Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What to Expect From Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Historic Confirmation Hearing?

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There is little reason to doubt that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed and become the first black woman to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court. She doesn’t need any support from Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and her nomination in place of outgoing Judge Stephen Breyer won’t change the court’s ideological makeup.

But this week’s hearings to examine the historic candidate will provide a platform for both Democrats and Republicans to send political messages, which is what they indicate they will do.

For Democrats, it’s a chance to confirm a historic new Supreme Court member, help President Joe Biden deliver on a big promise he made to black voters during the campaign, and advocate for some Republicans to get her back. also support. For Republicans, it’s an opportunity to use Jackson’s nomination, and the support she’s received from liberal groups like Demand Justice, to question whether Democrats are too far left and “soft on crime.”

“I think [Republicans’] focus will try to accuse Democrats and Biden of pro-crime, to try and cover up the dark money histories of their last three nominees with a lot of smoke about her alleged dark money histories,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Judiciary Committee, to cafemadrid “I think she’s going to be less of a target than we are, and they’ll be pushing her to make points before November.”

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pointed this out in a recent speech about Jackson’s nomination. “We need to investigate why the most left-wing activists in the country were so desperate to have Judge Jackson,” McConnell said. “Liberals say Judge Jackson’s service as a criminal defense attorney and then with the U.S. Sentencing Commission gives her special empathy for convicted criminals.”

When and how to watch Jackson’s hearings

The hearing will be broadcast from Monday, March 21 through Thursday, March 24, and will begin Monday at 11 a.m. and the following days at 9 a.m. It will be accessible through a livestream on the website of the Senate Judiciary Committee, like via C-SPAN

The panel begins Monday with statements from each senator on the committee, as well as an introduction from Jackson. Much of the action, however, will focus on Tuesday and Wednesday, when members of the commission will have the chance to ask questions about her experience and philosophy of law.

Jackson’s historic nomination, briefly explained

Biden first nominated Jackson to the Supreme Court in late February, a few weeks after Breyer announced he would be retiring.

As cafemadrid’s Ian Millhiser has explained, Jackson has long been a Supreme Court nominee and was previously interviewed for the job by former President Barack Obama as well.

If confirmed, Jackson would bring extensive experience to the position: she became a judge on the DC Circuit Court last summer and previously served as a judge on the DC District Court for eight years. Before that, she was a public defender, vice chair of the US Sentencing Commission – a federal body that guides the federal judiciary in sentencing – and a private attorney.

Jackson has ruled in a series of cases, joining a recent decision that Trump could not block House committees from accessing documents related to the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack. As a member of the Sentencing Commission, Jackson supported cuts of the fines for drug-related offenses, and as a public defender she represented a Guantanamo Bay detainee and criminal suspects.

Jackson’s nomination marks an important milestone: Biden had previously promised he would nominate the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, which has had only five female judges and two black judges in its more than 200-year history.

Confirmation will come soon after the hearing, with Democrats aiming to hold a final vote in the Senate before April 8.

If confirmed, it is not yet certain when Jackson will officially join the Court. Breyer has said he will retire at the end of this Supreme Court term this summer.

What to expect from Democrats and Republicans?

For the first time since 2016, Democrats are in a position to draft a candidate they support.

They will use the hearing to put forward her credentials, to emphasize how much bipartisan support she has, and to emphasize the importance of bringing more racial and ideological diversity to the federal bench.

“It’s clear that this is an extremely qualified person,” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told cafemadrid. “Their experience on the federal bench is eclipsing a lot of the people there right now.”

Meanwhile, Republicans stand ready to ask about Jackson’s track record on criminal justice issues, including her time with the US Sentencing Commission, her past defending a Guantanamo Bay detainee and decisions related to child molesters. Trump’s decision and the Jan. 6 documents, and comments she made to dismiss the court’s packaging, are also expected to be discussed.

Multiple Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, including Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have expressed particular concern about Jackson’s work on cases involving child molesters. In a recent Twitter thread, Hawley highlighted a series of cases where Jackson imposed shorter sentences on people in child pornography cases than federal sentencing standards. Many of the attacks in Hawley’s thread were groundless, and Jackson’s approach to sentencing was consistent with how bipartisan pundits have approached the issue.

“I think her cases and her file deserve answers, and I’d like to get them next week,” Hawley told reporters. “I would like to hear from her why she condemned the way she did.”

Overall, Jackson’s hearing gives Republicans a chance to bring up some of their favorite talking points against Democrats. However, GOP lawmakers say they will approach the hearing more respectfully than they say the Democrats have previously taken with nominees like Brett Kavanaugh, but that remains to be seen.

They have already considered Jackson to be far left because of the support she has received from progressive organizations. They have also stressed that her appointment contributes to a greater democratic effort to “go soft on crime.”

“President Biden is deliberately working to make the entire federal judiciary more lenient on crime,” Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said in a recent floor speech.

The challenge facing Republicans in this process is that the outcome is pretty much determined.

Since only a simple majority is required, Democrats will only be able to confirm it if all 50 members of the caucus stick together and Vice President Kamala Harris acts as the casting vote. Democrats have also emphasized that Jackson has the support of several bipartisan groups and law enforcement organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers confirmed Jackson before the DC Circuit Court 53-44, with Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Lindsey Graham who crossed party lines to support her. However, due to the politicized Supreme Court nominations, it’s not yet clear whether any of them would support Jackson this time around. For example, Graham noted that “the radical left won” when Jackson was nominated.

However, their votes are not needed as things stand, and aside from major surprises regarding Jackson, it is questionable whether the message from either side will stick.

“My goal is to make this a political wash rather than a political victory for Democrats,” said Mike Davis, the head of a right-wing group called The Article III Project, which has also had informal talks with Republican committee staff. .


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