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Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson defends record in second day of confirmation hearings

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Senate committee grills Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson 02:48

Washington — The second day of Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing wrapped up after more than 13 hours of questioning, with senators grilling her on her judicial philosophy, including on abortion, as well as her past rulings.

"I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning. I believe that it's appropriate to look at the original intent, the original public meaning of the words when one is trying to assess, because again that's a limitation on my authority to import my own policy views," Jackson said while being questioned by Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

While the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee generally gave Jackson time to expand on her background, the Republicans repeatedly questioned her on some of the biggest culture war issues: Critical Race Theory, gender, abortion, increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court and her representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees. 

Jackson also faced a barrage of questions from Republican senators about her sentencing in child pornography cases, a line of questioning previewed by GOP Senator Josh Hawley last week. Jackson stressed that the crimes committed were "horrific" and "horrible," yet she noted that trial judges assigned these cases must adhere to parameters laid out in federal statutes by Congress.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her Senate confirmation hearing to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

"In every case, I did my duty to hold the defendants accountable in light of the evidence and the information that was presented to me," Jackson said. "The evidence in these cases are egregious. The evidence in these cases are among the worst that I have seen, and yet, as Congress directs, judges don't just calculate the guidelines and stop. Judges have to take into account the personal circumstances of the defendant because that's a requirement of Congress."

Jackson also said that Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal, is "settled law." Under further questioning from Republican Senator John Kennedy, Jackson said that, although she has her own personal religious views on when life begins, she doesn't know when the equal protection clause begins to apply. 

Each of the 22 senators on the committee are allowed 20 minutes to question Jackson. Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Jon Ossoff will lead off when questioning resumes on Wednesday.

President Biden nominated Jackson, 51, last month to replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who, at 83, is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. Breyer will retire at the end of this term. 


Hearing wraps for the day

The hearing concluded for the day at 10:12 p.m. The committee will resume Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., when Senators John Ossoff and Thom Tillis will question Jackson. 

Chairman Dick Durbin said Jackson exemplified "grace under pressure." 

By Kathryn Watson

Blackburn delivers final line of questioning

GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn delivered the final line of questioning of the night. 

Blackburn pressed Jackson on topics like abortion, gender and transgender rights. 

Jackson said whatever is decided in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization will be the precedent. That case deals with the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after the third trimester. 

"Abortion is a right that the Supreme Court has recognized — it's one of the kinds of rights that is unenumerated," Jackson said, referring to precedent in Roe v. Wade. 

Blackburn pressed Jackson if she can define what the word "woman" means. 

"I can't," Jackson responded. 

Jackson reiterated that cases need to be determined individually and on their merits. 

By Kathryn Watson

Jackson says she doesn't know when life begins for equal protection but has religious beliefs on the topic

Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana had an exchange with Jackson in which she said she doesn't know when life begins. She said although she has religious views on the matter, she doesn't know when the equal protection clause begins to apply. 

Here is that exchange. 

KENNEDY: "When does life begin, in your opinion?"

JACKSON: "Senator, I don't know."

KENNEDY: "Ma'am?"

JACKSON: "I don't know"

KENNEDY: "Do you have a belief?"

JACKSON: "I have personal, religious and otherwise beliefs that have nothing to do with the law in terms of when life begins."

KENNEDY: "Do you have a personal belief though, about when life begins?"

JACKSON: "I have a religious view—

KENNEDY: "Religious belief?"

JACKSON: "— That I set aside when I am ruling on cases."

KENNEDY: "OK. When does equal protection of the laws attach to a human being?"

JACKSON: "Well senator, I believe that the Supreme Court — actually, I actually don't know the question to that, I'm sorry." 

By Kathryn Watson

Jackson again declines to weigh into court packing

Pressed by Republican Senator John Kennedy, Jackson reiterated that she doesn't think it's appropriate to weigh in on whether the court should or shouldn't be expanded. 

Jackson said judges should stay out of political debate, again pointing out that Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not answer the question either. 

Jackson said she's committed to making sure there is public confidence in her and in the judiciary.

Pressed further, Jackson said she doesn't have a strong opinion on the matter.

"Senator, I have an opinion about the efforts. It's not an opinion that I think is appropriate for me to share, and so therefore, I don't have anything further to add," she said. 

Jackson said she would be thrilled to be one of however many justices Congress places on the court.

By Kathryn Watson

Breaking down Supreme Court confirmation battle strategies

Breaking down Supreme Court confirmation battle strategies 01:26

Robert Costa spent the day on Capitol Hill speaking to senators from both parties about their strategies for the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson. He has more on whether there is any risk to Jackson's confirmation.


