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Supreme Court Nominee Vows to Avoid Partisan Politics if Confirmed

March 22, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Nominee Vows to Avoid Partisan Politics if Confirmed
March 22, 2022 - Washington, D.C., United States: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., banging the gavel to start the hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson described herself as a judge who merely applies laws to facts rather than imposing her own opinions onto rulings during the second day of Senate hearings into her nomination to the Supreme Court.

“It is very important that judges rule without fear or favor,” Jackson said. “I evaluate the facts from various perspectives.”

She also pledged to avoid partisan politics if the Senate confirms her nomination by President Joe Biden.

“In my view, judges should not be speaking to political issues,” she said.

She added, “Our obligation as judges is not to create policy.”

Jackson, 51, would be the first Black woman in U.S. history to be appointed to the Supreme Court if the Senate confirms her.

She came to the hearings this week with nine years of experience as a federal judge, both at the district and appellate levels. She is a graduate of Harvard University’s college and law school.

She has worked as a federal public defender and a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she gained notoriety for suggesting elimination of mandatory minimum prison sentences for persons convicted of drug offenses.

As a public defender from 2005 to 2007, she represented four Guantanamo detainees accused of terrorist associations with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Some Republicans said she has a record of “defending terrorists.”

As a judge, she angered members of the Trump administration by overruling its policy for fast-track deportations of illegal immigrants and for ordering former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to Congress about actions of the president despite his objections.

Some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed skepticism over Jackson’s assertions that she objectively applied the laws in cases she handled.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, presented a chart showing sentences Jackson imposed on child sex offenders averaged 47.2% less time in prison than prosecutors’ recommendations.

Jackson replied that she followed guidelines of federal statutes.

“Judges have to take into account the personal circumstances of the defendant,” she said.

She denied that she independently decided to make the sentences easy for child sex offenders, who she described as “the worst of humanity.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked about an amicus — or friend-of-the-court — brief she filed while she represented Guantanamo detainees as an attorney. She argued in the brief that the detainees could not lawfully be held in prison without trials.

Graham asked whether Jackson believed the detainees were enemy combatants who represented an ongoing threat to the United States if they were released.

She agreed they might be a threat, which she said could justify their continued detention.

Graham pointed out that her statements at the hearing Tuesday were different from her arguments in her amicus brief.

“Why would you do that if that’s not your position?” Graham asked.

Jackson replied, “My responsibility [as a public defender] was to make my clients’ arguments.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Jackson whether she would uphold abortion rights of women that have already been affirmed in previous Supreme Court decisions.

Jackson answered that she would not try to change the laws because the previous court decisions “are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.”

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com

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