WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson appeared Tuesday for what may be the most important day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, taking questions from senators on the Judiciary Committee in what’s poised to be a long day.
The questioning began with Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, giving 30 minutes to all 22 members of the panel.
Here are some of the ongoing highlights and revelations.
A vow of ‘impartiality’
One word that Jackson repeatedly returned to was “impartiality” as she discussed her method of ruling on cases as a judge.
“I am not importing my personal views or policy preferences. The entire exercise is about trying to understand what those who created this policy or this law intended,” she told Durbin in the first moments of the hearing.
Later, when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Asked about her experiences of her as a public defender and vice chair of the US Sentencing Commission, Jackson said that her various positions of her taught her about “impartiality” and “staying in my lane as a judge .”
“Because I saw the different roles, I think I have a good appreciation of what it means to be a judge,” she said.
Old grudges and score-setting
Leahy jabbed Republicans for blocking a vote on former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for 10 months “because of a politically-driven agenda.”
Responding to earlier criticisms by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Leahy said it was not comparable to his decision to vote no on Justice Neil Gorsuch and explaining why. “Let’s make history this week but let’s not rewrite it,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., asked Jackson about her religious views of her and invoked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Questioning Amy Coney Barrett’s ability to be impartial as a judge during her nomination of her to be an appellate court judge in 2017.
“How would you feel if a senator up here said your faith — the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern?” Graham asked. “I found it offensive when they said it about Judge Barrett.”
Graham also grilled Jackson on whether she remembers the filibuster of Janice Rogers Brown, who was temporarily blocked by Democrats before getting confirmed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005. He said conservative nominees are mistreated.
“We’re tired of it,” he said. “Our people need better respect.”
A ‘court packing’ punt, invoking Barrett
Jackson was asked twice in opening stages about her stance on Supreme Court expansion, and she declined to weigh in, invoking Justice Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing in October 2020.
“I agree with Justice Barrett in her response to that question when she was asked before this committee,” she said. “Judges should not be speaking into political issues.”
Barrett similarly punctuated on court-packing under questioning from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, about whether it would be detrimental. She said the decision is left to Congress, and that if there were a constitutional question involved, “I couldn’t opine on it.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican ranking member, pressed Jackson on the question by asking if she agrees with Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who spoke out against it. If they spoke against it, he said, so can she.
“Respectfully, senator, other nominees to the Supreme Court have responded as I will, which is that it is a policy question for Congress,” Jackson said. “I am particularly mindful of not speaking to policy issues because I am so committed to staying in my lane for the system. And I’m just not willing to speak to issues that are properly in the province of this body.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism