Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings: Live updates
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday kicked off the first of four days of confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the federal judge President Biden has picked to fill Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's seat when he retires this summer.
Lawmakers and Jackson gave opening remarks. The panel will pick up on Tuesday with rounds of questioning.
If she is confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Her nomination fulfills a promise that Biden made during his 2020 presidential campaign to name the first Black woman to the court. She'd be the first Democratic nominee to be confirmed since since Elena Kagan in 2010 and would become the 116th justice.
- Judge Jackson primer: Read a profile from when she was named as Biden's Supreme Court nominee
- Schedule: What to expect from the hearings
- Explainer: What Ketanji Brown Jackson can expect to hear from Republicans
- Key Senate player: Read a profile of Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who will preside over the hearings as the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Durbin thinks Jackson will get some Republican votes
Following the end of Day 1 of confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he believes that the majority of his Republican colleagues will treat Jackson fairly during the process – and that there’s a good chance she will get some of their votes.
“The leadership in the Senate, Republican leadership, said we're going to be respectful and civil and we're not going to do character assassination,” Durbin told NPR’s Juana Summers. “I'll just have to tell you, there are one or two Republican senators who didn't get the message, but that's OK. We're going to press forward. I think when it's all said and done, most people would agree that what happened today was a civilized exchange”
Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, is presiding as Senate Judiciary Committee Chair over the confirmation hearing for Jackson, who President Biden has nominated to fill Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat when he retires later this summer.
Though he said today was civilized, Durbin noted that Jackson was at a “terrible disadvantage” because while each senator had 10 minutes to speak, she was not able to respond.
“Some used it to praise her. Some used it to attack her. And she had to sit there quietly and absorb all the blows,” he said. “Tomorrow she gets to respond, and I think it'll be a much better day for the committee.”
He also said he thinks there’s a “good chance” that Jackson will get some Republican votes.
“Nobody has looked me in the eye and told me how they're going to vote on either side, for that matter. So I'm not presuming anything,” he said.
Durbin said part of his focus is on making sure Republican senators feel they have all the information they need and have ample opportunities to ask Jackson questions.
“She has met so far with 45 senators, every member of the Judiciary Committee and many others and really made herself available to ask questions of all kinds. Some of them have lined her up and said, ‘Can you stay for 20 minutes and take a picture with every member of my staff?’ Some of them didn’t treat her quite the same. But the bottom line is, I'm going to work to make this a bipartisan roll call. It's good for the Senate and be good for the Supreme Court.”
Jackson stresses her personal story in her opening statement
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson leaned into her personal story in her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering her nomination to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
She said she hoped senators would see "how much I love our country and the Constitution and the rights that make us free."
Jackson said: "I stand on the shoulders" of trailblazing women who came before her, naming Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman to become a federal judge, and noting they share a birthday.
She pledged: "If I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and the grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years."
Jackson didn't give a detailed view of her judicial philosophy but said she takes her duty to be independent "very seriously." She added, "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."
She said she recognizes some of her rulings tend to be "on the long side" but believes transparency is important to all those involved in cases — whether or not their arguments prevail in court.
Jackson noted that she has met with 45 senators so far and that this is her fourth Senate confirmation process.
As she did in her comments the day that President Biden nominated her, Jackson invoked her faith, saying, "It is faith that sustains me at this moment."
She talked about her parents, who were teachers, and about their belief in public service. “My parents taught me that, unlike the many barriers that they had had to face growing up, my path was clearer, such that if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be."
Jackson is nominated to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, and she cited him as a mentor. She noted that he gave her "the greatest job that any young lawyer could ever hope to have" as a clerk, and she added that he also serves as an example, saying, "I know that I could never fill his shoes. But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit."
Read Ketanji Brown Jackson's opening statement
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has begun delivering her opening statement. Read her full remarks here.
2 more senators set to speak, then Jackson
Day 1 of the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is wrapping up, with two more senators — Democrat Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — still slated to speak.
Jackson will deliver her opening statement, lasting 10 minutes, following the senators' remarks. She will be introduced by Judge Thomas Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Lisa Fairfax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Tuesday is expected to be a marathon day of questioning. The hearings are expected to last four days, with Jackson appearing before lawmakers for the first three.
Sen. Cory Booker describes letter Jackson's daughter wrote to Obama
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called the first day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing "a day of joy," noting the historic nature of her nomination.
"This is not a normal day for America. We have never had this moment before," Booker said. "We are on the precipice of shattering another glass ceiling. It's a sign that we as a country are continuing to rise to our collective cherished highest ideals."
He added: "Judge Jackson's nomination breaks an artificially confining mold of our past and opens up a more promising, potential-filled future for us all as Americans."
Booker, the lone Black senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also shared a story of Jackson's daughter Leila, who at 11 years old wrote to then-President Barack Obama recommending her mother as a Supreme Court justice.
"I want to tell your daughter right now that that dream of hers is so close to being a reality," he said. "Some tough days ahead, but I think it could happen."
Opening statements resume
The confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has resumed after a brief lunch break.
Monday's session is slated to go until 4 p.m. ET, and Tuesday's session is set to start at 9 a.m. ET.
