforcement, and she knew what it was like to worry about their safety.
“These are not abstract concepts or political slogans for me,” she said.
Fact-checkers have said Hawley selectively selects cases, including many, where prosecutors also sought milder sentences than federal sentencing guidelines.
CRUZ AND ‘ANTIRACIST BABY’
Cruz switched from legal arguments to the heated debates on critical race theory, an academic field of study examining the role of race in founding the United States
By showing a stack of books on racism from the reading list at Georgetown Day School, a prestigious private campus where Jackson sits on the board, Cruz grilled the nominee for her views on the subject.
“I have never studied critical race theory and I have never used it. It does not come up in the work I do as a judge,” Jackson told Cruz.
Cruz made a poster-sized page from “Antiracist Baby” by renowned scholar Ibram X. Kendi and asked, “Do you agree with this book being taught to children that babies are racist?”
“Senator,” Jackson said, sighing. “I don’t think any child should make them feel like they are racist,” she said.
She had explained that Georgetown was founded in 1945 under legal separation when white and black families came together to educate their children. The board does not make curriculum decisions.
Cruz and Jackson both went to Harvard Law a year apart and said they knew each other, but not well.
Judicial package – the idea of adding judges to the Court – is gaining ground among liberals who want to tip the balance of justice away from conservatives, who now have a 6-3 majority, largely thanks to Donald Trump, who elected three new judges as president .
Jackson referred to Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett as an example to follow when asked about her views on court litigation.
“My North Star is the consideration of a judge’s proper role,” Jackson told senators.
“I agree with Justice Barrett,” she told them, referring to Barrett’s refusal to address the issue during her confirmation hearing. “Judges should not talk about political issues.”
GOD, KAVANAUGH AND GOP COMPLAINT
Unable to stop Jackson’s confirmation, Republicans at least want to show the Americans that they gave the judge a fair trial – unlike the explosive session over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination when he was accused by Democrats of sexual assault as a teenager, prosecutor he vehemently denied.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham elaborated on decades-old complaints about the way conservative nominees have been treated, back to Ronald Reagan’s failed nomination of Robert Bork.
In a heated exchange, he asked Jackson deeply personal questions about her Protestant faith.
“As you know, there is no religious test in the Constitution,” Jackson told the senator.
“Well, how would you feel if a senator up here said about your belief that ‘dogma lives high in you’?” Graham later said, reviving Feinstein’s 2017 remarks about Barrett’s conservative Catholic faith.
It’s a kind of double standard, he said, portraying any conservative as “a kind of weirdo.”
He said, “We’re tired of it.”
It has taken 233 years to reach this moment, with the first black woman nominated to be a judge at the Supreme Court. Jackson’s own story is part of that story.
In response to Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa in a speech she gave to Pastor Martin Luther King Jr., she told senators how a generation could go from the racially segregated schools her parents attended in Florida to her meeting before the Senate, nominated to the High Court.
“The fact that you can get this far was for me a testament to the hope and promise of this country, the greatness of America,” she said.
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