Ketanji Brown Jackson vows transparency and to serve ‘without fear or favour’ if confirmed to Supreme Court

Comes at the end of a long first day filled with Republicans airing grievances about her record.

Eric Garcia
Monday 21 March 2022 21:12
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Ketanji Brown Jackson vows to serve ‘without fear or favour’ at first Supreme Court confirmation hearing

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson closed the first day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing by pleding transparency and to serve without “fear or favour” if she is confirmed.

“If I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution, and this grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years,” Ms Jackson said at the opening of her remarks on Monday. “I evaluate the facts and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favour consistent my judicial oath.”

Throughout her statement, which came after four hours of opening remarks by all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the juge attempted to summarise what kind of justice she would be if she were to be confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.

Ms Jackson appeared to preemptively respond to accusations by Republicans that she would be a judicial activist by saying that she knew that her role as a judge is limited.

“I know that my judicial role is further constrained by further adherence to precedent,” she said. She noted how when senators read her decisions, they might have noticed how long some of her writings are.

“That is because I also believe in transparency,” she said. “That people should know precisely what I think and the basis for my decision.”

Ms Jackson, who would also be the first public defender on the high court if she were confirmed, also highlighted her experience as a trial judge.

“During this hearing, I hope that you will see how much I love our country and the Constitution and the rights that make us great,” she said.

Republicans, for the most part, avoided discussing Ms Jackson during their opening remarks, rather focusing on their frustration at the way that Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated during his confirmation hearing, when Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault, which Mr Kavanaugh vociferously denied.

“No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits,” Sen Ted Cruz of Texas told Ms Jackson during her opening remarks. “No one is going to ask you with mock severity ‘do you like beer?’”

Sen Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee during Mr Kavanaugh’s hearing, said he would promise a more respectful hearing than Mr Kavanaugh received.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, March 21, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Unlike the start to the Kavanaugh hearings, we didn’t have repeated interruptions of Chairman Durbin during his openings statements like Democrats interrupted me for more than an hour during my opening statements on the Kavanaugh hearings,” he said.

However, some Republicans did touch on her judicial record. Sen Lindsey Graham said while he did not have an issue with her defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay, he had other concerns.

“Everybody deserves a lawyer. You're doing the country a great service when you defend the most unpopular people,” he said. “But I do want to know about your amicus briefs after you're no longer a defence counsel weighing into the Supreme Court about how they decide law of war issues.”

Similarly, Sen Josh Hawley of Missouri followed through on his hints that he would accuse Ms Jackson of being too lenient against child sex offenders.

“What concerns me is that in every case, in each of these seven, Judge Jackson handed down a lenient sentence that was below what the federal guidelines recommended and below what the prosecutors requested,” he said.

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin pushed back on those accusations, noting how multiple news outlets, including the conservative National Review, debunked his arguments.

"They fly in the face of pledges my colleagues made that they would approach your nomination with civlity and respect," he said. "Critics have even stooped to accusing you of sharing the views of the clients you represented even though they know your work as an attorney was in service to the Bill of Rights and to the Constitution's promise of effective assistance of counsel."

Patrick Jackson cries as he watches his wife, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, deliver her opening statement to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during the first day of the confirmation hearing on her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill

Mr Durbin also asked if police organisations like the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police would have endorsed her if she were soft on crime.

"Of course not," he said. "I am confident the American people will see through these attacks and any other last-minute attempts to derail your confirmation."

The hearing was also filled with some lighter moments, including with Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, the only Black member of the committee, citing Ms Jackson’s daughter’s letter to former president Barack Obama asking to nominate her to the court.

“I suspect after these proceedings – please, God – after your confirmation to the Supreme Court, something new will happen in America,” he said. “That that letter from your daughter will not be exceptional. Generations of little young girls and generations of little young boys, no matter who their parents are, will have the audacity to write the president of the United States whether they’re daughters of white parents or Black parents or biracial parents, or Muslim or Jewish parents, Sikh or Hindu parents. We’re going to see a new generation of children talking about their mamas.”

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