Sunday, February 25

What Connecticut senators are saying about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to Supreme Court

President Joe Biden’s nomination of federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court last week drew expressions of optimism from Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, ahead of a confirmation battle that will take place in the coming weeks.

In statements released online and through social media, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said they planned to conduct a close examination of the credentials of Jackson, a former public defender who has served on the federal bench for nearly a decade.

If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Her nomination was made to fill the impending vacancy caused by the retirement of liberal Justice Stephen Bryer.

Murphy and Blumenthal voted to confirm Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year, along with three of their Republican colleagues. The senators expressed hopes for a similarly bipartisan vote on her nomination to the Supreme Court, though Republicans have already sought to cast Jackson as too liberal.

Neither Connecticut senator was made available Monday to speak directly on Jackson’s nomination, with their offices pointing to hectic schedules in Washington.

On Twitter Friday, Murphy applauded Biden’s selection and said he anticipated learning more about Jackson during the nomination process.

“On first impression, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson seems like a respected, mainstream jurist that has won support from Republicans and Democrats in the past,” Murphy said.

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Blumenthal was even more effusive in his praise of Jackson, calling her “profoundly impressive” and a “professional woman of character, intellect, integrity.”

“Judge Jackson is a woman, a Black woman, of exceptional success story and character, someone who more than meets the standard for nomination to the United States Supreme Court,” Blumenthal said during a virtual press conference Friday. “She has a unique combination of thoughtfulness and common sense and like Justice Breyer, she understands the real-world impacts of her decisions on everyday Americans.”

Gov. Ned Lamont also offered support for Biden’s nomination of Jackson, saying in a statement that her “experience, perspective, and voice will be a valuable addition to the bench.”

Jackson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, dashing the hopes of some who called on Biden to nominate someone outside of the court’s traditional Ivy League background. However, she also served as an assistant federal public defender, and would be the first justice with experience representing criminal defendants since Justice Thurgood Marshall.

More typical of a nominee for a top-level federal judgeship, Jackson clerked for Justice Breyer early in her career. Like Breyer, she also served as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

“She is brilliant, she is one of the brightest legal minds in our country,” University of Connecticut School of Law Dean Eboni Nelson said. “Her background as a federal judge, serving on the Sentencing Commission, being a former public defender, all of this great experience that she has and that she will bring to the court will help to inform the decision making, not only of herself but of her fellow justices.”

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Nelson, who also graduated from Harvard, said she has not met Jackson, but has heard “wonderful things” from former classmates.

Mike Lawlor, a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, said Jackson’s experience as a public defender would provide a contrast to the more “cerebral” thinking of the current slate of justices.

“For the most part, Supreme Court justices are very accomplished academics, you know, and judges,” Lawlor said. “I think if you’re a public defender you have a much more realistic appreciation for how the criminal justice system works, and both its intended and unintended consequences.”

Even the Republicans vying to oust Blumenthal from his U.S. Senate seat this fall said Jackson deserved “fair” consideration during the nomination process — a departure from when the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in 2016.

“Judge Brown deserves a fair and unbiased process that allows her to share her viewpoints on important legal matters with the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people,” GOP Senate candidate Themis Klarides said in a statement released by her campaign.

Leora Levy, another Republican Senate candidate whose nomination by former President Donald Trump to serve as ambassador to Chile was never voted on by the Republican-controlled Senate, said in a statement that she would give all presidential appointments full consideration, but promised to withhold support from judicial nominees who are not “constitutionalists.”

“It is my hope that President Biden’s nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, will not attempt to legislate from the bench, which is the job of our elected representatives, in an effort to reengineer America to fit a radical, Progressive vision of America that is being promoted today by the Democrat Party,” Levy said in a statement.

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Jackson is expected to begin meeting with individual Senate leaders as early as Wednesday, according to CNN, before consideration of her nomination is turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Blumenthal has served as a member of the Judiciary Committee since shortly after he was first sworn into the Senate in 2011.

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