Defending her record, Ketanji Brown Jackson returns for third day’s hearing

by Marie Claire Jalonik and Mark Sherman

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced questioning Wednesday by Republicans about the sentencing of criminal defendants, as his history-making bid to join the Supreme Court ranged from high constitutional questions to his motivations on the bench. But the attacks were on.

In her final day of Senate questioning, she announced that she would rule as the first black female justice of the High Court “without any agenda” and her decade on the federal bench saw Republicans portraying her as soft on crime. Attempts rejected. The final of the four-day hearing will be attended by legal experts from both sides on Thursday.

Although her approval seems sure of everyone — Democrats are aiming for a vote before Easter — Republicans were trying to shake her record off on Wednesday.

But the GOP criticism was punctuated with laudatory praise from Democrats, and by reflections on the historic nature of his nomination—there was no one more encouraging in the room than New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who used his time to ask questions. Not for but to shed tears. And shed a tear from Jackson too.

Booker, who is black, said that he sees “my ancestors and yours” when he looks at her. “I know what it took for you to sit in this seat,” he said. “You’ve earned this spot.”

Jackson fell silent as Booker spoke, but tears rolled down his face, his family sitting behind him.

The judges were in tears for a second time after similar praise to Sen. Alex Padilla, and she responded to the California Democrat that she hopes to be an inspiration because “I love this country, because I love the law.” Am.”

During more than 22 hours of hearings over two days, GOP senators took an aggressive look at his views on sentences awarded to child pornography offenders in his nine years as a federal judge, his legal advocacy on behalf of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, inquired from On Critical Race Theory and even on his religious views.

When asked about a case on affirmative action at Harvard University, Jackson said she would absolve herself. “That’s my plan,” she replied when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asked her about it.

In the fall, the court will challenge the consideration of race in college admissions in lawsuits filed by Asian American applicants at Harvard, a private institution, and the University of North Carolina, a state school. The court currently plans to hear lawsuits against the two schools together, but may separate them and give Jackson a chance to participate in one of the biggest issues of the next term.

Republicans paid more attention to her sentencing on Wednesday, specifically child pornography cases, than they did on Tuesday. As the day progressed, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin slammed his gavel at one point, refusing to yield after Cruz ran out of time while grilling Jackson.

“You can bang it as long as you want,” Cruz shouted as he just wanted Jackson to answer his question.

“At some point you have to follow the rules,” Durbin shot back.

In another round of tense interrogation, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham questioned Jackson on the sentence she considers appropriate to those convicted of child pornography. Like Cruz and others on the committee, Graham said she has been very generous to those criminals. Graham would often interrupt her when she answered; At one point he said that the judges should simply “put themselves in jail!”

The focus on sentencing was part of a larger effort by the committee’s Republicans—many of whom are potential presidential candidates—to characterize Jackson’s record, and his judicial philosophy, that heavily sympathized with criminals who committed the worst crimes. and is softer. It was also a reflection of an emerging emphasis on crime in GOP midterm election campaigns.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis told Jackson that she seemed like “a very kind person”—but “at least there is a level of empathy that permeates your treatment of the defendant that some may see as What would be comfortable with some of us. With regard to getting justice.”

Continued attention to her record shows that, contrary to Democratic expectations, Jackson’s confirmation vote in the full Senate is unlikely to receive much, if any, Republican support. Still, many Republicans acknowledged that he is likely to be in court. Democrats can ratify him 50-50 in the Senate without any bipartisan support as Vice President Kamala Harris could cast a tiebreaking vote.

Jackson, backed by the Democrats’ Committee, said Republicans were misrepresenting his decisions. Asked whether his decisions were putting children in danger, he told the committee on Tuesday: “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

She said she bases sentences on several factors, not just federal guidelines. Sentencing is not a “numbers game”, she said, noting that there is no mandatory sentence for sex offenders and there has been significant debate on the subject.

Some of the cases have given her nightmares, she said, and were “one of the worst I’ve seen.”

Jackson said that if confirmed, she would do what she has done as a federal judge, “which is to rule from a position of neutrality, without an agenda to carefully consider the facts and circumstances of each case.” is, without any effort. To push the law in one direction or the other.”

She reminded the committee that her brother and two uncles worked as police officers, and that “crime and the impact on the community, and the need for law enforcement – these are not abstract concepts or political slogans to me.”

President Joe Biden elected Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign pledge to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court. She will replace Justice Stephen Breuer, who announced in January that he would retire this summer after 28 years.

Jackson would be the third Black Justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the Sixth Lady. His confirmation would maintain the current 6-3 Conservative majority in court. She will also be the first former public defender in court, and the first since Marshall to represent impoverished criminal defendants.

Some of the most belligerent rounds of questioning during the hearing came from potential GOP presidential candidates, including Cruz, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. All strike at issues that are popular with the GOP base, including attacks on critical race theory, the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. Jackson stated that the idea did not come up in his work as a judge, and that if confirmed it would be “not something I would rely on”.

When asked about abortion, Jackson readily agreed with comments that conservative Justices Amy Connie Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh made two landmark cases when they were up for confirmation. “Roe and Casey are Supreme Court established laws relating to a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. They have established a framework that has been ratified by the court,” Jackson said.

Even now, the court is considering whether to dismiss cases that affirm the right to abortion nationwide.

At the end of Tuesday’s lengthy hearing, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., asked Jackson when life begins. He told her she didn’t know, and added, without elaborating, “I have a religious point of view which I set aside when ruling matters.”

After Wednesday’s session, Democrats criticized Republican questions and praised the way Jackson handled it.

“For some who oppose him, it is a bitter pill to accept this kind of change in America,” Durbin told reporters.


Associated Press writers Jessica Gresco, Lisa Mascaro, Josh Bock, Colleen Long and Kevin Freaking in Washington and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.

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