Ketanji Brown Jackson faces questions on previous cases, precedent on day 2 of confirmation hearings: Live updates

Published March 22, 2022 at 7:44 AM EDT
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Alex Brandon
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has wrapped up the second day of confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the federal judge whom President Biden has picked to fill Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's seat when he retires this summer.

Rounds of questioning from lawmakers started at 9 a.m. ET and ended after 10 p.m. ET. Among the topics she was asked about: expansion of the size of the court, critical race theory, dark money and the length of sentences she has handed down in child pornography cases. The full day of questioning follows a session on Monday devoted to opening statements — from lawmakers and from Jackson.

Blackburn unleashes final wave of GOP attacks in long day of questions

Posted March 22, 2022 at 10:53 PM EDT
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Alex Brandon/AP
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Tennessee GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn capped off a day of Republican attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with a final wave of complaints.

Blackburn was the last of 20 questioners in a day that stretched for more than 13 hours, returning to distortions and attacks similar to those levied by other Republican senators earlier in the day, including questions over critical race theory and child pornography.

Blackburn first zeroed in on a case involving Jackson as a private lawyer that included a brief that called pro-life supporters in one case “hostile, noisy crowd of in-your-face protestors.”

“I find it incredibly concerning that someone who is nominated to a life position with life tenure on the Supreme Court holds such a hostile view,” said Blackburn, who opposes the Roe v. Wade decision.

Jackson said the case was tied to a brief drafted and filed by Jackson and her partners about 20 years ago involving clients who were facing a First Amendment question about the space allowed around them to enter a clinic.

“It’s not the way I think of or characterize people,” Jackson told Blackburn of the wording in the brief.

Blackburn also rehashed attempts to link Jackson to critical race theory, as first raised by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz regarding Jackson’s time on the board of trustees at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not making comments about what schools can teach,” Jackson said before Blackburn cut in to ask questions related to sex and gender identity.

Blackburn had wanted Jackson to define men and women, or provide a definition for a woman. But Jackson declined.

“In my work as a judge, I address disputes. If there’s a dispute about a definition, people make arguments and I look at the law and I decide.”

Blackburn also rehashed another Republican attempt to attack Jackson for child pornography sentencing, but those efforts to distort those rulings have been largely debunked.

“These cases are among the most difficult for judges who have to deal with the evidence, judges like me who are parents,” Jackson said.

On Working and Parenting

Jackson lets her guard down, says she didn't always get the balance right between family and career

Posted March 22, 2022 at 8:46 PM EDT
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Jackson's husband Dr. Patrick Jackson and daughter Leila Jackson, right, look on.
Andrew Harnik
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Jackson's husband, Patrick Jackson, and daughter Leila Jackson look on.

Questioning during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's second day of confirmation hearings took a tender turn when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked the Supreme Court nominee about how she perseveres through challenges.

"That['s] something that I learned from my grandparents who ... didn't have it easy," Jackson said, describing how her grandparents were the "hardest-working people I've ever known and who just got up every day and put one foot after the other and provided for their families and made sure that their children went to college, even though they never had those opportunities."

"I stand on the shoulders of people from that generation," said Jackson, who if confirmed will be the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the United States.

In one of the few unguarded moments of the hearing, Jackson said she didn't "always get the balance right" between motherhood and her legal career.

"It takes a lot of hard work to become a judge, to do the work of a judge, which I've done now for almost 10 years," she said. "It's a lot of early mornings and late nights, and what that means is there will be hearings during your daughter's recitals. There'll be emergencies on birthdays that you have to handle. And I know so many young women in this country, especially who have small kids, who have these momentous events and have to make a choice."

Jackson, whose daughters, husband and parents have attended the two days of hearings, said she hoped that by their seeing her join the Supreme Court, "they can know that you don't have to be perfect in your career trajectory, and you can still end up doing what you want to do."

"You don't have to be a perfect mom, but if you do your best and you love your children, that things will turn out OK," she said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., acknowledged Booker's tendency to bring out emotion during his questioning.

"Cory, you're one of a kind," he said.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Senators bicker over sentencing documents

Posted March 22, 2022 at 7:56 PM EDT

As the hearing entered its 10th hour, senators had a testy exchange over a batch of sentencing documents that was made available to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee by the White House this afternoon.

The flare-up began as senators reconvened after a brief break from questioning.

"Sen. Hirono had referenced five probation reports that were not in the record. I asked the chairman whether the Democrats had access to information about Judge Jackson's judicial record that Republicans did not," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who is presiding over the hearing.

