Senators, Jackson used Day 1 of confirmation to prime America for what is to come

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first day in front of the U.S. Senate went about as predicably as one would have expected.

Most of Monday’s proceedings were largely ceremonial, as the true fireworks will happen today, when Jackson faces questioning as part of a televised hearing. Typically, these hearings are when the loyal opposition launches its most spirited attacks.

The presumptive replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer sought to convey the visage of calm and moderation, speaking of faith and patriotism.

Jackson gave thanks to God for her opportunity and said the “First of my many blessings is the fact that I was born in this great nation.”

She also offered a brief defense of her record, which has come under a wide swath of scrutiny over Republican concerns she is soft on crime or overly empathetic to the accused.

“I decide cases from a neutral posture,” Jackson said in her opening statement, the full text of which was transcribed by CNN. “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.

“I know that my role as a judge is a limited one—that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented. And I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent.”

Jackson did not address the accusations of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who says her record shows a pattern of being soft on people convicted of child pornography.

Hawley, though, gave every indication that the subject would come up when he questions Jackson, and mentioned seven cases in which Jackson handed out a sentence that was both below sentencing guidelines and the desires of prosecutors.

“What concerns me 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 the prosecutors requested,” Hawley said in his remarks to the Senate.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has veered well clear of talk of Jackson’s child pornography sentencing record, said he had grave concerns about Jackson’s qualifications and her appeal to the far left.

“Fringe groups that attack the Court’s legitimacy and want partisan court-packing spent a great deal of time and money promoting Judge Jackson for this nomination,” McConnell said. “And once nominated, prominent soft-on-crime activists and open-borders pressure groups quickly rallied to her side. The Senate needs to understand why.”

In his speech, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) refuted McConnell’s claim.

“Judge Jackson is no judicial activist,” Leahy said. “She is not a puppet of the so-called ‘radical left.’  She has been praised by Republican-appointed judges for her jurisprudence.  Lawyers from the right and the left who have appeared before her in court have called her ‘judicious and even-handed.’

“Judge Jackson is not ‘anti-law enforcement.’  She hails from a law enforcement family.  She has also won the support of preeminent, national law enforcement organizations, including the National Fraternal Order of Police.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who earlier in the month called for “respectful and dignified hearings,” did not reiterate his request on Monday. He and other Democrats instead chose to focus on the importance of public faith in the court and to bolster Jackson’s image as an optimistic and patriotic judge.

“Judge Jackson, we are all just temporary occupants—of the Senate, the House, even with a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land,” Durbin said during his opening remarks. “You, Judge Jackson, are one of Mr. Lincoln’s living witnesses of an America that is unafraid of challenge, willing to risk change, confident of the basic goodness of our citizens. And you are a living witness to the fact that, in America, all is possible.”

Numerous Republicans repeated their assurances that they would not allow the confirmation process to become mired in salaciousness.

“[As] you have heard repeatedly, this is going to be a fair, very thorough, and very respectful hearing,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said during her speech. “We are going to work through this process with some tough questions but do it in a manner [that gives you] the respect that you deserve.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), noted for his oratory skills even among his staunchest critics, gave a particularly detailed history of times when Senate Democrats have, in the Senator’s estimation, abandoned propriety.

“There are some who say, ‘Well, if the justice is qualified, the Senate should confirm,” Cruz said. “There was a time that was the case. Our Democratic colleagues have abandoned that standard long ago.”

Cruz then criticized Democrats for their handling of the confirmation hearings of Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett – the six members of the court nominated by a Republican president.

Ultimately, though, Cruz echoed the pledge of avoiding asking rude or unnecessary questions and to focus on what he saw as the critical question for every judge.

“Chairman Durbin quoted Paul Simon, and he said, history will judge quote, did she ‘restrict freedom?’ Or did she ‘expand it?’” Cruz said. “I agree with that. The reason the American people care about the Supreme Court is it is integral to protecting or taking away our constitutional rights.

“When it comes to free speech, this committee should inquire—will you protect the rights of Americans to speak, to say unpopular ideas, to say ideas that the government doesn’t want you to say that you nonetheless have a right to say? Will you protect freedom or restrict it?”

Jackson’s confirmation hearings will continue through March 24th.