The panel has taken a lunch break
The Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is on a lunch break and will resume at 2:05 p.m. ET.
Today's session will cover opening statements from panel members as well as from Jackson, who will be introduced by Judge Thomas Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Lisa Fairfax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Sen. Josh Hawley raises questions on past sentencing decisions
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., previewed what he would be questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on in the days ahead: her past sentencing decisions, specifically when it comes to the sentencing of child pornography defendants.
He listed seven cases that dealt with child pornography from Jackson’s time on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging Jackson issued lenient sentences.
“What concerns me, and I've been very candid about this, is that in every case, in each of these seven, Judge Jackson handed down a lenient sentence that was below what the federal guidelines recommended and below what prosecutors requested.”
This is not the first time Hawley has expressed such concerns. In mid-March, he wrote a long Twitter thread in which he claimed Jackson has “an alarming pattern” of sentencing child pornography offenders to prison terms below the level recommended by sentencing guidelines.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has also pushed back on Hawley’s claim, saying, “In the vast majority of cases involving child sex crimes, broadly, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or [the] U.S. probation office recommended.”
As NPR’s Nina Totenberg writes, there is wide agreement among prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges that the sentencing guidelines have become outdated with the rise of the internet.
Why a close vote is likely for Jackson's confirmation
Despite having been confirmed multiple times by the Senate for other positions, it’s clear after senators’ opening statements so far that Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court will likely be a very close one.
Republicans, smarting from past confirmation grievances — real or exaggerated — are starting from a skeptical stance. And their skepticism seems to have less to do with the nominee herself than with the conduct of their colleagues across the aisle.
Republicans vowed to keep their critiques focused on substance rather than Jackson’s personal life. They want a nominee who will uphold their own judicial philosophies — namely, constitutional originalism.
That’s the practice of interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written and adhering to the believed intent of what the Framers wrote. Many on the left view that as impossible because of how much society has changed.
Dealing with Jackson’s nomination is a tightrope for Republicans. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., warned that Republicans should think about how history will judge them as they make their criticisms — considering that Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Despite the theater and personal politics between members of the parties, the question of whether Jackson will be confirmed isn’t going to be about that. It’s going to be about whether Democrats stick together to confirm her.
That’s the new reality of the Senate.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh's shadow looms over hearing
Justice Brett Kavanaugh isn't in the room for today's hearing on Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, but GOP bitterness over his own confirmation process looms large.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spent much of his opening remarks contrasting Jackson's nomination process to that of her potential future colleague, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
"It won’t be a circus,” he said. “When we say 'this is not Kavanaugh,' what do we mean? It means that Democratic senators are not going to have their windows busted by groups. That's what it means. It means that no Republican senator is going to unleash on you an attack about your character when the hearing is virtually over.”
He added: “You will not be vilified. You will not be attacked for your religious views. You will not be accused of something that you could not defend yourself against until it was too late.”
Kavanaugh, who was ultimately confirmed 50-48 by the full Senate, was accused by several women of sexual misconduct and assault while he was in high school and college — charges he adamantly denied. One of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, testified about an alleged assault before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her testimony ignited national outrage and prompted a longer confirmation process for Kavanaugh.
Other Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, brought up Kavanaugh's confirmation as a way to excoriate Democrats.
'Not going to fly with us'
Graham, who previously voted for Jackson for the D.C. Circuit Court, said to “count [him] in on the idea of making the court more diverse," but discussed what he sees as hypocrisy from his Democratic colleagues.
“So if you're a Hispanic or African American conservative, it’s about your [judicial] philosophy. Now it's going to be about the historic nature of the pick," he said.
Graham said Republicans would be considered "racist if we ask hard questions" but said it’s "not going to fly with us."
Graham also said he plans to ask Jackson whether or not she approves of expanding the Supreme Court, along with her sentencing practices and judicial philosophy, adding that “the far extreme part of the left believe you were the best bet and I want to know why they reached that conclusion.”
Senators from both parties zero in on 'dark money' in Supreme Court confirmation process
Senators from both parties decried the role of "dark money" in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees, pledging to spotlight how outside groups from the left and the right pour millions into influencing the process.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the panel, name checked Demand Justice, a liberal group that suggested potential nominees when Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. The group launched a campaign urging Breyer to retire this year, concerned that if control of the evenly split Senate flipped it would be hard for President Biden to get a nominee confirmed. The group is enthusiastically championing Judge Jackson's nomination.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham claimed that outside groups waged a campaign against Michelle Childs, a judge from his home state who was in the mix for the nomination to Breyer's seat. He didn't name any single organization, but maintained that a liberal group pushed Biden away from her.
Graham contended Childs would have gotten some Republican backing and easily won confirmation by receiving "60 plus votes." But "the most radical elements" of the Democratic party opposed Childs, Graham said, adding he planned to ask Jackson about what happened.
On the other side of spectrum, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said that groups on the right have outsized power in the public debates over judicial nominations, and noted that they don't have to disclose their funders. Dubbing the current Supreme Court "The Court That Dark Money Built," Whitehouse called out the Federalist Society, a conservative group that helped develop a list of potential nominees for former President Trump.