"When we walked in, each of the Republicans was handed this piece of paper, which is the first time any of us have ever seen, which is a chart of probation recommendations. We were just told that the White House gave it to Democrats earlier today," Cruz said.

"I suspect if they were helpful, you would have made them public," Cruz added. "So the fact that you haven't raises an inference that they're not helpful to the case you're making."

"Senator, you always draw your own inferences, and I know where most of them head," Durbin said dryly, adding that all senators should now have access to the documents.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., also expressed frustration that the document distribution wasn't more widely publicized, adding one would need "clairvoyance" to know about it.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., cheekily jumped in to add his voice to the chorus of GOP frustration, given that he got the documents only "10 minutes ago."

"So I'm very upset," he said. "I join Ted Cruz."

"That's an alliance that's well known," Durbin chuckled.

On Child pornography

Hawley presses assertion that Jackson has been lenient on child porn offenders

Posted March 22, 2022 at 7:23 PM EDT
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected Sen. Josh Hawley's claims that she was lenient in past cases related to child pornography.

"All of the offenses are horrible. All of the offenses are egregious," Jackson said.

In one particular case, Hawley argued that Jackson faltered in her role to bring a sufficient sentence.

However, Jackson rebuffed that claim, saying she followed the relevant statues, exercised her discretion, took into account aspects of the particular case and made a determination consistent with her authority, judgment and understanding.

And she reviewed evidence as a judge "who is a mom," Jackson said. She also noted that a judge has to determine how to sentence defendants proportionately, consistent with the elements that the statutes include and with the requirements that Congress has set forward.

"Senator, sentencing is a discretionary act of a judge. But it's not a numbers game," Jackson told Hawley.

Hawley, a Missouri Republican who has been mentioned as possibly considering a 2024 presidential run, had previewed on Monday that he wanted to focus on Jackson's sentencing of child pornography defendants.

"I've got a 9-year-old, 7-year-old and a 16-month-old at home, and I live in fear that they will be exposed to, let alone exploited, in this kind of material," Hawley said while focusing on one particular case.

"Help me understand this," Hawley added.

There is wide agreement among prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges that the sentencing guidelines have become outdated in the age of the internet.

Jackson argued that there is discretion and that it's up to Congress to address the issue further when it comes to sentencing guidelines.

"The guidelines, as you pointed out, are being departed from, even with respect to the government's recommendations. The government, in this case and in others, has asked for a sentence that is substantially less than the guideline penalty," Jackson said during another exchange with Hawley.

"I want to assure you, senator, that I take these cases very seriously," Jackson added.

Hawley's arguments often tie into conspiracy theories and have been repeatedly debunked by experts and various analyses, including one by The Washington PostFact Checker.

The White House also rejected many of Hawley's claims, with deputy press secretary Andrew Bates calling it an "embarrassing, QAnon-signaling smear."

Hearing schedule

Senators taking a break for votes

Posted March 22, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT

The senators are currently taking a 20-minute break for votes.

Once they return, Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., will question Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. The Senate Judiciary Committee will then take a 30-minute break for dinner.

After the committee returns, Sens. John Kennedy, R-La., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., will question Jackson. Sens. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., will complete the first round of questions on Wednesday morning.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee's chair, said Tuesday's hearing should conclude between 9 and 10 p.m. ET.


The phrase 'stare decisis' has come up a few times. Here's what it is

Posted March 22, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT

At least a few times today, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has cited "stare decisis" in discussing her approach to cases.

So what is it?

"It means following precedent. It's the idea that as legal principles develop in the courts, there's a body of law that people can rely on," NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has said.

According to Cornell Law School: "Stare decisis means 'to stand by things decided' in Latin."

Cornell adds about the doctrine: "When a court faces a legal argument, if a previous court has ruled on the same or a closely related issue, then the court will make their decision in alignment with the previous court’s decision."

While the doctrine comes up fairly often, it has been cited a lot more recently in association with current challenges to long-standing abortion law.


Sen. Ted Cruz tries to link Jackson to critical race theory

Posted March 22, 2022 at 4:54 PM EDT
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds up a book as he questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation.
Carolyn Kaster
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds up a book as he questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, used his time today to attempt to link Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s career to critical race theory, an academic approach that examines how race and racism function in American institutions and that has been weaponized by Republican lawmakers into a broader culture war issue.