Senate committee grills Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

Senate committee grills Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson 02:48

Ketanji Brown Jackson defended her record as a federal judge and public defender as she faced intense questioning during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Jan Crawford shares the latest.


Jackson declines to give specific answers to Cotton's "policy questions" on crime

Republican Senator Tom Cotton, known for his tough-on-crime stance, asked Jackson whether there should be more or fewer police. 

Jackson declined to answer. She also declined to answer generalities about whether deterrence is effective in reducing future crimes.

Cotton then asked if Jackson knows whether 17 years, the average sentence, he said, for someone convicted of murder, is too long or too short. 

"Senator, these are policy questions," Jackson responded. 

Cotton pressed Jackson on unsolved crimes, asking whether the U.S. should catch and imprison more or fewer sex offenders and murderers. 

Jackson noted it's important that people be held accountable for their crimes, and said if they aren't, it's a "problem for the rule of law.

"I know what crime does to our society. I care deeply about public safety," said Jackson, noting she has family members in law enforcement.  

Cotton said these shouldn't be difficult questions to answer. 

"It's not that they're difficult questions, it's that they're not questions for me," Jackson said. "I am not the Congress. I am not making policy around sentencing." 

Cotton and Jackson also had a lengthy exchange over her sentencing of a drug dealer. 

By Kathryn Watson

Republicans raise concerns over records they didn't receive

Republicans on the committee raised concerns over a report they did not receive in which a probation office asked for 18 months for a child pornography defendant, and Jackson only gave the defendant three months. 

Republicans said they were unaware that the probation office asked for 18 months, and blasted Democrats and the White House. 

"For some reason, your side didn't request the information," Senate Judiciary chair Dick Durbin said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Cruz asks Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory during hearing

Sen. Ted Cruz asks Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory during hearing 05:53

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, asked Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory during the second day of her confirmation hearings on Tuesday. CBS News legal contributor Rebecca Roiphe joined CBS News' Tanya Rivero and Nikki Battiste to discuss.


Hirono defends Jackson from GOP attacks about record in child pornography cases

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, raised instances of other federal judges who were nominated by Republican presidents and supported by Republican senators and sentenced child pornograpy defendants below federal guidelines, as they have criticized Jackson for doing.

She also asked Jackson about her decision in a dispute involving former White House counsel Don McGahn and the House Judiciary Committee over a subpoena for his testimony during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"The precedent wasn't just close, it was nearly identical," Jackson said of an earlier decision within her district involving testimony from a White House counsel, which informed her ruling in McGahn's case.

Hirono also sought to allow Jackson to clarify her work in cases involving Guantanamo Bay detainees, noting that she helped draft a friend-of-the-court brief from a group of former federal judges and a diverse group of organizations.

By Melissa Quinn

Hawley questions Jackson's "discretion" in child porn cases

Following Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, GOP Senator Josh Hawley also pressed Jackson on the sentences she imposed on defendants in child pornogrophy cases.  Hawley last week tweeted that Jackson "has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook," the first Republican to bring up the issue.  

Hawley asked Jackson about specific child porn cases, reading back through her sentencing decisions. Hawley suggested that Jackson said the crimes committed by a particular child porn defendant weren't egregious. 

"As a judge who is a mom and has been tasked with the responsibility of actually reviewing the evidence, the evidence that you would not describe in polite company, the evidence that you are pointing to, discussing, addressing in this context is evidence that I have seen in my role as a judge," Jackson responded. "And it is heinous, it is egregious. What a judge has to do is determine how to sentence defendants proportionately consistent with the elements that the statutes include with the requirements that Congress has set forward."

All of the offenses are "horrible" and "egregious," she said. 

Hawley mentioned his own kids, and said he lives in "fear" they will be exposed to illicit images, or even worse, have their own images exposed. Hawley brought up a case of an 18-year-old defendant Jackson sentenced, reading back the record in which Jackson apparently apologized to the defendant. Jackson sentenced the 18-year-old individual to three months in federal prison.

"Is he the victim here?" Hawley asked. "Or are the victims the victims?" 

Jackson assured Hawley that she does not handle child pornogrophy sentences differently than judges in her district or across the nation. The nominee said she considered that case to be "unusual," although she didn't recall the full record. 

"My only point to you is that judges are doing the work of assessing in each case a number of factors that are set forward by Congress, all against the backdrop of heinous criminal behavior," she said.

With "all due respect," Hawley responded, "I am questioning your discretion and your judgment."

