5 takeaways from day one of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings

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Jackson’s opening statement touched on her humble journey and the gratitude she felt toward those who spurred her legal rise. She and her supporters have highlighted the “independent” approach she brings to the bench, while Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have argued that her confirmation would make the High Court more representative of the country it serves.

While previewing the parts of Jackson’s brief they intended to review, Republicans launched a round of criticism at Democrats over how they handled GOP nominee confirmations.

Much of Jackson’s opening remarks were about her upbringing and the gratitude she felt towards her parents as well as her faith.

As she affirmed her ‘thanks to God’, she said: ‘The first of my many blessings is that I was born into this great nation’ in 1970, the decade after Congress passed of two major civil rights bills.

Her name, “Ketanji Onyika”, means “beautiful”, she told the committee – an expression of “her parents’ pride in their heritage and their hope for the future”.

She recounted the interest she developed in law watching her father study law, while praising the “great mentors” she had in high school and the judges she worked for.

“Justice (Stephen) Breyer has not only given me the best job a young lawyer could ever hope for, but he also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court justice of the highest standard of skill and integrity, of civility and grace,” she said, referring to the justice she both clerks and would replace if confirmed.

“It’s extremely humiliating to be considered for Judge Breyer’s seat, and I know I could never fill his shoes,” she added. “But if he is confirmed, I hope to carry on his spirit.”

Jackson promises an ‘arm’s length’ approach to law, which supporters echoed

Jackson said she takes her responsibility to uphold the Constitution and her “duty to be independent” “very seriously.”

“I decide cases from a neutral posture,” she said. “I assess the facts, and interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, in accordance with my judicial oath.”

This description of his approach comes as Republicans have criticized his refusal to align himself with a specific judicial philosophy, such as originalialism or pragmatism.

On Monday, a prominent conservative judge testified about how she approaches her role as a jurist.

“Judge Jackson is an independent jurist who rules on the basis of facts and law and not as a partisan,” said retired Judge Thomas Griffith, a Republican appointee who served on the United Nations Court of Appeals. United States of DC circuit. “Time and time again she has demonstrated that impartiality on the bench.”

Democrats seek to get him to hear about public confidence in the court

Democrats have repeatedly reminded their audiences of the high stakes in these confirmation fights, referencing major cases before a conservative-dominated Supreme Court as they seek to connect the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination to confidence. audience in the courtyard.

As is common in these hearings, Democratic senators have addressed legal issues that resonate with their base – with allusions to Supreme Court cases involving health care, abortion rights, control of firearms and the environment.

READ: Ketanji Brown Jackson's opening statement during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing

“The American people, our voters … and their faith in the courts, that’s at the heart of our democracy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “They lose faith, then democracy loses. The decisions made by our courts – and ultimately by the Supreme Court – affect the daily lives of all of us.”

Because Jackson, if confirmed, will replace a fellow Liberal, her appointment alone is unlikely to change the 6-3 vote tally between Conservatives and Liberals on these various issues. But Democrats pointed to other ways Jackson — through the demographic and professional diversity she would bring — will give the court new perspectives and enrich the trust Americans place in it.

“If you are confirmed, we will go one step further to make our government better reflect the America it serves,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat.

Several Democrats have touted his track record as a federal public defender, a first for a justice, and how it helps him “understand our justice system in a unique way, through the eyes of people who couldn’t afford a lawyer. “, as Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, put it.

Republicans focus on treatment Kavanaugh received from Democrats

More than three years ago, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed after a series of tumultuous and intense hearings that tested the Judiciary Committee’s relationship. But despite time, their victory and the subsequent confirmation of another conservative justice, Republicans made it clear on Monday that they could not see Jackson’s nomination without the context of Kavanaugh’s.

Despite the fact that Republicans have pledged to seize his past writings, rulings and convictions, nearly every Republican member on the panel has pledged to draw a line.

“No Republican senator is going to throw a character attack on you when the hearing is pretty much over,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in her opening statement, alluding to how late it was in the process. when the allegations against Kavanaugh were revealed.

“None of us, I hope, have been sitting on information about you as a person for weeks or months. You come to our offices and we never share it with you to allow you to give your side of the story. We wait for it at the very last minute when the hearing is about to wrap up, wrap up and say, ‘Oh, by the way, I have this letter.'”

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa recounted how, when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh hearings, he was shouted at so intensely in the courtroom that he was delayed in his opening remarks. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas promised Jackson that Republicans would act differently from what he said Democrats did during the Kavanaugh hearings.

“I can assure you that your audience will not exhibit any of these disgraceful behaviors,” Cruz said. “No one is going to ask about your teenage dating habits. No one is going to ask you with mock severity, ‘Do you like beer?’ But that doesn’t mean that audience should be insubstantial and invigorating.”

Lawmakers indicate where their questions will go for Jackson

Amid blows to Democratic tactics in past confirmation fights, Republicans have offered some insight into what their questions to Jackson will explore.

Several senators noted that they wanted more clarity on Jackson’s judicial philosophy, an area that senators like Missouri’s Josh Hawley told CNN they probed in a private meeting with Jackson, but said. they still had no clarity.

“What she told me was that she doesn’t see herself as having a legal philosophy. You know, I don’t know if I’m buying that,” Hawley said.

Hawley also previewed a series of questions about how Jackson convicted a string of child pornographers who preceded her when she was a federal district court judge.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he was “troubled” by Jackson’s advocacy on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees and by the arguments Jackson “presented representing people who have committed terrorist acts against the United States.” United and other dangerous criminals”.

GOP senators push misleading portrayal of Ketanji Brown Jackson's child pornography case file

In what was perhaps the harshest opening statement from a GOP senator, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee suggested that Jackson had a “hidden agenda” that needed to be addressed, as she listed vague concerns about the critical race theory, school mask mandates, and letting “violent criminals, cop killers, and child predators return to the streets.”

Blackburn said Jackson wrote about the judges’ “hidden personal agendas”. The phrase comes from Jackson’s undergraduate thesis, where she wrote about the “hidden agendas” of “legal professionals” that lead to coercive plea deals.

Other Republicans argued they wanted Jackson to provide clear answers about where he stands on a litany of policy issues and the court’s future, including the left’s push to increase the number of justices. It’s an area that former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who served as Jackson’s “sherpa” on Capitol Hill, said Jackson is unlikely to answer.

“Everyone understands that the size of the Supreme Court is an issue for this body, for Congress. It’s not for the court, and I don’t think you’ll see a candidate address that,” he said. said Jones.

Still, opening statements provided a roadmap for Jackson’s team, with Monday providing one of the first public opportunities Democrats needed to see where Republicans would take that confirmation hearing.

“There are going to be very specific questions about her case. That’s what the senators are here for. She’ll be prepared,” Jones said.

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