Cruz noted that Jackson serves on the board of trustees at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., and asked whether critical race theory should be part of the curriculum there.

Jackson reminded the Texas Republican that the board doesn't control curricula. "That's not what we do as board members," she said.

Cruz pressed on, claiming that the curriculum at the private school is "overflowing with critical race theory," citing books like How to Be an Antiracist and Antiracist Baby, a children's book. He had blown-up images from the latter behind him as he spoke.

Jackson, who if confirmed would become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, continued to respond that the theory simply “doesn’t come up in my work as a judge.”

“[Critical race theory is] never something I’ve studied or relied on, and it wouldn’t be something I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court," she said.

Cruz also pointed to various speeches Jackson has given, attempting to prod Jackson into admitting that critical race theory plays a role in her work.

"You did a speech in April of 2015 at the University of Chicago in which you describe the job you do as a judge, and you said sentencing is just plain interesting because it melds together many types of law, criminal law and, of course, constitutional law, critical race theory," he said.

Jackson responded that Cruz was mischaracterizing her speech.

“With respect, senator, the quote you are mentioning there was about sentencing policy — it was not about sentencing,” Jackson said.

The line of attack, on critical race theory, has been echoed by the Republican National Committee.

Democrats noted that Cruz's questioning came amid Jackson's historic nomination:

Cruz, who was peers with Jackson at Harvard Law School, continued with a line of questioning on her past sentencing of child pornography defendants. Various Republican senators, including Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have alleged that Jackson delivered lighter sentences to such defendants.

Cruz displayed another poster board, this one showing that various sentences she gave were below what prosecutors had asked for.

“Your chart does not include all of the factors that Congress has told judges to consider, including the probation office’s recommendation in these cases," Jackson responded. "Congress is the body that tells sentencing judges what they’re supposed to look at, and Congress has said that a judge is not playing a numbers game. The judge is looking at all of these different factors and making a determination in every case based on a number of different considerations. And in every case, I did my duty to hold the defendants accountable in light of the evidence and the information that was presented to me."

Hearing schedule

The panel has taken a break to vote

Posted March 22, 2022 at 3:56 PM EDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee has taken a break for a floor vote until 4:05 p.m. ET.

Eleven members have questioned Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson today, and 11 are awaiting their turn when the hearing resumes.

The Senate has another floor vote at around 6 p.m.

On detainees at Guantánamo Bay

Ketanji Brown Jackson pressed on whether she called Bush and Rumsfeld 'war criminals'

Posted March 22, 2022 at 2:33 PM EDT
Sen. John Cornyn,. R-Texas, questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Evan Vucci
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's role as a public defender, specifically her role defending detainees at Guantánamo Bay, drew repeated interest from Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, raised the issue during one exchange, saying he has been impressed by her gracious demeanor, but then he asked why she called former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "war criminals." Jackson said she did not recall using the term and told Cornyn, "I did not intend to disparage the president or the secretary of defense."

During a lunch break, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., did some research. He said he noted Jackson appeared surprised by the question. He said he reviewed the habeas petitions that Jackson filed on behalf of clients in her role as a federal public defender and that named the former president and defense secretary in their "official capacities" at the time and raised claims for relief. Durbin concluded to Jackson, "There was no time when you called President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld a war criminal."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also pressed Jackson on a similar issue when he asked her about her work in private practice at a D.C. law firm and her role filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court related to detainees who were being held as enemy combatants. Jackson emphasized that her role representing those clients was to detail their allegations to "preserve issues" related to their complaints before the court.

Following Graham's exchange with Jackson, Durbin, as chair, noted that several notable conservative legal voices raised objections to detentions at Guantánamo Bay and that the costs of the remaining 39 detainees is far higher than the cost of incarcerating them at federal prisons in the United States.

An exercised Graham, raising his voice, said, "I hope they all die in jail" and reiterated his position that continuing to hold those detainees was worth the cost to avoid releasing them to go back to the fight.

On dark money

It may be a nomination hearing, but we're not learning much about the nominee. That's partly by design.

Posted March 22, 2022 at 1:13 PM EDT
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee
Getty Images North America
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

If you were tuning in to these Supreme Court confirmation hearings, you’d be excused for not getting much information about the actual nominee and what kind of Supreme Court justice she’d be.

That’s, one, partly by design from the nominee’s side and, two, because of grievances and defenses between the senators of different parties.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been following the playbook of past nominees and not sharing much about her judicial philosophy. In fact, when she was asked about which Supreme Court justice’s philosophy she might most closely align with, she said she hadn’t studied enough of their philosophies.

