Senators are signaling that they will home in on personal background, criminal sentencing and court-packing during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Jackson, nominated to replace retiring Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, was first appointed to the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., in 2013 by President Barack Obama. President Joe Biden elevated her to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining all 50 Democrats in voting to confirm.
All 22 senators on the Judiciary Committee, including Graham, received 10 minutes to make opening statements Monday. Jackson herself spoke shortly after 3:30 p.m., emphasizing that as a Supreme Court Justice she would “work productively to protect and defend the Constitution.”
“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” she said. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”
During pre-hearing remarks and opening statements, Democratic senators emphasized Jackson’s personal background and her historic nomination. Senators from both parties discussed criticisms that Jackson has been too willing to issue lenient sentences for criminals, including consumers of child pornography, and Democrats’ views on court-packing and previous nominations.
If confirmed, Jackson would become the first black female justice on the Supreme Court. However, she would also be one of four justices to graduate from Harvard Law School, and one of eight justices to graduate from an Ivy League law school. Biden administration allies like South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, as well as Graham, suggested before Biden nominated Jackson that they would prefer a candidate like District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs, who attended the University of South Carolina Law School.
“We’ve got to recognize that people come from all walks of life, and we ought not dismiss anyone because of that,” Clyburn said in January, expressing concern that the Court is becoming an “elite society.”
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, said that Jackson’s record is difficult for senators to parse because many judges with her background deliberately keep their views vague. Cruz and Jackson both attended Harvard Law School in the mid-1990s, with Cruz graduating in 1995 and Jackson in 1996.
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