Supreme Court hearing brings culture war, tears


Supreme Court candidate Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to a question during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Washington. AP Photo/Ivan Vucci

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s not just Supreme Court designated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson being investigated. The senators are also looking at this milestone in history, considering the first black woman to run for the High Court.

Some senators have been overcome with “joy,” as New Jersey’s Cory Booker described the swell of emotion over the judge’s ability to confirm that would help the court look like America.

Sens Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz questioned a federal judge about his views on issues of race and crime, reacted to escalating election year complaints and changing culture.

Jackson appeared Wednesday for a tense hearing on the third day of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that provided a vivid portrait of the nation’s promise but also its enduring racial challenges.

At one point, she held back the bittersweet, if joyful, tears Booker talked about as all that has brought her to the point: “Here you are.”

Dick Durbin, D-Ill., opened Wednesday by saying that his panel had become a “testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories.”

Still, he declared, “America is ready to finally shatter the glass ceiling of the Supreme Court.”

Here are excerpts from the third day of the week-long confirmation hearing.

In defense of public defenders

Jackson is the first federal public defender to be nominated to the Supreme Court and his work as a federal judge, as well as his efforts to represent those accused of crimes, have provided a long record of difficult cases for senators to review.

Republicans have focused particularly on the emotional and contentious debate over the judge’s record for portraying child pornography offenders as soft on the crime. Critics say she brings too much “sympathy” to the law.

Under questions from Democratic Sen. John Osoff of Georgia, Jackson explained that prior to the court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, people who had been charged with crimes but could not afford lawyers were to be given legal representation. rights were not guaranteed.

He said that now every person accused of criminal behavior has the right of lawyer. “And that’s very important.”

Democrats argue that Jackson, who comes from a family of police officers, has the support of the larger law enforcement organization, the Fraternal Order of Police.

Jackson’s record is being scrutinized much, much like the work of the first black nominee in court, Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights lawyer, was investigated half a century ago to represent criminal defendants.

‘Judges can’t make laws’

Jackson presents himself as a judge who relies on law, not judicial philosophy, to remain neutral, as he is “to be in my alley” as a judge rather than a public policy-maker. works.

He expanded that view Wednesday by reminding senators that the Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws and the courts the power to interpret them.

“Judges cannot make laws; Judges should not be policy makers,” she told senators.

Jackson made news by saying that if confirmed, she would recuse herself from hearing an affirmative action case at Harvard University, her alma mater, where she now serves on Harvard’s board of overseers. “That’s my plan,” he told the senators.

Republicans have tried to portray Jackson as a potential activist justice, a judge who has shown “empathy” for defendants and cases that they argue goes too far for a position in the High Court, which Now 6-3 leans towards conservatives.

Sen. Thom Tillis, RNC, said, “It sounds like you’re a very kind person, and that there’s at least a level of empathy that permeates your treatment of the defendant that some people might see beyond . would be comfortable with some of us.”

review of records

The Republican-side senator is repeatedly returning to issues of race and crime, focusing on child pornography offenders that the judge himself has said are the toughest of his careers — some that still give him nightmares. .

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.C., took the arguments afresh, arguing that Jackson, as a judge, should have imposed stricter punishments on child porn defendants rather than applying other deterrents. That’s despite fact checkers and other experts who have said that the conditions given by Jackson are within the criteria for federal guidelines.

Graham said, “Put them in jail.”

Cruz, in a tense moment, sought to know why Jackson served lighter sentences in a series of cases displayed on the chart than government prosecutors or recommended guidelines.

Durbin said, the senator’s time had run out.

“You can bang it as long as you want,” Cruz told the president.

Jackson had said that no one sentence can last for whatever sentence she has served in the nearly decade on the bench, and she weighs all aspects of the case before her.

“I have said what I am going to say about these matters,” she said.

Senators on the Republican side have signed a letter demanding files on their cases, some confidential, insist on an in-depth investigation by the panel into Jackson’s decision-making. Durbin dismissed the request as unprecedented, a “fishing expedition” that he would not allow.

bitter tears

Jackson is making history as the first black woman nominated to the court, who once upheld racial segregation in America and has been predominantly white men for 233 years.

Democrats, with their slim majority in the 50-50 Senate, have the ability to confirm Jackson’s choice of President Joe Biden to replace retired Justice Stephen Breyer, even if all Republicans oppose. His nomination is on track for an Easter vote.

Of late, Booker marked the moment by saying that he refused to let opponents take away his “pleasure”.

“You are sitting with patience and grace,” he told her, as opponents hit a “new low” for her record.

Jackson’s face lit up as she talked about her family, her work, her achievements as a black woman in America. He took out a tissue and wiped his eyes.

“You,” he said, “are a great American.”

If confirmed, Jackson would become the sixth female justice in court history and the fourth of nine members of the current court.

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