Senate Judiciary chair Dick Durbin said Congress' hands aren't clean in this area, and has left sentencing guidelines to judges. He said Congress has "left judges in the lurch" when it comes to sentencing child pornography cases. 

Hawley said his concern is when Jackson hasn't followed prosecutors' recommendations for sentencing. 

By Kathryn Watson

Sasse tries to hone in on Jackson's judicial philosophy

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska sought to drill down more on Jackson's judicial philosophy and noted that in an earlier explanation of her approach to her decisions, she paid "partial tribute" to originalism, the judicial philosophy adhered to by conservative members of the Supreme Court, including Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett.

"I don't really have a justice that I've molded myself after or that I would," Jackson told Sasse when he asked who on the Supreme Court she has modeled her approach after. "What I have is a record. I have 570-plus cases in which I have employed the methodology that I've described and that shows people how I analyze cases."

Jackson stressed that in each case, she proceeds "neutrally" and thoroughly describes the arguments made before her in her decisions.

"I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning. I believe that it's appropriate to look at the original intent, the original public meaning of the words when one is trying to assess, because again that's a limitation on my authority to import my own policy views," she said. "But there are times when the meaning — unreasonable searches and seizures, due process — looking at those words are not enough to tell you what they actually mean. You look at them in the context of history, you look at the structure of the Constitution, you look at the circumstances that you're dealing with in comparison to what those words meant at the time that they were adopted and you look at precedents that are related to this topic."

Sasse called it in the "American civic interest" for the public to understand different approaches to the law and asked Jackson to evaluate the differences in Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophies, the three current members of the Supreme Court's liberal wing.

After probing Jackson about statutory interpretation, Sasse asked her about Roe and Casey, the two Supreme Court decisions that established, and reaffirmed, a woman's right to an abortion.

"After Casey, the court has determined not so much that the right to terminate a woman's pregnancy is fundamental, the right exists and it's subject to the framework in Casey that allows for regulation so long as there's not an undue burden on the exercise of the right, pre-viability," she said.

By Melissa Quinn

"I sometimes still have nightmares" about child porn case, Jackson says

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons came to Jackson's defense, noting several cases in which Jackson imposed exactly the sentence the prosecution requested in child pornography cases. He then gave Jackson the opportunity to respond further to criticisms from Cruz.

"These are the cases that wake you up at night, because you're seeing the worst of humanity," she said. "When there are victims' statements that are presented, when people talk about how their lives have been destroyed as children, how the people who they trusted to take care of them were abusing them in this way, and then, putting the pictures on the Internet for everyone to see."

"I sometimes still have nightmares about the main witness, the woman I mentioned earlier, who cannot leave her house because of this kind of fear, the vulnerability, the isolation," she continued. "These crimes are horrible. And so, I take them very seriously." 

Jackson was referencing a case she oversaw involving a victim who suffered from agoraphobia because she feared everyone she met outside would have seen the illicit pictures of her abuse.

By Kathryn Watson

Jackson: Critical race theory "doesn't come up in my work as a judge"

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas opened by saying he and Jackson have "known each other a long time," having worked on the Harvard Law Review together. 

"We weren't particularly close, but we were always cordial," he said. 

Cruz also noted their shared admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Then he went on to describe the New York Times' 1619 Project, claiming it's been "roundly refuted." The 1619 Project is closely related to critical race theory, Cruz said, asking Jackson to explain her understanding of critical race theory. 

"Senator, my understanding is critical race theory is an academic theory about the ways in which race interacts with various institutions," Jackson responded. "It doesn't come up in my work as a judge. It's never something I've studied or relied on, and it wouldn't be something that I would rely on if I were on the Supreme Court."

Sen. Ted Cruz asks Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about critical race theory during hearing 05:53

Pressed further, Jackson reiterated that she's never used critical race theory in her work as a judge. Cruz then referred to a 2015 speech in which he said Jackson referenced critical race theory. Jackson said the section of the speech Cruz' staff displayed on a slide doesn't fully reflect her speech. 

"That slide does not show the entire laundry list of different academic disciplines that I said relate to sentencing policy, but none of that relates to what I do as a judge," she said. 

Senate Holds Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings For Ketanji Brown Jackson
Sen. Ted Cruz questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2022. / Getty Images

Cruz asked Jackson if she believes critical race theory is taught in K-12 schools, and she said she didn't believe it is. Moments later, Cruz displayed slides of books that he said are taught in Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. Jackson sits on the school's board.

Jackson said she thought Cruz was referring to public schools, not private schools, like Georgetown Day School.

