May 30, 2023
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faces more questions during third day of confirmation hearings

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faces more questions during third day of confirmation hearings

So far during the hearings, Jackson has defended her record amid sharp questioning from Republican senators on her judicial philosophy, her legal record and past defense work and support for her nomination from left-wing groups.

She has responded to concerns raised by Republicans over the potential for judicial activism by arguing that she approaches her work in an impartial way and emphasizing that it would be inappropriate to impose any kind of personal opinion or policy preference.

The nominee has also defended elements of her tenure in the legal profession that have attracted particular scrutiny — and criticism — from Republicans, including past defense work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees and sentencing in child pornography cases.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, opened Wednesday’s hearing by saying that some senators have used the hearings as “an opportunity to showcase talking points for the November election.”

Durbin went on to say, in a criticism aimed at Republicans, that the nomination has “turned out to be a testing ground for conspiracy theories and culture war theories.”

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the committee, jumped in say it was unfortunate that Durbin had chosen to editorialize and “contradict the points being made by this side of the aisle.”

Takeaways from the marathon Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearing Takeaways from the marathon Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearing
Tuesday featured a marathon first round of questioning. On Wednesday, each senator on the panel has 20 minutes for additional questions.
The confirmation hearings for Jackson — who would be the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, if confirmed — began on Monday with lawmakers and the nominee delivering opening statements. The hearings will wrap up on Thursday when the American Bar Association and outside witnesses deliver testimony.

Jackson discusses separation of powers and limits on executive authority

Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia on Wednesday brought up a notable opinion in which Jackson wrote that “Presidents are not Kings.” Ossoff asked Jackson to explain what she meant and what she believes are the most important defenses to guard against the abuse of executive power.
Jackson has twice ruled against former President Donald Trump or his administration in cases concerning the disclosure of information from his White House.
The first was the 2019 opinion she penned as a district court judge in which she wrote that “Presidents are not Kings” while rejecting the Trump administration’s argument that White House counsel Don McGahn was absolutely immune from a congressional subpoena.

Jackson replied to Ossoff’s question by saying that the United States government is set up with a system of checks and balances to “prevent tyranny.” She called the separation of powers “crucial to liberty,” and said that principle informs her approach to the law.

“That means for me that judges can’t make law, judges shouldn’t be policymakers, that’s a part of our constitutional design, and it prevents our government from being too powerful and encroaching on individual liberty,” she said.

More sharp questions from Republican senators

Wednesday featured more sharp questioning — and criticism — from Republican senators directed toward the nominee over her record.

During the hearings, some Republicans have suggested that Jackson has been too lenient in sentencing child pornography cases. Jackson has forcefully rebutted concerns voiced by GOP senators over her record, referring to the issue as a “sickening and egregious crime.”

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina engaged on Wednesday in a tense line of questioning on the subject.

At one point, he pressed Jackson over whether she believes sentencing has a deterrent effect.

“Yes, senator, deterrence is one of the purposes of punishment,” Jackson said at one point. But, she added, “Congress has directed courts to consider various means of achieving deterrence. One of them, as you said, is incarceration. Another as I tried to mention, was substantial periods of supervision.”

Graham later said, “Folks, what she is saying, the reason she is always below the recommendation, I think, is because she doesn’t use the enhancements available to her. She takes them off of the table. I think that’s a big mistake, judge.”

An in-depth CNN review shows that Jackson has mostly followed the common judicial sentencing practices in these kinds of cases. And a group of retired federal judges — including two Republican appointees — told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday night that Jackson’s record on child pornography sentencing is “entirely consistent” with the records of other judges across the country.
From Bork to Kavanaugh, GOP grievances feature during Jackson hearingFrom Bork to Kavanaugh, GOP grievances feature during Jackson hearing

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, emerged from the hearing riled up about Graham’s questioning, telling reporters it went “beyond the pale.”

“As the dean of the Senate, as the longest serving member of this body, I’m just distressed to see this kind of a complete breakdown in what’s normally the way the Senate’s handled,” he said.

A number of Democrats have so far used the time allotted to them for questioning to give Jackson a chance to push back on Republican criticisms. Democrats have also consistently emphasized the historic nature of her nomination, while arguing that the depth and breadth of Jackson’s experience, including as a public defender, would add a valuable and unique perspective to the high court.

What’s next for the nomination

Senate Democrats are hoping to move swiftly to a confirmation vote by the full Senate once the hearings have concluded. They can confirm Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie. It is not yet clear if Jackson will win any Republican votes.

When the Senate voted to confirm her last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

But Graham told CNN it’s “fair to say” he sees red flags with her nomination in an interview after his first round of questioning the nominee, saying her answers on defending Guantanamo Bay detainees “just doesn’t make sense to me.” Graham will have the opportunity, along with the other members of the Judiciary committee, to ask questions again during Wednesday’s hearing.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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