It’s hard to believe that a Harvard-educated judge and former lawyer hasn’t geeked out on which justices she could have an affinity with. But that’s not really the point. The point is getting confirmed. And the best way to do that nowadays is to say as little as possible, or as little as possible that the “other side” could disagree with.

In this case, transparency is not a nominee’s friend.

Speaking of transparency, one of the areas that have taken senators off their questioning of the nominee herself and into areas of grievances with each other has to do with “dark money.”

Republicans complained that groups whose donors aren’t clear have been advocating for Jackson or arguing against other potential nominees.

That’s rich, Democrats say, considering Republicans’ close ties to the Federalist Society, which has played a prominent role in filtering and selecting nominees for Republican presidents.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., took that on directly, essentially prosecuting the case with poster boards showing the web of dark money in support of Republicans, plus the millions of dollars that groups on the GOP side have spent.

"I'll be the first to concede that there is dark money on both sides,“ Whitehouse said, “and I hope very much we can get rid of it on both sides, shortly, by legislation."

Whitehouse has proposed legislation to require more disclosure, but it’s something Republicans have blocked again and again.

Hearing break

The hearing has paused for lunch

Posted March 22, 2022 at 1:04 PM EDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee has taken a lunch break and will return at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is scheduled to go until 9 p.m. and then resume again at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a few more hours.

Thursday is slated to be the final hearing day for Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court.


Graham uses questioning to air grievances against Democrats

Posted March 22, 2022 at 11:55 AM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

There's no aluminum pole, dinner or feats of strength, but there is certainly an airing of grievances.

The Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has become something of a Festivus for Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., channeled that in questioning Jackson today. He asked her about a range of issues that he admitted had little to do with Jackson herself but rather with past grievances against Democrats.

He asked Jackson about her religion (her reply: nondenominational Protestant) as a vehicle to talk about Democrats’ treatment of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic, during her confirmation hearing.

Graham asked Jackson about her association with a Black law-student group that invited a speaker who held controversial views. It was a proxy for lines that Democrats drew about a group that now-Justice Samuel Alito was a part of.

The senator asked whether she knew of a judge, who is also Black but happens to be conservative, but who Democrats — including President Biden when he was a senator — said they wouldn’t vote for.

"There are two standards going on here,” Graham said. He said he would not judge Jackson based on those associations but charged that Democrats do.

He added that if you “explain your faith as a conservative you’re an effing nut.”

While Graham has defended Jackson's representation of Guantánamo Bay detainees when she was a federal public defender, he got heated at the end of his questioning when talking about enemy combatants and U.S. policy on the naval base.

His line of inquiry could indicate that Graham won’t be a vote in favor of Jackson. But anyone who watched his questioning of now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her 2009 confirmation hearing knows you never know which Graham you’ll get tomorrow. One day he said he was “troubled” by Sotomayor's nomination, and the very next day he was effusive over her and then voted for her.

Hearing schedule

The questioning of Jackson resumes

Posted March 22, 2022 at 11:54 AM EDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing has resumed and will last for another hour or so before breaking for lunch, according to the panel's chair, Sen. Dick Durbin.

Tuesday's session could last as long as 12 hours.

Hearing break

The hearing is on a short break

Posted March 22, 2022 at 11:41 AM EDT

The confirmation hearing has paused for a break and will resume just before noon.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin said he expects the panel will take a break for lunch “in the earlier part of the afternoon.”

Tuesday’s session is scheduled last as long as 12 hours.

On Child Pornography

Child pornography crimes are significant, damaging and horrible, Jackson says in calling for Congress to update sentencing laws

Posted March 22, 2022 at 11:09 AM EDT

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said she works to represent the victims' perspectives and voices when she sentences someone for crimes related to child pornography, and she called on Congress to change laws on sex abuse materials to keep up with the digital era.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on the opening day of the confirmation hearings painted Jackson as a judge who is soft in sentencing those convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography. The accusation of being too lenient is one of Republicans' most damning talking points, meant to foreclose any possibility that members of the GOP will vote to confirm Jackson, although most legal experts and media outlets, including the conservative National Review, have said the accusation is wrong.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat, used his first questions on the second day to try to lance the boil, asking Jackson what was going through her mind when Hawley in his statement said her sentences endanger children.

"I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth. These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with, because we're talking about pictures of sex abuse of children," she said.