"Because of secrecy, Americans are denied any real understanding of the overlap of all that dark money with the political dark money funding the Republican Party — which could well explain the wreckage of Senate norms, rules and procedures that accompanied the confirmation process of recent nominees," he said.
Grassley lays out Republicans' line of questioning for Judge Jackson
The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, outlined what GOP senators on the panel would examine during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week.
Grassley used his opening statement on Monday to stress that "we won't turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls" and pointed out that Democrats on the panel interrupted and delayed his opening statement when he chaired the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee, in 2018. He said Republicans will "ask tough questions" about Jackson's record and said he wanted to hear about her views on the role of a judge.
Some Republicans have already raised concerns about Jackson's experience as a public defender and indicated they would ask questions about whether her record makes her "soft on crime." Grassley touched on this line of questioning and suggested these topics are fair game given Democrats' questions of Trump nominees.
Grassley pointed to Jackson's role on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and complained that the committee didn't receive all of the documents from her tenure on that body. During Grassley's statement, the messaging center from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office circulated a memo to reporters citing public statements from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other top Democratic leaders noting that Jackson's experience on the bench and sentencing committee were "obviously important to explore."
The top Republican on the judiciary panel also indicated that he was interested in the role of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group that supports Jackson's nomination. Grassley said he has concerns about "far left dark money groups" and noted the founder of the group was involved in promoting Jackson for a role on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the district court.
Sen. Durbin kick-starts confirmation hearing: 'Today’s a proud day for America'
The Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has begun, with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin presiding.
Durbin, who has been No. 2 in Senate Democratic leadership since 2007, began his opening remarks by noting the historic nature of the day.
"The Supreme Court has a long and storied history. Its ranks have been filled by many superb justices whose contributions to the rule of law have stood the test of time. But ... the reality is that the court's members in one respect have never really reflected the nation they served," he said. "Not a single justice has been a Black woman. You, Judge Jackson, can be the first.”
He underscored: “Today’s a proud day for America."
Durbin recited Jackson’s résumé, listing her three judicial clerkships, her work as a public defender and as a lawyer in private practice, her membership on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and her tenure as a federal district judge and circuit court judge.
“Throughout your career, you've been the champion for the rule of law, determined to get it right even at the risk of public criticism,” he said.
Durbin tried to head off potential Republican opposition to Jackson's nomination, calling on critics to “look at the record,” which he said has been “scoured by this committee on four different occasions.” (The Senate Judiciary Committee has now considered Jackson four times for her various roles.)
“We've heard claims that you are quote, soft on crime. These baseless charges are unfair,” Durbin said, noting that she has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I'm confident the American people will see through these attacks and any other last-minute attempts to derail your confirmation."
Black women form the 1st line of defense for a historic nominee
A group of seven Black women posed for a photo near the Supreme Court last week while wearing identical shirts: bright teal with a photo of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the center.
Petee Talley explained why it was so important to be there that day, among hundreds of people — mostly other Black women — for an event supporting Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court.
"Biden has nominated a woman who is supremely qualified for this position. She has — her whole life — has been in preparation for such a time as this," said Talley, who lives in Toledo, Ohio.
In Washington and across the U.S., the news was met with excitement among Black women. It has also led to fierce organizing on Jackson's behalf.
In interviews, more than a dozen Black women said they were preparing to be Jackson's first line of defense against anticipated Republican attacks and to help share her story with the nation.
Jackson's critics will focus on her time on the bench
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's lengthy and diverse background as a lawyer and judge seems to have defused any notion that she is not qualified. And so far, Republican leaders have taken only indirect swipes at her.
"We're in the middle of a violent crime wave including soaring rates of homicides, and carjackings," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell opined last week, adding, "Amid all this, the soft on crime brigade is squarely in Judge Jackson's corner."
Note that he didn't actually say anything about Jackson herself. That may be because Republicans know the optics of personally attacking a Black woman are less than ideal. Not to mention that Jackson comes from a family of law enforcement officers and has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Then too, Republicans know there is already a conservative supermajority on the court, and even if Jackson is a liberal, it won't change the balance of power on the court, as she has been nominated to fill the seat of the liberal justice she once clerked for, Stephen Breyer, who is retiring.
Nonetheless, Jackson will have her critics at this week's hearings. Plenty of them. Among other things, they will focus on her record on the bench — eight years as a trial judge and eight months on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Here's what to expect from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings
Confirmation hearings will begin this morning for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the federal judge nominated by President Biden to fill Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's seat when he retires this summer.
Monday kick-starts a series of four days of hearings. Starting at 11 a.m. ET, this first hearing will focus on opening statements, including 10-minute remarks from committee chairman Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and ranking member Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Then, the 20 other committee members will deliver opening statements, each up to 10 minutes long.
Finally, Jackson will deliver a 10-minute opening statement.
Lawmakers will question Jackson throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the committee will hear from outside witnesses and testimony from the American Bar Association. Jackson won't appear.
Once hearings conclude, the Judiciary Committee will decide whether to recommend Jackson's nomination to the full Senate for debate and vote.
Party leaders say they hope to hold the vote and confirm Jackson before Easter recess starts on April 11.