Ketanji Brown Jackson To Face Senate Judiciary Committee Grilling

Jackson will face questioning from the 22 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a hearing that may go up to 11 hours long if all 22 senators use their maximum allowed time.

Republican senators, who are preparing to grill the Supreme Court nominee, have said that they will not “unleash” on her or “attack” her the way Democrats attacked Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

“No Republican senator is going to unleash on you an attack about your character when the hearing is virtually over, promised Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), referencing how Democrats suddenly produced a letter from Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ahead of the Kavanaugh hearings. “None of us, I hope, have been sitting on information about you as a person for weeks or months. You come into our offices and we never share it with you to allow you to give your side of the story. We wait to the very last minute when the hearing’s about to be gaveled, concluded, and say, ‘Oh by the way, I’ve got this letter.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) promised Jackson that the GOP would not imitate Democratic attacks. “I can assure you that your hearing will feature none of that disgraceful behavior. No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits. No one is going to ask you with mock severity, ‘Do you like beer?’ But that’s not to say this hearing should be non-substantive and non-vigorous.”

During the first day of the hearing, Jackson vowed to defend the Constitution and 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,” she said.

Jackson promised that her role as a judge is “a limited one” and that the Constitution only gives her the ability to decide cases and controversies that are “properly presented.”

“I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent,” she added. She also noted that she could never fill the shoes of Justice Stephen Breyer, who would replace if confirmed.

Her remarks followed several hours of statements from senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley had raised concerns last week that Jackson’s record demonstrates that she “has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes.”

His announcement prompted House Republicans to send a letter Monday to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for a full investigation of Jackson’s past rulings as a judge.

That letter, which was first obtained by the Daily Caller, calls on the committee to specifically look into three child pornography cases from when Jackson was vice-chair of the U.S. sentencing commission.

Hawley promised during his opening statements that he is not trying to trap Jackson with any “gotcha” questions, emphasizing that “she deserves a chance” to talk about her record.

“Some have asked, why did I raise these questions ahead of the hearing?” Hawley said. “Why not wait until the hearing and spring them on Judge Jackson, as it were? And my answer to that is very simple.”

“I’m not interested in trapping Judge Jackson,” he said.

“I’m not interested in trying to play gotcha,” he continued. “I’m interested in her answers, because I found in our time together that she was enormously thoughtful and enormously accomplished and I suspect has a coherent view and explanation.”

Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, the only Republican female member on the committee, expressed concerns in her opening statement about Jackson’s lack of “judicial philosophy.”

“I was concerned during our conversation earlier this month when you told me that you really didn’t have a judicial philosophy,” Blackburn said. “The American people deserve a Supreme Court justice with a documented commitment to the text of the Constitution and the rule of law, not a judicial activist who will attempt to make policy from the bench.”

Blackburn added: “Without a judicial philosophy a judge is legally adrift and will be inclined to consider policy rather than law.”

Jackson has previously articulated that her judicial philosophy is to strictly adhere to the “rule of law,” keep an open mind, and decide every issue in a “transparent, straightforward manner, without bias or any preconceived notion of how the matter is going to turn out.”

Her nomination to the Supreme Court has been financially propelled by Demand Justice, a judicial activism organization whose board member Elie Mystal recently drew backlash for saying the Constitution is “kind of trash.”

Mystal also accused Hawley last week of trying to get Jackson killed, calling Hawley’s allegations “trumped up alleged issues about her sentencing for sex offenders.”

“Because what Josh Hawley is doing when he tries to do this is he’s trying to get her killed,” he continued. “He’s trying to get violence done against a Supreme Court nominee.”

Alternatively, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee praised Jackson and highlighted the historic nomination of a black woman to the Supreme Court.

“Some of my Republican colleagues and public figures have attempted to undermine your qualifications through their pejorative use of the term ‘affirmative action,’ and they have implied you were solely nominated due to your race and not for other factors,” said Democratic Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono. “This is incredibly offensive and condescending.”

“Let me be clear,” added Hirono. “Your nomination is about not about filling a quota. It is about time. It’s about time that we have a highly qualified, highly accomplished black woman on the Supreme Court. It’s about time our highest court better reflects the country it serves.”

Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that questions aimed at Jackson’s judicial record amounted to “unfair” attacks, criticizing Republicans for saying that Jackson is soft on crime.

These accusations fly “in the face of pledges my colleagues made that they would approach your nomination with civility and respect,” he said.

“I’m confident the American people will see through these attacks and any other last minute attempts to derail your confirmation,” Durbin said.

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