"For every defendant who comes before me and who suggests, as they often do, that they're just a looker — that these crimes don't really matter, [that] they've collected these things on the internet and 'it's fine' — I tell them about the victim statements that have come in to me as a judge," she added, describing how she has heard from victims that the abuse kept them from having normal adult relationships or led them into prostitution or drug addictions.

Jackson said she then imposes a significant sentence and "all of the additional restraints that are available by law."

"I am imposing all of those constraints because I understand how significant, how damaging, how horrible this crime is," she said.

Jackson, who also worked on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, said the law directing sentencing for the crimes was enacted years ago, "at a time in which more serious child pornography offenders were identified based on the volume, based on the number of photographs that they received in the mail."

But now, with the internet, perpetrators can share high volumes of abuse-related content, and the law is "not doing the work of differentiating who is a more serious offender in the way that it used to."

"Congress tells judges what we're supposed to do when we sentence, and what I'd say is that Congress has to determine how it wishes for judges to handle these cases," she said.

On Guantánamo Bay

Jackson defends her past work as a public defender for Guantánamo Bay detainees

Posted March 22, 2022 at 10:35 AM EDT
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during the second day of her confirmation hearing.
Evan Vucci
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during the second day of her confirmation hearings.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson defended her past representation of Guantánamo Bay detainees as a public defender following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Federal public defenders don't get to pick their clients," Jackson said in response to a preemptive question from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on a politically sensitive time in her legal career. "They have to represent whoever comes in, and it's a service. That's what you do as a federal public defender. You are standing up for the constitutional value of representation."

Jackson said she was working in the federal public defender's office when the Supreme Court ruled that Guantánamo Bay detainees could seek judicial review of their detention.

"The legal landscape was very uncertain. This had never happened before," she recalled. "Not only the attack, but also the use of executive authority to detain people in this way, and there were a lot of questions that the court was asking."

Jackson, who said she never traveled to Guantánamo Bay as part of her work, made it a point to note that her brother signed up to serve in the U.S. military after 9/11, and she said many lawyers were working to serve the nation in their legal roles.

"There were also lawyers who recognized that our nation's values were under attack, that we couldn't let the terrorists win by changing who we were fundamentally," she said. "We're entitled to be treated fairly. That's what makes our system the best in the world. That's what makes us exemplary."

While some senators may raise additional questions about Jackson's public defender work for Guantánamo detainees, at least one Republican senator has already made clear it will not be an issue for him.

"The fact that you're representing Gitmo detainees is not a problem with me," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a former military lawyer, said Monday. "Everyone deserves a lawyer."

On court packing

Jackson says the size of the Supreme Court is a matter for legislators, not nominees

Posted March 22, 2022 at 9:42 AM EDT
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during the second day of her confirmation hearing, Monday, March 21, 2022, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during the second day of her confirmation hearing.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson began the second day of her confirmation hearing to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court by addressing a question many Republicans wanted her to answer — should the size of the high court be expanded, as many liberal groups have advocated?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., posed the question in his first round of questions for Judge Jackson, noting that Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee of President Donald Trump, did not opine on the question during her confirmation hearings in 2020.

Jackson told the committee she agrees with now-Justice Barrett, saying her "north star" is the appropriate role for a judge in the current constitutional framework. "In my view, judges should not be speaking to political issues and certainly not a nominee for a position on the Supreme Court."

Jackson's answer may not satisfy Republicans on the panel and the issue is likely to come up later in the hearings. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted that he asked Judge Jackson about the issue during his one-on-one meeting with her, but she did not answer.

Currently nine justices sit on the high court. Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring, and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg both have said publicly they believe Congress should not add seats to the court.

In Case You Missed It

Day 1 recap: Republicans vent about Kavanaugh and Democrats rebut 'soft on crime' charges

Posted March 22, 2022 at 7:45 AM EDT
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's parents Johnny and Ellery Brown, sit together in the front row during their daughter's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Washington.
Carolyn Kaster
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, have front-row seats to their daughter's Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Monday.

Opening day of Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Monday featured Republicans looking back at a GOP nominee's confirmation hearings and Democrats working to get out ahead of attacks on the judicial record of President Biden's nominee.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee repeatedly insisted Jackson's hearings would not be a rerun of the contentious sessions surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018. Those hearings featured allegations from Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. GOP members decried Democrats for inviting her to testify, and called the episode a "circus."

