Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced varying responses during confirmation hearings
The two major political parties clashed in the hearings as one presented a line of questioning worthy of a qualified judge while the other used false equivalencies to damage the reputation of Jackson.
Analysis by Matthew Royer, News Editor
Ketanji Brown Jackson. A historical candidate. The first Black woman presented for confirmation to the land’s highest court.
The hearings, however, made history in another way.
Earlier this year under a nation still very divided, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his intent to retire, opening his seat on the bench. With three new jurists added to the court over the last administration, this soon-to-be vacancy allowed President Joe Biden to keep his campaign promise in nominating a Black woman to the top court that has swayed conservatively over the past four years.
The president’s choice to replace the oldest court justice was Jackson, who had recently been confirmed to replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia District.
The Harvard graduate would become the first former public defender on the U.S. Supreme Court upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate, but confirmation is not the simple process it once was. The court has been politicized by special interests, like conservative thinktank The Federalist Society, according to The Examiner, has funneled campaign funds and donations to politicians to represent their train of thought.
On March 22, Jackson took the traditional oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a line of questioning began from Republicans and Democrats alike.
In her opening statement, the 51-year-old delivered a message that was composed and important in acknowledging her forthcoming role on the court.
“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” said Jackson, according to CNN. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.
While Jackson set a solemn tone for the hearings, Capitol Hill quickly erupted into chaos.
Republican committee members promptly turned the hearing into an opportunity to verbally attack their Democratic colleagues. Senators such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) used their time to rehash the discussion of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings of 2018 in which Democratic Senators focused on allegations of sexual assault and later the lack of executive focus on the FBI’s investigation into the claims.
On day two of the hearings, any hope for a civilized day was thrown down the steps of Capitol Hill. The court of appeals judge was vehemently asked questions that Jackson made sure to point out “doesn't come up in my work.” These included opening wounds on ‘critical-race theory’ and her lack of a set philosophy in deciding cases, the former a focus of the Republican Party’s culture war agenda entering the midterm elections in November.
Acknowledging her constraints as a judge, Biden’s nominee set her beliefs straight in response to the questioning.
“I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power,” said Jackson, according to CSPAN. “I am trying in every case to stay in my lane.”
Democratic senators used their allocated time during the four days to ask the nominee about her judicial and educational background, experiences as a mother and decisions in significant cases going in front of the court, such as capital punishment and abortion rights. However, judiciary committee members also used their time to defend Jackson against the “unfair” line of questioning.
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) each took ample opportunity to praise the judge for her humility and effort during what could be described as a barrage or an ambush at times. On day three, Booker erupted in what The Atlantic has described as an “impassioned” defense of Jackson.
"You are my harbinger of hope,” said Booker, noting the historical impact of the nomination. “This country's getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I'm going to rejoice. And I'm going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on April 4 to advance Jackson’s nomination to the full chamber of the U.S. Senate, where, according to ABC Chicago, Senate Majority Whip Durbin feels “hopeful” his colleagues will confirm her on April 8.