Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces More Questions in Supreme Court Hearings

WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced a second full day of questioning from Senators on Wednesday with some Republicans further pressing the Supreme Court nominee over her sentences for convicted Criminals, while she and Senate Democrats defended her record on multiple fronts.


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) Opened the hearing by citing support for Judge Jackson from the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Law enforcement is on your side because you’ve been on their side at critical moments, and your family has dedicated a big part of their lives to law enforcement and you obviously believe it at your core,” they said. “So the soft is a crime charge, which leads to all others, falls on its face.”

On Tuesday, Judge Jackson answered the Senators’ first round of questions about her background as a public defender, her sentencing decisions in child-pornography cases and her judicial Philosophy, among other subjects.

Republican Senators zeroed in again Wednesday on sentences Judge Jackson imposed in child-pornography cases, arguing that she had been too lenient.

In one back-and-worth about sentencing guidelines, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., SC) repeatedly interrupted Judge Jackson and Accused her of not answering his questions.

“Your view of how to deter child pornography is not my view,” Mr. Graham said to her. “I think you’re doing it wrong and every judge who does what you’re doing is making it easier for the children to be exploited.”

Mr. Durbin — who allowed Mr. Graham to go over his allotted time to ask questions — intervened several times to tell the South Carolina Republican to let Judge Jackson respond.

“It has been a sad day for the US Senate,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) Told Reporters after Mr. Graham’s remarks to the judge. “I’m distressed by this kind of a complete breakdown,” he said, accusing Mr. Graham of playing politics with the subject of child pornography.

“Of course he was badgering her.” Mr. Leahy said, calling Mr. Graham’s comments “beyond the pale.”

Mr. Graham declined to comment to Reporters after questioning Judge Jackson.

Judge Jackson defended her record, saying that it is comparable to the records of other Judges. She also pointed out that at the time the sentencing guidelines were created for child pornography, the crime was primarily being committed by people using the mail and didn’t take into account the Internet, which enables hundreds of images to be downloaded in a few minutes .

“What we’re trying to do is be rational in our dealing with some of the most horrible kinds of behavior,” she said. “This is what our justice system is about.”

A report published by the US Sentencing Commission last year found that federal Judges across the country typically issue sentences below federal guidelines in cases where the offender isn’t producing child pornography, but is instead possessing, receiving or distributing it.

According to data from the 2019 fiscal year, such offenders received below-guideline sentences in roughly two-Thirds of cases. On average, Judges issued Prison terms at least two years Shorter than the minimum term called for by the guidelines. Still, the average Prison term for offenders is greater than it was more than a decade ago.

Mr. Graham’s interaction with Judge Jackson was one of a handful of flashpoints at Wednesday’s hearing, which was otherwise mostly calm.

Its. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Mr. Durbin clashed over whether Judge Jackson had called former President George W. Bush and his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, “war criminals,” extending the dispute into a second day.

Mr. Cornyn had asked Judge Jackson on Tuesday, “Why in the world would you call the Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and George W. Bush war Criminals” in habeas petitions she had filed on behalf of Guantanamo detainees she represented when she was a public defender.

Judge Jackson said she didn’t recall saying that, and said that in the filings she and colleagues had been “making allegations to Preserve issues on behalf of my clients.”

The petitions, which named Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld as respondent in their official capacities, argued, among other things, that the U.S. government had sanctioned torture against individuals, which would constitute a war crime.

The US government has said that the treatment of some detainees was torture, and the Supreme Court mentioned that in passing in a recent opinion.


How might Judge Jackson’s judicial Philosophy fit in with the Supreme Court? Join the conversation below.

Later Tuesday, Mr. Durbin told Judge Jackson that he had researched Republicans’ assertions and that “there was no time when you called President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld a — quote — war criminal — unquote.” She responded: “That was correct.”

Mr. Cornyn complained Wednesday that Mr. Durbin’s rebuttal had misrepresented his position and the facts.

“I asked her whether she had called him a war criminal and she said under oath to you, ‘No I did not,’ although the record is plain as can be that she accused him of war crimes,” Mr. Cornyn said, adding that Mr. Durbin shouldn’t be rebutting his points without giving him a chance to respond promptly.

“As I noted Yesterday. “These charges don’t hold up,” Mr. Durbin said Wednesday. He asked Judge Jackson to respond.

“Public Defenders don’t choose their clients, and yet they have to provide vigorous advocacy,” the judge said. “And as an appellate lawyer, it was my duty to file habeas petitions on behalf of my clients.”

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday refuted Criticism by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley that she gave out lenient criminal sentences against child-pornography offenders, during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Photo: Julia Nikhinson / Bloomberg News

Barring unforeseen developments, Judge Jackson’s confirmation is a virtual certainty. While the Senate is divided 50-50 between the two parties, Democrats hold the majority with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker. Even if no Republican votes for her, she will be confirmed as long as all Senators who Caucus with Democrats vote yes, since the threshold is a simple majority.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), Left, speaks with ranking GOP member Chuck Grassley of Iowa before the start of Wednesday’s hearing.


Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Still, a bipartisan vote would be seen as a symbolic Victory for the Biden administration and Senate Democrats. Last year three Republicans joined all 50 Democrats and independents to confirm Judge Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

One of those three, Mr. Graham again signaled he might be a no vote this time. Mr. Graham has said he’s angry President Biden had chosen Judge Jackson instead of Judge Michelle Childs of South Carolina, whom Mr. Graham had publicly championed.

Other Republicans seen as potential votes in favor of Judge Jackson’s confirmation are Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. None of them sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they have dropped a few clues as to where they stand. Sens. Murkowski and Collins voted to confirm Judge Jackson to the court of appeals last year.

Supreme Court confirmations have become increasingly partisan and contentious in recent years. In 2020, not one Democrat voted to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Nominated by then-President Trump to replace the late Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One GOP Senator, Ms. Collins, joined Democrats in voting against Justice Barrett’s confirmation, citing the Proximity of the election. It was the first time since 1869 that a Supreme Court nominee had been confirmed without a single vote from a major minority party.

In addition to being the first Black woman Nominated for the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson, if confirmed, would be the fourth woman on the current nine-member court.

She told Senators Wednesday that her parents grew up in Florida under lawful segregation, and were not allowed to go to school with white children, and she noted that the contrast between her reality growing up in Florida and her parents’ reality was “like night and day, in terms of the opportunities that were available to me. ”

“So what my being here is about, I think at some level, is the progress we have made in this country in a very short period of time,” Judge Jackson said.

Judge Jackson’s Nomination is part of a push by the Biden administration to diversify the federal Judiciary. As of Tuesday, the Senate had confirmed 50 of President Biden’s judicial Nominees, of whom 16 are Black, including 12 Black women, according to the Federal Judicial Center.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court Hearings

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected]

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