Kavanaugh repeatedly denied the accusations and had tense exchanges with Democrats about his drinking habits but was later confirmed. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the panel, used his opening statement to say things were off to a "very good start" since he wasn't interrupted by Democrats on the dais.

South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham contrasted the process with Kavanaugh's, saying, "You will not be vilified, you will not be attacked." Another Republican on the panel, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, called those hearings "one of the lowest moments in the history of this committee" and vowed to Jackson she would not be subjected to that "disgraceful behavior." Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said some of the panel acted like "jackwagons."

However, this is not the first Supreme Court nomination process since Kavanaugh's. Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett was vetted and confirmed in 2020.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., brushed aside the GOP complaints about the tenor of the Kavanaugh hearings, saying, "I am looking forward" and "I don't want to relive that history."

At the outset of Monday's hearing, Durbin framed the historic moment of Jackson's nomination to serve as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court and said it was "a proud day for America." He leveled a warning to his GOP colleagues, saying, “I also ask the members of this committee, as we begin this landmark confirmation process, to consider how history will judge each senator as we face our constitutional responsibility to advise and consent.”

Durbin and other Democrats ticked through Jackson's resume — stressing her sterling academic record and career as a public defender, member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and as a district court and circuit court judge. They called some of the allegations raised by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri that she gave too lenient sentences to those convicted in child pornography cases and was "soft on crime" as "baseless."

In terms of what GOP members of the panel have in store for the lengthy Q&A phase of the confirmation hearings beginning today, Durbin said, "They can raise any issues they wish." He confidently said for those Americans asking if Democrats were prepared to respond: "Are we ready? You bet we are."

Questions and answers

Ketanji Brown Jackson faces a full day of questioning from lawmakers

Posted March 22, 2022 at 7:45 AM EDT
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's pick to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, is in the second day of nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee
Getty Images
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had it relatively easy on the opening day of her confirmation hearings to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She had to listen to 22 senators give their opening statements and then she had 10 minutes to introduce herself to the committee and to the national audience tuning into the high-stakes hearing.

But Day 2 promises to be long and challenging, with Republicans on the panel vowing to press her on topics ranging from abortion to school choice to the length of sentences she handed down in child porn cases.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is allocating 30 minutes to each member of the panel to ask questions of Jackson and joked that the 10-minute opening statements on Monday is basically a "throat clearing" for most senators. The session will begin at 9 a.m. ET and could last as long as 12 hours.

Many Republicans contrasted the hearing for Judge Jackson with the confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, criticizing Democrats for contentious hearings that protesters interrupted, and the allegations of sexual assault against President Donald Trump's nominee made the hearings tense and often very personal in exchanges between those on the dais and Kavanaugh. They vow the questioning will focus on substance.

Throughout Monday's hearing Republicans on the panel referred to Jackson's role as a public defender, as a pro bono attorney who represented defendants at Guantanamo Bay, and as the vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Several cited cases they indicated raised questions about her views on crime.

Durbin tried to prebut any suggestion that she was "soft on crime" and said after Monday's session that Jackson "is balanced and her record shows it." He noted that she was endorsed by law enforcement groups.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley cited seven instances when Jackson handed down sentences in child pornography cases that were below the federal minimum guidelines and said he planned to ask her about those cases. He said that by previewing his line of questioning, he was showing he wasn't "interested in playing 'gotcha.' I am interested in answers." But Democrats before and after Hawley's opening statement said he was misrepresenting her record and they expected her to respond forcefully.

Doug Jones, the former Alabama senator tapped by the White House to guide Jackson through the confirmation process, told reporters on Monday that Jackson is prepared to address the issues Hawley raised. He said they raise "sensitive issues," but she will be the one to counter those questions and he didn't believe they would play a factor in her confirmation.

Republicans on the panel like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse have also said they want to hear Jackson's views on the effort by some liberal groups to expand the size of the Supreme Court. But Jones said that is a question for members of Congress, not judicial nominees, to answer. He indicated Jackson would follow the position that Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's nominee, set in her hearings in 2020, when she deferred those questions to lawmakers.

"I would anticipate her answers to be consistent" with Barrett's, Jones said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the panel, said he wanted to hear Jackson's views on the role of a judge, stressing he didn't believe any judge should be making new law from the bench.

Senators on the Judiciary panel will get a second opportunity to pose questions to Judge Jackson on Wednesday, with a shorter Q&A round scheduled for follow-ups, with each member getting 20 minutes. Durbin also noted Judiciary members can submit questions for the record that Jackson can answer in writing.