Senate Hearings Begin on Nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court

March 21, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Senate Hearings Begin on Nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — Confirmation hearings opened in the U.S. Senate Monday for Ketanji Brown Jackson with Democrats commending the first Black female nominee to the Supreme Court but Republicans seeking assurances she would avoid being too activist.

Democratic senators mentioned her record as a federal judge and Ivy League academic performance to show she is qualified as an associate justice.

“These are impressive credentials,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added, “It’s not easy being the first. But your presence here today, your willingness to brave this process, will give inspiration to millions of Americans who see themselves in you.”

Jackson, 51, has served since last year as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

She was born to two school teachers in Washington, D.C., and raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated from Harvard University for both college and law school, where she served as editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Early in her legal career, she clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

She later served as a federal public defender and as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she recommended sweeping revisions to the mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions.

As a U.S. District Court judge from 2013 to 2021, she authored more than 600 opinions.

In one of them, Jackson issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s fast-track deportations of illegal immigrants. She said the deportations violated the authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Her ruling was overturned on appeal.

Jackson also ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn must testify before Congress as it investigated alleged obstruction of justice by the Trump administration. He had invoked executive privilege to avoid testifying.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee referred to Jackson’s rulings to imply she might be trying to make liberal political statements rather than merely ruling on the facts of cases.

“In some instances, it appears that your advocacy has bled over into your decision-making process as a judge,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a nomination for the first Black woman to the Supreme Court is fine but he wanted assurances she would “make it operate within the confines of the Constitution.”

Jackson took no questions from the senators on her first day of testimony. She read a statement in which she thanked her parents and supporters.

“I cannot possibly thank them for everything they’ve done for me,” she said about her parents.

She briefly tried to address concerns that she might stray from case precedent to become an activist judge on the Supreme Court.

“I know that my role as a judge is a limited one,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s multi-day confirmation hearings are expected to conclude on Thursday with testimony from the American Bar Association and other witnesses.

On Friday, the ABA gave Jackson their highest rating — “well qualified” — to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democratic leaders hope to vote on her confirmation by April 8.

If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman, only the fourth non-White justice in history, and only the sixth woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Tom can be reached at [email protected]

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Corrections

An earlier version of this article misspelled Judge Jackson's first name in the headline. We apologize for this error.

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