Cruz continued to press Jackson on her familiarity with critical race theory as taught in illustrated children's books. 

"Senator, I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas, they don't come up in my work as a judge, which I'm respectfully here to address," Jackson responded. 

By Kathryn Watson

Jackson continues defense of sentences in child pornography cases

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, noted from the outset in her questioning of Jackson that other judges who were supported by GOP senators imposed sentences similar to those handed down by Jackson in child pornography cases.

"These cases are horrific and there's a lot of disparity because of the way the guidelines are operating in this particular area," Jackson said. "But in every case that I handled involving these terrible crimes, I looked at the law and the facts, I made sure that the victims, the children's perspectives were represented and I also imposed prison terms and significant, significant supervision and other restrictions on these defendants."

Klobuchar went on to lament that public confidence in the court has declined and asked Jackson how it can be maintained. The judge said she is hopeful her historic nomination will help inspire Americans to understand the nation's courts are "like them, that our judges are like them."

"Public confidence in the court is crucial. As has been said here earlier, the court doesn't have anything else, that is the key to our legitimacy in our democratic system," she said. "I am honored to accept the president's nomination in part because I know it means so much to so many people. It means a lot to me. I am here, standing on the shoulders of generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity."

Klobuchar also pressed Jackson on the Supreme Court's use of the so-called "shadow docket," which refers to the orders and emergency decisions issued by the court without full briefing and oral argument. The court's emergency docket has come under scrutiny in recent months, particularly after the justices rejected a request from abortion providers in Texas to block a law banning abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

"There's a balance that the court has to consider insofar as on the one hand, it has always had an emergency docket, the need for flexibility. The ability to get answers to the parties at issue is something that's important in our system," Jackson said. "On the other hand, the court has also considered the interest in allowing issues to percolate, allowing other courts to rule on things before they come to the court, and I am not privy at the moment to the justices views and why and how they're using the emergency docket in these cases."

If confirmed, Jackson said she would examine concerns raised about the shadow docket, but added "it's an interesting and important set of issues."

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson says Biden didn't ask her about her judicial philosophy

Republican Sen. Mike Lee began his questioning by expressing concern that Jackson's consideration of cases could potentially amount to policymaking. Lee asked whether the outcome of a case determines the law or the law determines an outcome of a case. 

"The law determines the outcome of the case," Jackson responded. 

Lee said there's a reason justices are given life tenures, so they have the ability to issue opinions with which they might be uncomfortable. Supreme Court justices are insulated from the election pressures lawmakers face, Lee said. 

Lee went on to discuss the 9th Amendment, which says "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Jackson said the text of the amendment suggests there are some rights that are not enumerated, but said she doesn't believe the Supreme Court has listed them. 

Lee asked how jurists should go about determining unenumerated rights. 

"The Supreme Court now very clearly has determined that in order to interpret provisions of the Constitution, we look to the time of the founding," Jackson said. 

Lee asked Jackson if the president asked her about her judicial philosophy in a broader sense, or specifically about her interpretation of the 9th Amendment. 

"He did not," Jackson responded. 

Jackson also said the president didn't ask her about her view of the 14th Amendment as it relates to the right to privacy.

By Kathryn Watson

Durbin seeks to clear up GOP claims Jackson called Bush a "war criminal"

After Durbin reconvened the hearing following a break for lunch, he addressed accusations raised by Cornyn that Jackson, in her defense of former Guantanamo Bay detainees, called former President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "war criminals."

The assertion appeared to stem from Jackson's time as a federal public defender, during which she filed several habeas petitions against the United States that named Bush and Rumsfeld in their official capacities.

"You were advocating on behalf of individuals who argued they were civilians wrongly classified as enemy combatants of the United States, and your filing was part of your professional responsibility to zealously advocate for your clients," Durbin said.

He notes that in those petitions, the plaintiffs raised more than a dozen claims, including the allegation that the government sanctioned torture against them, which constituted war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute, a law that gives federal courts jurisdiction over suits filed by foreign nationals for alleged acts committed in violation of international law.

"So, to be clear, there was no time when you called President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld a 'war criminal,'" the chairman said.

In the filing from 2005, Jackson and other federal public defenders involved in the case wrote the U.S. officials' "directing, ordering, confirming, ratifying, and/or conspiring to bring about the torture and other inhumane treatment … constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity in violation of the law of nations under the Alien Tort Statute."

By Melissa Quinn

Whitehouse calls out Republicans for criticisms of dark-money groups

Whitehouse gave Jackson a bit of a reprieve during his allotted 30 minutes, focusing some of his time on an issue he often raises during nomination hearings for judicial nominees: the role of so-called dark-money groups, or those whose source of their funds is not disclosed, in the judicial selection process.

