Jackson Parries GOP Attacks, Inches Toward Joining Supreme Court – Bloomberg Law

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson held her own against a barrage of Republican attacks centering on crime and race, inching closer to becoming the first Black woman on the Supreme Court in a marathon day of testimony before a Senate panel.Backed by broad support from Democrats, Jackson on Tuesday pushed back against GOP accusations that as a federal trial judge she went easy on people convicted of child pornography offenses. Republicans, who have all but conceded Jackson will get confirmed, have seized on crime as an issue as they look ahead to the November midterm elections and the 2024 presidential race.“As a mother, these cases involving sex crimes, crimes against children are harrowing,” Jackson said, at times speaking with emotion. “The vulnerability, the isolation, these crimes are horrible and so I take them very seriously, just as I did all of the crimes but especially crimes against children.” Ketanji Brown Jackson Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg The session, which lasted into the night hours, underscored the deep partisan divide over the Supreme Court and President Joe Biden’s nomination of Jackson. Democrats, whose narrow control of the Senate means they can confirm her on their own, are solidly behind Jackson, while Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee indicated they may unanimously oppose her. Senator Lindsey Graham who supported Jackson last year for an appeals court position, signaled he is likely to vote against her this time. Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he found it “problematic” that Jackson’s selection was supported by “so many of these left-wing radical groups that would destroy the law as we know it.”Read More: What to Know About Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown JacksonJackson will return at 9: 00 a.m. Wednesday for a second day of questioning. Democrats say they expect she will be confirmed by April 9, when senators begin a two-week spring recess. She wouldn’t join the court, where she would replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, until its current term ends in late June or early July.‘Questioning Your Discretion’Jackson tangled with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who worked with her on the Harvard Law Review in the 1990s when both were law students. Moments after Cruz said he always had a “friendly and cordial” relationship, he accused her of embracing critical race theory, an approach that says any analysis of U.S. laws and policy must take into account how race and racism have shaped attitudes and institutions.“It doesn’t come up in my work as a judge,” Jackson countered. “It’s never something that I’ve studied or relied on, and it wouldn’t be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court.”Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley, each a prospective presidential candidate in 2024, both pointed to child pornography cases in which she imposed a sentence below what prosecutors requested and what the federal sentencing guidelines suggested.“I am questioning your discretion,” Hawley, a Missouri Republican, told Jackson. “That’s exactly what I’m doing.”Jackson responded that her cases weren’t cookie-cutter ones, and she carefully weighed several factors, including the recommendations of probation officers and a careful weighing of each case before she meted out punishment.“We have judges who are doing their level best to make sure that people are held accountable as they need to be in our society in a fair and just way,” Jackson said. WATCH: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson says she believes abortion rights have been settled by the Supreme Court. Source: Bloomberg Read More: n Cruz Battle, Jackson Sees Similar Hurdles as Past MinoritiesDemocrats overflowed with praise for Jackson, touting her intellect, background and demeanor.“For all of your extraordinary accomplishments and your immense distinction, you have shown two qualities that are rare among powerful, accomplished people -- kindness and humor,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “And you’re obviously a good listener because you’re doing a lot of listening here today.”Such words of praise served as a break from confrontational encounters with Republicans, who also questioned Jackson’s work representing accused terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack. She told senators the detainees were entitled to legal representation under the Constitution to ensure they were treated fairly.“That’s what makes our system the best in the world,” she said. “That’s what makes us exemplary.”Jackson, who would be the first former public defender to serve as a justice, said that experience has been an asset to her in handling of criminal cases.Read More: Jackson Pressed on Liberal Advocacy for High Court Nomination“When I sentenced a defendant, I made clear in every case, ‘Here is the problem, this is what you’ve done, here is the damage to our society,’ she said. “And I don’t know that I would have done that if I had not been a criminal defense lawyer.”Referring to the conservative takeover of the Supreme Court after three nominations by Republican President Donald Trump, she acknowledged the court now uses a method of constitutional interpretation known as originalism. That conservative-backed approach focuses on the meaning of the Constitution’s words at the time they were adopted.The court “very clearly has determined that in order to interpret provisions of the Constitution, we look to the time of the founding and we ascertain based on what the original public meaning of the words of the Constitution were at the time,” Jackson said. “Sometimes that yields a particular answer. Other times you may have to look to practices historically from that time.”She said rulings protecting abortion rights are “the settled law of the Supreme Court,” though the justices are currently considering overturning those rulings. They will rule on the issue before Jackson would take her seat after the court’s current term ends.Jackson refused to weigh in on the debate over adding seats to the Supreme Court, an idea some progressives have pushed to counter the stream of Republican appointees that have shifted the court’s balance. Jackson said she would follow the example of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who similarly declined to comment on the issue during her 2020 confirmation hearing.“It is a policy question for Congress,” Jackson said. “And I am particularly mindful of not speaking to policy issues because I am so committed to staying in my lane of the system.”(Updates with time for hearing start in sixth paragraph.)--With assistance from Kelsey Butler.To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at [email protected];Laura Litvan in Washington at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Elizabeth Wasserman at [email protected] Krause-Jackson© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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