DemDaily: The Confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson. Day One.

 March 21, 20222

The confirmation hearings for United States Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson began today, the first of four days of inquiry and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On February 25, President Joe Biden announced the historic nomination of Jackson to be the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

The Nominee
Jackson currently sits on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the country's second most powerful federal court. She has served as a federal appellate judge, a federal district court judge, a member of the US Sentencing Commission, an attorney in private practice, and as a federal public defender.

Jackson also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement January 27, and whom she will repace on the High Court if she is confirmed. See DemDaily: Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?

The American Bar Association (ABA), which grades Supreme Court nominee's qualifications, rated Jackson unanimously "well qualified," the highest category awarded to a nominee.

The Process
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), oversees the vetting process of Jackson, who has been meeting individually with Senators of both parties over the last two weeks.

In preparation for this week, Senate Judiciary Committee staff has been investigating the nominee, researching rulings, publications and public statements, FBI records and other sources.

The first day of hearings is reserved for introductory statements, followed by two days of questioning Jackson by committee members and one day for testimony from additional witnesses.

The Committee will vote on the nomination, typically seven to 10 days after the hearings, and if approved, will send the nomination to the full Senate for consideration.

After a floor debate, the full Senate will vote on confirmation, which requires a simple majority of 51 votes. If there is a tie, the Vice President, who also presides over the Senate, casts the deciding vote.

Since 1975, the average time between nomination and Senate vote is 68 days. The October 2020 confirmation of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was seated in 27 days by a 52-48 vote down party lines, is the notable exception.

Day One
Today's hearing, which ran from 11:00am to 3:30pm, began with 10-minute opening statements from Durbin and ranking Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Each of the other 20 members of the committee also gave ten-minute statements, providing a preview of the line of questioning Jackson can expect over the next two days.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee members: Democrats (11): Chair Dick Durbin (IL), Patrick Leahy (VT), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Chris Coons (DE), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Mazie Hirono (HI), Cory Booker (NJ), Alex Padilla (CA), Jon Ossoff (GA). Republicans (11): Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (IA), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), Ben Sasse (NE), Josh Hawley (MO), Tom Cotton (AR), John Kennedy (LA), Thom Tillis (NC), Marsha Blackburn (TN)

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has been at the forefront of the pre-hearing attacks on Jackson, and is one of several committee Republicans who are potential 2024 presidential candidates, maximized his ten minutes of free air time.

Hawley, who had previously tweeted, "I've noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson's treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children," raised the issue again in his comments, forewarning, “there is a lot to talk about there."

Independent news outlets have debunked Hawley's claims and the White House called them "toxic and weakly-presented misinformation," adding that Jackson had the endorsement of leading law enforcement organizations, conservative judges, and survivors of crime.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), another potential GOP presidential contender, used his 10 minutes to rail not against Jackson, but the Biden administration's "war on the rule of law" on issues like gun rights, border security, and rising crime rates, claiming we are witnessing "a breakdown" of society.

Yet another White House aspirant, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), used his time to declare "the decay of the confirmation process," alluding to the rancorous hearings of GOP nominee and now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexual misconduct, "This will not be a political circus. This will not be the kind of character smear that sadly our Democratic colleagues have gotten very good at."

Democratic Senators were well prepared, however, sometimes preempting GOP attacks. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said, "She is before us on the basis of her own merit ... she came to us not through a dark money-funded turnstile, but through a fair and honest selection process." Pointing to her list of accomplishments, he said she had "more experience actually trying cases in your courtroom than any other member of the court."

Noting that Judge Jackson had already been confirmed with bipartisan support three times by the US Senate, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) added that she also has the "glowing endorsements from former judges who were stalwarts of the conservative movement...The court needs a bridge builder now more than ever."

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) praised Jackson's background as a public defender, saying, “It’s important to have justices with a broad set of views and experiences on the Supreme Court.” Feinstein also emphasized cases now before the Court which she called "foundational to who we are as a country,” including abortion, climate change and gun safety.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), pushing back on previous GOP accusations that Jackson was soft on crime, said, she's "a fair and impartial jurist with a fidelity to the law above all else ... The American people, our constituents, and their faith, their faith in the courts, that's central to our democracy. They lose their faith, then democracy loses."

Introducing Judge Jackson
The final statements of the day came with the introduction of Jackson by retired US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith.

In his five minute statement, Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee who served on the same court on which Judge Jackson currently sits, praised Jackson's "diligent and careful approach, her deep understanding and her collegial manner, indispensable traits for success as a justice on the Supreme Court.”

Griffith said, “Some think it noteworthy that a former judge appointed by a Republican president would enthusiastically endorse a nomination to the Supreme Court by a Democrat president. That reaction is a measure of the dangerous hyper-partisanship that has seeped into every nook and cranny of our nation's life. There should be nothing unusual about my support of a highly qualified nominee," pointing to three other well-known and respected conservative jurists who support Jackson's nomination.

He concluded, "The indispensable feature of the Republic the Constitution created is an independent judiciary of judges who have taken an oath not to a president or a party but to the American people and to god that they will be impartial. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has demonstrated her unwavering commitment to that oath."

Griffith was followed by Lisa Fairfax, a presidential professor and the co-director of the Institute for Law & Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

Fairfax lauded her close friend and roommate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School as a “woman of deep faith in God,” “a friend you’re immediately drawn to,” a “role model” and a “coalition builder.” Fairfax said she knew Jackson was "honored and humbled by the significance of this moment: not for what it means for her, but what it means for our amazing country.”

The day concluded with a brief 10-minute statement by Jackson, who spoke with confident humility about her career, life and her gratitude to family, friends and mentors, noting that she "stands on the shoulders of many who have come before me."

"I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building- "Equal Justice Under Law" - are a reality and not just an ideal ... If I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and the grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years." - Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

Up Next
Both March 22 and March 23's hearings will commence at 9:00am EDT. Committee members will each get 30 minutes of questioning time on Tuesday and 20 minutes on Wednesday.

The last day of the hearings on Thursday, March 24, will begin at 9:00am EDT, when the committee will hear from character witnesses, friends and family of Jackson's. A representative of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Judiciary, which by tradition rates nominee's qualifications, will also testify.

See DemDaily: Who Is Ketanj Brown Jackson? 2/25/22

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: American Bar Association, Reuters, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, CNN

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