Whitehouse suggested Republicans were being hypocritical by attempting to tie Jackson and her selection to outside progressive judicial groups such as Demand Justice, which have spent large sums supporting her nomination. GOP-backed Supreme Court nominees, too, have enjoyed big-money backing from organizations such as the Judicial Crisis Network. Leonard Leo, a former executive vice president at the Federalist Society, also helped craft former President Donald Trump's list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, and many of Trump's nominees to the federal bench were members of the group. 

"Because this is a very public forum and because we've heard all that so-called hammering of dark-money groups, I wanted to make sure it was clear to everybody how this game is played and what the difference is in the way the two sides play it," the Rhode Island Democrat said.

He went on to ask Jackson about the jury system and civil juries, in particular, given her years on the federal trial court in Washington.

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson pressed on same-sex marriage and constitutional rights

Republican Sen. John Cornyn pressed Jackson on her approach to same-sex marriage and rights that aren't spelled out in the Constitution. 

The Supreme Court is expected to take on a case of a Colorado web designer opposed to creating wedding websites for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs. The dispute will decide the question of "whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment." 

Cornyn started his time by asking what role Jackson believes justices have in policymaking. Jackson responded that "judges are not policymakers."

Cornyn noted that marriage has traditionally been defined and recognized by religions and religious beliefs, to which Jackson responded she is aware there are faiths that define marriage in a "traditional way." 

Cornyn said the court has decided it can define marriage, something that isn't mentioned in the Constitution, and that no state can pass any law that conflicts with the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which might conflict with individuals' religious beliefs. Marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution, but religious freedom is, Cornyn said. 

The Texas Republican said the states, not the court, should make decisions on unenumerated rights, and asked Jackson what other rights not mentioned in the Constitution she believes exist. Cornyn asked Jackson if she shares his concern that when the court takes on the role of identifying an unenumerated right, a conflict exists and religious individuals can be vilified. 

"Senator, I understand that concern and because there are cases that are addressing these sorts of fissures, I'm not in a position to comment," she responded.

By Kathryn Watson

Jackson says Roe and Casey are "settled law"

Feinstein asked Jackson about her views of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the landmark cases in which the court said states cannot ban abortion before fetal viability, or the point at which the fetus can survive outside the womb, which is now considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

"Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman's pregnancy," she said.

Feinstein's question comes as the Supreme Court is currently considering a case involving a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and, after oral arguments in December, a majority of the court appeared poised to let the law stand. It's unclear whether the justices will go so far as to overturn Roe and Casey, but a decision in favor of Mississippi would pave the way for states to impose more stringent rules on abortion.

Feinstein noted that if Jackson is confirmed by the Senate, she would join three other women on the Supreme Court, bringing the bench the closest to gender parity it has ever been.

"One of the things that having diverse members of the court does is it provides for the opportunity for role models," Jackson said when asked about there being four women justices. 

She said that since being announced as Mr. Biden's nominee, Jackson has heard from young girls around the country.

"We want, I think, as a country, for everyone to believe that they can do things like sit on the Supreme Court," Jackson said. "And so having meaningful numbers of women and people of color I think matters. I also think that it supports public confidence in the judiciary when you have different people, because we have such a diverse society."

By Melissa Quinn

Graham draws distinctions between Republicans' and Democrats' handling of judicial confirmations

Attempting to mount thinly veiled criticism of Democrats' handling of past judicial confirmations, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham began his 30 minutes with a series of questions about Jackson's faith, including what religion she practices and how many times she attends church.

"Personally, my faith is very important but as you know, there is no religious test under the Constitution," she said. "It's very important to set aside one's personal views."

Graham asked Jackson whether she attends church "regularly."

"I'm reluctant to talk about my faith in this way just because I want to be mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views," she said.

Graham then expressed frustration toward Democrats' treatment of two judicial candidates backed by Republican presidents: Justice Amy Coney Barrett when she was nominated to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a former judge on the D.C. Circuit who was considered a possible Supreme Court candidate to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"There are two standards going on here," he said. "If you're an African-American conservative woman, you're fair game to have your life turned upside down, to be filibustered, no matter how qualified you are. And if you express your faith as a conservative, all of a sudden, you're a nut."

Graham went on to press Jackson about her work both in private practice and as a federal public defender on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. While working in the Supreme Court and Appellate Group of a private law firm, she co-authored amicus briefs for clients in two of the cases involving Guantanamo Bay detainees — one on behalf of former federal judges and the other on behalf of the Cato Institute, the Constitution Project and Rutherford Institute.

