(Trends Wide) — Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as Democrats seek to confirm the first black female justice and many Republicans seek a unified message to oppose her.
Democrats have touted the election of President Joe Biden as a qualified and “historic” candidate, while Republicans have criticized his record of convictions in criminal cases and the support he has from groups on the left.
“It will be a historic moment this Monday when Judge Jackson appears before the Committee,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said last week on the Senate floor. “Her qualifications from her are exceptional. In every position she has held, she has earned a reputation for consideration, fairness and camaraderie.”
Jackson, 51, is a member of the federal appeals court in Washington and had been considered the leading candidate for the vacancy since Judge Stephen Breyer announced her retirement. Jackson worked as Breyer’s secretary, a federal public defender, an attorney in private practice, a federal district court judge, and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.
Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings
At Monday’s hearing, Jackson and senators will make their opening statements setting out the arguments for and against his confirmation. Jackson will be introduced by Judge Thomas Griffith, a former member of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Lisa Fairfax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law. Jackson will answer questions from members on Tuesday and Wednesday, and witnesses will speak on Thursday. Democrats hope to confirm Jackson in early April.
No Democratic senator has signaled that they will oppose Jackson, and some Republicans have expressed a willingness to support her. In the 50-50 Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie vote and confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Many Republican senators are expected to oppose the candidacy and have tried to portray Jackson as weak in his fight against crime, which Democrats have refuted since his candidacy. When Biden gave a speech announcing his election in February, he made sure to point out that Jackson came from “a family of policemen, his brother and his uncles served as police officers.”
Some Republican senators have indicated they will press Jackson for having represented detainees at Guantánamo Bay.
“If someone is assigned a job as a junior attorney, you don’t get to choose your clients,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn told Trends Wide. “But if you volunteer because you’re a true believer, that’s a little different.”
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley raised concerns about Jackson’s sentencing record in child pornography cases. Hawley said on Twitter last week that there is “an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those who prey on children.”
The White House and Senate Democrats rejected Hawley’s attack, noting that Jackson has the support of law enforcement groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police, and dozens of former attorneys general. state. They noted that she has already been confirmed by the Senate three times.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Jackson imposed sentences “consistent with or higher” than recommended in the “vast majority of sex-related cases.”
“In the vast majority of cases involving sex crimes against children, Judge Jackson’s sentences were consistent with or higher than what the government or American parole recommended,” Psaki said last week.
A Trends Wide review of the material in question shows that Jackson has largely followed common court sentencing practices in these types of cases and that Hawley took some of his comments out of context by suggesting that they were opinions, rather than follow-up questions. subject, according to experts in the field.
Some Republican objections to Jackson
There are other issues that Republicans can investigate.
During Jackson’s confirmation hearings last year, some Senate Republicans focused on a 2019 case she heard among the House Judiciary Committee, which was investigating President Donald Trump’s possible obstruction of the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Robert Mueller, and former White House counsel Don McGahn. Ongoing cases involving Trump and branches of government could reach the Supreme Court, including disputes over whether Congress can access Trump’s financial records and whether private litigants could hold Trump responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection. of 2021.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, disputed Jackson’s statement that “presidents are not kings” and suggested she was engaging in a kind of hyperbole.
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed for Jackson to publicly oppose efforts to expand the court, which left-wing activists have called for since McConnell and Senate Republicans blocked the Supreme Court nominee. of President Barack Obama, Merrick Garland, in 2016 and then expanded, under Trump, the high court’s conservative majority from 5-4 to 6-3. Jackson’s candidacy to replace another liberal will not change the ideological balance on the court.
“This is about the institution of the Supreme Court,” McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “But she doesn’t respond … The liberal groups that are so excited about her nomination are the same ones that have been calling for more court packing or court term limits.”
Still, even those who may oppose Jackson hope this week’s hearings will be less contentious than those of the Trump era, which upset the balance of the court and, in the case of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, focused on allegations of sexual assault.
“I hope that we will see a thorough examination of his history, of his jurisprudence,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Trends Wide. “What we won’t see is the kind of political circus that we saw from the Democrats, particularly with Justice Kavanaugh, where they engaged in personal smears. They went down the drain.”
“I’m sure the Republicans are not going to respond in the same way,” he added.
Votes for Jackson in the Senate
Jackson may receive some votes from Republicans. Last year, she received three, from Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who confirmed her to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. .
Graham had preferred that Biden choose Justice J. Michelle Childs from his home state and later criticized the president for choosing another Ivy League-educated candidate, even though Graham himself has supported conservative Supreme Court justices from those states. elite institutions. Jackson attended a public high school in Miami before earning his undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.
Murkowski has said that his previous support for Jackson to be a judge does not indicate how he would vote for Jackson for the court.
But Collins has praised Jackson’s credentials and experience as “impressive.” The Maine Republican said she would not make her decision until after her hearings before the Judiciary Commission.
— Trends Wide’s Joan Biskupic and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.