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Jackson, In Her First Round of Hearings, Faces Hard Questions

Jackson, In Her First Round of Hearings, Faces Hard Questions
Source: The Times of Isreal

Senators will examine Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for the first time on Tuesday, as Democrats seek for a speedy confirmation of the court’s sole Black female justice in its 233-year existence.

On Monday, the first of four days of Judiciary Committee hearings on her nomination, Jackson, a federal appeals court judge, sat and calmly listened to more than four hours of senators’ opening speeches. On Tuesday, as senators begin 30-minute rounds of interrogation, she will reply to their particular issues, including Republican claims that she has been too lenient in criminal sentences.

Jackson said in her own 12-minute statement that if confirmed, she would “apply the laws to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath,” and that she would “apply the laws to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”

Jackson, 51, expressed his gratitude to God and his love for “our country and the Constitution.” In her nine years as a federal judge, she highlighted that she has been independent, considering cases “from a neutral position.”

Democrats praised President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, but Republicans vowed sharp questioning. To be first, said Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin, “you have to be the greatest, in some ways the boldest.”

In February, Biden announced his choice for Jackson, fulfilling a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first nominee in American history. She would succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in January after 28 years on the bench.

Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., expressed his “delight” over her historic nomination and acknowledged her family’s pride. The white men who have been on the Supreme Court for two centuries, according to Booker, are “great patriots who helped create this country,” but many people could never have imagined serving on the court.

After Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, Jackson would be the third Black justice and the sixth woman on the Supreme Court.

“This goal will become more tangible as the next generation looks to the highest courts in the nation,” Booker added.

Even though Breyer will not leave the court until after the current term concludes this summer, Democrats, who control the Senate by the slimmest of majorities, aim to complete Jackson’s nomination by Easter. Democratic leaders are hoping for Republican backing, but she may be confirmed with only Democratic votes in the 50-50 Senate since Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie.

Democrats on the Judiciary panel sought to counter Republican criticism of Jackson’s criminal record as a judge and prior to that as a federal public defender and a member of the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency created by Congress to reduce disparities in federal prison sentences, in their opening statements.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., claimed Jackson “is neither anti-law enforcement” or “soft on crime,” adding that members of Jackson’s family have served in law enforcement and that she has the endorsement of certain national police groups. “Judge Jackson is not an activist judge.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s top Republican, assured Republicans would “ask difficult questions about Jackson’s judicial ideology” without making the hearings a “spectacle.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, observed that Democrats had previously blocked several Republican judicial candidates who were Black or Hispanic, and he stated that Jackson’s color would not dissuade him or his GOP colleagues from asking probing questions.

“It’s basically, ‘We’re all racist if we raise hard questions,'” Graham said of some left-wing critics. “We’re not going to go along with that.”

Last year, Graham was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of Jackson’s nomination as an appellate judge, which passed 53-44. However, he has stated in recent weeks that he is unlikely to vote for her again.

Despite the fact that few Republicans are expected to vote for her, the majority of Republican senators did not attack Jackson, whose confirmation would not affect the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Instead of criticizing Jackson’s record, some Republicans used their opportunity to attack Senate Democrats.

Republicans are attempting to use her candidacy to paint Democrats as soft on crime, which is become a popular subject in Republican midterm election campaigns. Several former public defenders have been appointed to life-tenured judge positions by Biden.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said in his opening statement, with Jackson taking notes, that his investigation revealed she had a tendency of handing lighter punishments in child pornography cases, echoing statements he made in a Twitter thread last week. In a blast letter to supporters, the Republican National Committee reiterated his assertions.

Hawley’s critique has been dismissed by the White House, as well as numerous Democrats present at the hearing, as “toxic and poorly presented falsehoods.” Former Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who is mentoring Jackson through the Senate process, said later that on Tuesday and Wednesday, “she will be the one to rebut many of those issues.”

Along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Hawley is one of several committee Republicans who are considering running for president in 2024, and his ambitions may clash with those of other Republicans who want not to take a hard line on Jackson’s nomination.

Members of the Judiciary Committee are already aware with Jackson, who spoke before them last year after Biden appointed her to a federal appeals court in Washington. She was also reviewed by the committee and approved by the Senate as a district court judge and to her position on the sentencing panel by President Barack Obama.

Jackson expressed her gratitude and affection for her husband, Patrick Jackson, a physician in Washington who donned George Washington-themed socks and wiped away tears on occasion. Jackson’s parents and in-laws, as well as their two children, one in college and the other in high school, all attended.

The Supreme Court was in session Monday, but one chair was vacant, since the attention was on the Senate proceedings. Thomas, 73, the court’s longest-serving justice, was being treated for an infection at the hospital. According to the court, he does not have COVID-19.