"When you are an attorney, and you have clients who come to you, whether they pay or not, you represent their positions before the court," Jackson said.

Graham asked Jackson about her awareness and involvement with progressive organizations supporting her nomination, including Demand Justice, which was the subject of attacks by Republicans on Monday.

Jackson said she has not had any interaction with Demand Justice, and, when pressed by Graham on whether she knew liberals were cheering for her nomination, replied, "A lot of people were cheering me on." 

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson responds to claims from Republicans of being "soft on crime"

Senate Holds Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings For Ketanji Brown Jackson
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2022. Getty Images

In response to questions from Leahy, Jackson defended her two years working in the Federal Public Defender's Office in Washington and said it's an asset for judges to have experience working in the criminal justice system, whether it's as a prosecutor or defense attorney.

"You understand how the system works and as a defense counsel, you have interacted with defendants in a way that as a judge, at least as a trial judge, I thought was very beneficial," she said.

Leahy called claims that experience is a liability "confusing."

Jackson said her experience representing indigent criminal defendants did not change the outcome of the cases she heard as a federal judge but helped her develop the sense that defendants needed judges to communicate directly with them to help shape their understanding of the system.

"When people go through the criminal justice system and don't have a good understanding, they tend to not take responsibility for their own actions. They tend to be bitter and feel as though the justice system has wronged them, and so while they're doing their time, rather than reflecting on the fact that this is the consequence they have to face for actually committing a crime, instead of doing the work to rehabilitate themselves, they're focusing on how wronged they are, how victimized they feel," she said.

Leahy also asked Jackson to respond to Republicans' characterization of Jackson as being "soft on crime," in part because of her experience as a federal public defender.

Jackson cited her family's history in law enforcement, including her brother who patrolled the streets of Baltimore as a police officer and two uncles, one of whom became chief of the Miami Police Department in the 1990s.

"As someone who has had family members on patrol and in the line of fire, I care deeply about public safety. I know what it's like to have loved ones who go off to protect and to serve and the fear of not knowing whether or not they're going to come home again because of crime in the community," she said.

Jackson continued: "Crime and the effects on the community and the need for law enforcement, those are not abstract concepts or political slogans to me."

The judge also said that criminal defense lawyers play a crucial role in the U.S. legal system.

"Criminal defense lawyers perform a service and our system is exemplary throughout the world precisely because we ensure that people who are accused of crimes are treated fairly," she said.

Lastly, Jackson said as a judge, she cares deeply about the rule of law.

"I know that in order for us to have a functioning society, we have to have people being held accountable for committing crimes. But we have to do so fairly under our Constitution," she said.

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson fields questions on First Amendment, cameras in the courtroom and "living Constitution"

Grassley began his first round of questions with a moment of levity, noting that when he arrived home Monday, his wife said Jackson "did very good in your opening statement."

"She didn't have anything to say about my statement," he said to laughs. 

The Iowa senator first asked Jackson whether First Amendment free speech protections apply equally to conservative and liberal protests, to which Jackson said "yes."

He then asked whether she believes the individual right to keep and bear arms is a "fundamental right."

"The Supreme Court has established that the individual right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right," she said.

Grassley asked Jackson about her views on televising Supreme Court oral arguments, a proposal that has support from many senators but which most justices oppose. The court currently provides live audio of proceedings, which was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, though it's unclear whether the live-streamed audio will be made permanent.  

"I would want to discuss with the other justices their views and understand all of the various potential issues related to cameras in the courtroom before I took a position on it," she said.

Grassley also asked Jackson about remarks she made at the University of Chicago School of Law in 2020, during which she quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., and noted the changing landscape in the nation with regards to civil rights.

"Do these quotes still reflect your views on this very important topic today?" he asked.

Jackson said that in her speech, she detailed her background, including that her parents attended racially segregated schools in Miami, Florida. Yet when Jackson attended school in Miami decades later, her experience was "completely different."

"The fact that we had come that far was to me a testament to the hope and the promise of this country, the greatness of America that in one generation, we could go from racially segregated schools in Florida to have me sitting here as the first Floridian ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States," she said. "That is my belief."

Again pressed about adding seats to the Supreme Court, Jackson declined to take a position on so-called "court-packing."

"Other nominees to this Supreme Court have responded as I will, which is that it is a policy question for Congress and I am particularly mindful of not speaking to policy issues because I am so committed to staying in my lane of the system because I just am not willing to speak to issues that are properly in the province of this body," she said.

