Day two of the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson are underway. The nominee responded to many critiques, such as her record on sentencing, reproductive rights, faith, and what her nomination means. Here are some of the highlights of the hearings that have taken place so far.
On Expanding the Supreme Court
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked Jackson what she felt about expanding the Supreme Court. Jackson reiterated that this is up to Congress and not judges to decide.
“Respectfully, senator, other nominees to the 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,” she said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked questions regarding the presumption that Jackson is “soft on crime.” Some of this stems from Jackson’s previous stint as a public defender and an erroneous inference that she will side with defendants as a Supreme Court Judge.
“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.”
Jackson went on to say:
“I care deeply about our Constitution and the rights that make us free.”
“As you say, 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 to Leahy and the committee.
Much of this stems from Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) insistence that Jackson was lenient in the sentencing of child pornography cases. Jackson stated, “as a mother and a judge,” she said, “nothing could be further from the truth.”
She described looking into defendants’ eyes and emphasizing the lifelong effects on victims. She said it is “important to me to represent that the children’s voices are represented.”
“The way that the guidelines are now structured, it’s leading to extreme disparities in the system. Because it’s so easy for people to get volumes of this kind of material now,” Jackson said, referring to the ease and speed of downloading pornographic images and video online. “As it currently stands, the way the law is written, the way that Congress has directed the Sentencing Commission appears to be not consistent with how these crimes are committed. And therefore there’s extreme disparity.”
On Reproductive Rights:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Judge Jackson about her stance on two reproductive cases; Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. After Feinstein read the statement from both Supreme Court Justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett said in their confirmation hearings, Jackson agreed:
“I do agree with both Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett on this issue,” Jackson said Tuesday after Feinstein read aloud what the two justices said at their own confirmation hearings in 2018 and 2020, respectively. “Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked personal questions about Jackson’s faith. “What faith are you, by the way?” he asked.“Could you fairly judge a Catholic? On a scale of 1 to 10, how faithful would you say you are” Jackson stated she was a nondenominational protestant and wanted to reiterate the separation between the law and her religious beliefs.
“Well, senator, I am 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.”
On What Her Nomination Means:
Jackson also spoke about her landmark nomination and its importance to a wide range of people across America.
I am here standing on the shoulders of generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity, from my grandparents who had just a grade-school education but instilled in my parents the importance of learning. And my parents, who I’ve mentioned here many times already, were the first in their families to go to college. So this nomination, against that backdrop, is significant to a lot of people and I hope that it will bring confidence, it will help inspire people to understand that our courts are like them, our judges are like them.
On Critical Race Theory:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) brought up Critical Race Theory in reference to a speech Jackson gave at the University of Michigan in 2020, which mentioned the 1619 Project.
Jackson responded, “It doesn’t come up in my work as it’s never something that I have studied or relied on, and it wouldn’t be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court.”
Cruz continued about books about racism and critical race theory that are available at Georgetown Day School, an institution that she’s a board member of.
Jackson then replied, “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 am, respectfully, here, to address,” she said.