Ketanji Brown Jackson hearing: 5 takeaways from Wednesday

By Tierney Sneed, CNN

Supreme Court nominee Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ended her two-day interrogation on Wednesday, after spending some 10 hours this week being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Although there were many contentious questions from Republicans on Tuesday, some members of the GOP committee took an even more aggressive approach on Wednesday, repeatedly interrupting Jackson, dismissing his attempts to answer their questions and arguing with the Democrats to find out if they were fair to the candidate.

“To see what this highly qualified and remarkable woman has had to deal with is a disgrace to those trying to declare themselves senators,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said after Wednesday’s hearing. “It’s under this body. It’s below the Supreme Court of the United States and it’s below our great country.

The Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Jackson’s nomination on April 4, as Democratic leaders hope to confirm it before their mid-April recess.

Here are Wednesday’s main takeaways:

Republicans take their aggressive tactics to the next level

Several Republicans on the committee have escalated the tone and hostility with which they have approached Jackson as they attempt to gain political points ahead of the midterm elections.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – as he repeatedly spoke about his attempts to explain an immigration policy decision that was later overturned – accused her of judicial “activism”. He harassed her for her thoughts on what Judge Brett Kavanaugh faced during his confirmation proceedings in 2018 and repeatedly intervened when she tried to explain his views on why sentencing guidelines for some child pornography cases were outdated.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, also interrupted Jackson several times as she tried to answer his questions about how she had approached the cases in question.

“Would you please let her answer?” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

“No, not if she’s not going to answer,” Cruz replied.

“Senator, I didn’t say I wasn’t going to respond to that. My answer is…” Jackson tried to say as the senators’ bickering continued. Cruz continued to talk about her.

Jackson pushed back most strongly against the antagonism of Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri.

He demanded that she say whether she regretted the three-month sentence she had handed down in a child pornography case where prosecutors were asking for two years.

“Senator, what I regret is that during a hearing on my qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice, we spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences,” said Jackson.

But Jackson still seems to be headed to the Supreme Court

While some Republicans warn that Jackson’s performance in the hearings earned her no GOP votes, it likely won’t cause her to lose her way to the Supreme Court. Democrats on the committee were willing and eager to defend her against GOP attacks, and at no point did they seem concerned about how she handled tough issues.

“Your patience, dignity and grace in the face of what was, frankly, such offensive treatment is a true testament to your judicial temper,” Durbin told Jackson at the end of the hearing.

When his nomination heads to the Senate, it could well be one of the closest votes in history. As long as the Democrats keep their caucus unified, they’ll have the 50 votes they need — with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker — to put Jackson on the high court.

Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of 50 to 48, and times have changed significantly since the Senate endorsed liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservative Antonin Scalia with, respectively, three and zero votes against them.

Jackson may not even have the three Republican votes that backed his DC appeals court confirmation last year. Graham signaled his likely opposition, while the other two – the senses. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – are not on the Judiciary Committee and did not substantially weigh on her performance this week, nor did Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who also signaled some openness.

Emotional moments reveal who Jackson is as a person

Jackson wept when Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey emotionally addressed the importance of her confirmation and told her she should be proud of how she handled “the insults here that shocked me.”

“No one is going to steal the joy from this woman on the street or the calls I get or the texts. No one is going to steal that joy,” Booker told Jackson. “You have earned this spot. You are worthy. great American.

Jackson choked up again while answering a question from Sen. Alex Padilla about what she would say to young people. The California Democrat had told how he was discouraged in high school from applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I appreciate the opportunity to talk to young people. I really appreciate. I do it a lot,” she said. “I hope to inspire people to try to go down this path because I love this country, because I love the law, because I think it’s important that we all invest in our future. And young people are the future. And so I want them to know that they can do and be anything.

She told the committee how a visit from a high school debate team to Harvard led her to study there, and her “difficult” experience once she arrived.

“I think the first half I was really homesick. I was really wondering, uh, ‘Do I belong here? Can I do it in this environment?’ ” she said. “And I was walking in the yard at night, and a black woman that I didn’t know passed me on the sidewalk. And she looked at me and I guess she knew how I felt, and she leaned over as we walked through and said, “Persevere.”

Democrats take on the Supreme Court

Democrats used Wednesday’s proceedings to complain about some of the things that were happening in the court that Jackson was appointed to serve on — including rulings made while the hearing was unfolding.

Several hours into the hearing, the Supreme Court issued an unsigned order that appeared to further narrow the scope of the voting rights law, while blocking a proposed Wisconsin state legislative map. by Democrats and passed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The order was issued on what has been dubbed by court watchers the ‘shadow case’, i.e. court interventions that intervene in emergency disputes where the court has failed to follow through. its full official information process.

The order “underscores,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Wednesday, “the court’s growing practice of using the parallel docket to decide cases that have serious implications for our democracy.”

She called the trend “troubling.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also referenced the Wisconsin case to note that the number of signed court opinions had dropped “precipitously” since 1972.

“The Supreme Court must do its job. He has to issue signed notices, not the shadow file,” Blumenthal said, adding that the court needed the “energy” and “work ethic” that Jackson had shown.

Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia has advocated for more transparency around amicus curiae briefs that are filed in Supreme Court cases, where parties outside the case give the court additional legal arguments to take. into account.

“I think it’s important for the court to know who is informing them, what the motive might be and the source of funding for these memoirs,” Ossoff said.

The question of whether cameras should be allowed to broadcast Supreme Court hearings has also been raised, after Blumenthal initially expressed support for the idea on Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska returned to the subject on Wednesday to lay out an opposing view, while somewhat triggering his Senate colleagues.

“I think we should recognize that the jackassery that we often see here is partly because of people getting mugged for short-term camera opportunities,” Sasse said, “and that’s definitely a second-hand effect. , third and fourth order that the court should think about before you have lawyers there trying to not only persuade you nine judges, but also try to get on cable that night or make a viral video.

Vote on the right track and what comes next as the hearing continues

Wednesday’s hearing concluded the proceedings where Jackson will be in the hot seat. After a committee meeting next Monday where Republicans will be allowed to withhold his vote for a week, the committee is expected to vote on his nomination on April 4.

But first, the committee will welcome several lists of outside witnesses to talk about his nomination.

The first panel will feature members of the American Bar Association committee that issued the “well qualified” rating for Jackson’s nomination.

Next testifying will be Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, University of Virginia Law School Dean Risa Goluboff, and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. . Joining these witnesses in the second panel are attorney Richard Rosenthal, a childhood friend of Jackson, and Captain Frederick Thomas, national chairman of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

The final panel will be made up of witnesses nominated by the Republicans on the committee: Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall; Jennifer Mascott, assistant professor of law and co-executive director of the C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law; Eleanor McCullen, the plaintiff in a case against a Massachusetts law on buffer zones around abortion clinics; Keisha Russell of the First Liberty Institute and Alessandra Serano of the anti-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad.

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Lauren Fox, Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer and Ariane of CNN’s Vogue contributed to this report.