Grassley also asked Jackson whether she believes there is a "living Constitution," an interpretation that the Constitution's meaning evolves over time. The theory is adhered to by some justices that are considered more reliable liberal votes.

"I do not believe there is a living Constitution in the sense that it's changing and it's infused with my own policy perspective or the policy perspective of the day," she said.

Jackson later said her experience on the federal bench "informs me with respect to what I understand to be my proper judicial role."

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson defends representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees

Durbin asked Jackson about her representation of some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the years after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Jackson served in the Federal Public Defender's Office, and wrote briefs on their behalf while in private practice for a group of organizations, including a conservative think tank.

Jackson called 9/11 a "tragic attack on this country," but stressed her belief that the detainees ordered held at Guantanamo were "entitled to representation, were entitled to be treated fairly" by the legal system.

"I was in the Federal Public Defender's Office right after the Supreme Court decided that individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay by the president could seek review of their detention," Jackson said. "Those cases started coming in, and federal public defenders don't get to pick their clients … That's what you do, as a federal public defender."

She said the legal issues surrounding the inmates' detentions were murky as the Supreme Court considered questions about the executive branch's authority to hold them.

"Lawyers were trying to help the court to figure out what the executive's power was in this circumstance," Jackson said. "That's the role of a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal defense lawyers make arguments on behalf of their clients."

By Stefan Becket

Jackson rebuffs GOP "soft on crime" charge for sentencing in child pornography cases

Durbin also asked Jackson to respond to claims from Republicans, namely Hawley, that she imposed sentences on child pornography offenders that are below federal guidelines and is "soft on crime."

Numerous news outlets have evaluated Hawley's assertions about Jackson's record in child pornography cases and found they are misleading or lack context.

"As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth," Jackson said of the claims from Republicans. "These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with because we're talking about pictures of sex abuse of children, we're talking about graphic descriptions that judges have to read and consider when they decide how to sentence in these cases and there's a statute that tells judges what they're supposed to do. Congress has decided what it is that a judge has to do."

Jackson noted that the statute directs judges to "calculate the guidelines but also look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is 'sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of punishment.'"

"Congress tells judges what we're supposed to do when we sentence, and what I would say is Congress has to determine how it wishes for judges to handle these cases," she continued. 

Jackson said the law, as it is currently written, leaves extreme disparity in the system.

By Melissa Quinn

Jackson declines to weigh in on court packing

Responding to a question from Durbin, Jackson declined to take a side on whether the number of justices on the Supreme Court should be increased, known as "court packing." She cited Justice Amy Coney Barrett's response to the committee during her confirmation hearing in 2020, when she likewise declined to weigh in on the issue.

"I agree with Justice Barrett in her response to that question," Jackson said. "My North Star is the consideration of the proper role of a judge in our constitutional scheme and in my view, judges should not be speaking to political issues and certainly not a nominee for a position on the Supreme Court."

By Stefan Becket

Jackson explains judicial philosophy and her approach to cases

Ketanji Brown Jackson on her approach to cases and judicial philosophy 30:16

Durbin kicked off the second day of Jackson's confirmation hearings just after 9:05 a.m. with the nominee's arrival. Noting that each senator has 30 minutes to pose their questions to Jackson, Durbin advised: "History has proven that speeches don't have to be eternal to be immortal."

The chairman first asked Jackson about her judicial philosophy and proposals to expand the Supreme Court — an attempt to head off questions from GOP members who indicated Monday they would probe Jackson about both.

"Over the course of my almost decade on the bench, I have developed a methodology that I use in order to ensure that I am ruling impartially and that I am adhering to the limits on my judicial authority," Jackson said. "I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power and I am trying in every case to stay in my lane."

Jackson said she follows three steps when overseeing a case: ensuring she is proceeding from a position of neutrality; examining briefs, arguments, and the factual record; and interpreting and applying the law to the facts of the case.

"This is where I'm really observing the constraints on my judicial authority," she said. 

Jackson said this may entail looking at the text of the statute or Constitution and trying to determine what the words mean as they were intended by the people who wrote them and looking at original documents, focusing on the original public meaning. She may also look at the history and practice when the document was created, as well as precedent.

By Melissa Quinn

The list of senators questioning Jackson

The 22 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will each get up to 30 minutes to pose questions to Jackson when the second day of hearings start at 9 a.m. The committee will take breaks throughout the day, including for lunch and dinner.

Questioning will start with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, the committee chairman, followed by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member. Then questions will go to senators in order of seniority, switching between parties.

Here's the order of questioning:

  • Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois

  • Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa

  • Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont

  • Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina

  • Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California

  • John Cornyn, Republican of Texas

  • Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island

  • Mike Lee, Republican of Utah

  • Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota

  • Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

  • Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware

  • Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska

  • Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut

  • Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri

  • Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii

  • Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas

  • Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey

  • John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana

  • Alex Padilla, Democrat of California

  • Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina

  • Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia

  • Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee 

By Stefan Becket

Jackson vows independence and defense of the Constitution on first day of hearings

Special Report: Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gives opening statement in confirmation hearing 23:20

Jackson was sworn in by Durbin just after 3:20 p.m. and delivered her opening statement to the committee, pledging to support and defend the Constitution if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

"Members of this committee," she said, "if I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years."

Noting her nearly 10 years serving on the federal bench, Jackson said she takes seriously her responsibility to be independent.

"I decide cases from a neutral posture," she told the committee. "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."

Jackson offered gratitude to Mr. Biden for the "confidence" he placed in her and thanked the 45 senators she met with in the lead-up to her confirmation hearings.

"Your careful attention to my nomination demonstrates your dedication to the crucial role that the Senate plays in this constitutional process. And I thank you," she said.

Born in Washington, Jackson highlighted the lessons instilled in her by her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, who were both in attendance. Jackson said her father helped stir her interest in the law, as he was a full-time student at University of Miami Law School when the family moved to Florida.

"My very earliest memories are of watching my father study — he had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books," she said.

Jackson said her parents impressed upon both her and her brother, Ketajh, the value of public service, with her younger brother working as a police officer before joining the Army following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"Even prior to today, I can honestly say that my life had been blessed beyond measure," she said. "The first of my many blessings is the fact that I was born in this great nation, a little over 50 years ago."

Turning to her experience as a federal judge, Jackson noted her opinions tend to be lengthy, which she said reflects her commitment to being transparent and providing a thorough explanation of her decisions.

"All of my professional experiences, including my work as a public defender and as trial judge, have instilled in me the importance of having each litigant know that the judge in their case has heard them, whether or not their arguments prevailed in court," she said.

Jackson acknowledged her family in attendance at the hearing, including her husband Patrick, daughters Talia and Leila, parents, brother, in-laws, and three college roommates.

Honoring Breyer, for whom she clerked on the Supreme Court, Jackson called it "extremely humbling to be considered for Justice Breyer's seat, and I know that I could never fill his shoes.  But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit."

"I know that my role as a judge is a limited one, that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented, and I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent," she said.

Jackson said that across her judicial career, she has worked to ensure the words inscribed above the entrance to the Supreme Court "equal justice under law are a reality and not just an ideal."

By Melissa Quinn

Republicans show scars from Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing in opening remarks

As Republican members began delivering their opening statements, it quickly became evident that many were still reeling from Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings in 2018, which were roiled after he was accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations and was ultimately confirmed.

Nearly all GOP senators have so far invoked Democrats' handling of Kavanaugh's confirmation and pledged they would treat Jackson differently than their colleagues did him.

"I am dedicated, as I always have been, to making sure that these hearings are respectful," Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican of Utah, said. "Engaging in the politics of personal destruction is not something we should ever aspire to. It is something that has occurred on this committee in the context of Supreme Court nominations."

Lee said that if senators focus on personal attacks, they "will be betraying our duty under the Constitution and to our constituents to make sure that we do our jobs fairly and properly." 

"When we're focused on things that we have no business doing, like bringing forward spurious, last-minute, uncorroborated accusations of a personal nature, we neglect the importance of talking about the jurisprudential role, the philosophy that guides individual jurists," he said.

Graham, too, vowed Jackson would not be "attacked" or "vilified," and recounted the attacks Republicans faced during Kavanaugh's process.

Grassley, meanwhile, remarked on the differences between how senators approached Kavanaugh and Jackson's hearings, accusing Democrats of turning the 2018 proceedings "into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls."

"On that front, we're off to a good start," he said. "Unlike the start of the Kavanaugh hearings, we didn't have repeated, choreographed interruptions of Chairman Durbin during his opening statement like Democrats interrupted me for more than an hour during my opening statement at the Kavanaugh hearing."

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz claimed it's "only one side of the aisle" that has smeared Supreme Court nominees. He said Jackson's hearings "will not be a political circus," harkening back to Kavanaugh's hearings and even Supreme Court hearings before that. 

"This will not be the kind of character smear that sadly our Democratic colleagues have gotten very good at," Cruz said. 

By Melissa Quinn
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