(WASHINGTON) — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in its 233-year history, will appear on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first of four days of high-profile confirmation hearings.
Monday’s session kicked off with up to 10-minute opening statements from Senate Judiciary Committee members, five-minute statements from outside introducers, and then 10 minutes from Jackson herself.
Jackson, 51, who currently sits on the nation’s second most powerful court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, will face questions from the committee’s 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats over two days, starting Tuesday. On Thursday, senators can ask questions of the American Bar Association and other outside witnesses.
While Democrats have the votes to confirm President Joe Biden’s first Supreme Court nominee on their own, and hope to by the middle of April, the hearings could prove critical to the White House goal of securing at least some Republican support and shoring up the court’s credibility. Jackson has been vetted twice previously by the Judiciary Committee and twice confirmed by the full Senate as a judge — most recently last year, with three Republican votes.
Jackson, who would replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer if confirmed, has spent the last month meeting with senators from both parties behind closed doors on Capitol Hill ahead of publicly testifying to her qualifications for the nation’s highest court.
Here is how the news is developing. Check back for updates:
Mar 21, 8:37 pm
22 Senators to question Jackson on Tuesday
On Tuesday, Jackson will lean on her three prior experiences being questioned by the Judiciary Committee — more than any other nominee in 30 years — as its 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats take turns probing her judicial philosophy, her record as a public defender and her legal opinions spanning nearly nine years on the bench.
Jackson has spent the past few weeks practicing for the spotlight during mock sessions conducted with White House staff, sources familiar with the preparations told ABC News.
Each senator will get a 30-minute solo round of questioning on Tuesday, totaling more than 11 hours if each uses all of his or her allotted time. The grilling is unlike any other for federal judges or political nominees in large part because of the lifetime tenure on the line.
-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
Mar 21, 5:31 pm
Schumer dismisses GOP’s ‘desperate broadsides’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday he remains “confident” that the Senate is on track to confirm Jackson as 116th justice of the Supreme Court “by the end of this work period,” which concludes April 8.
“Over the course of the week, I expect the American people will finally see for themselves why Judge Jackson is one of the most-qualified individuals ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Schumer said.
The Democrat continued, “I also trust that Americans will see right through the misleading and desperate broadsides that a few members of the other side have launched against the judge in recent weeks.”
“We need not pretend that wild accusations from self-interested actors deserve to be taken seriously,” he said. “So color me skeptical that the American people will give them much weight.”
-ABC News’ John Parkinson
Mar 21, 4:54 pm
KBJ ‘poised,’ ‘handled herself well’
Yvette McGee Brown, the first Black woman Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, told ABC News Live she thinks Ketanji Brown Jackson “handled herself well” at Monday’s hearing.
“She was poised, she smiled,” McGee Brown said. “The cameras are on her constantly, so if she smiled at the wrong time, somebody might take something inappropriate from that smile, making it look like she wasn’t taking the process seriously. So I think the way she came across was being thoughtful, listening, hearing what they were saying, nodding occasionally. But it was the right approach.”
McGee Brown said she thinks Jackson’s background as a public defender would bring a “beneficial” “perspective” to the court.
“We want to make sure that the system lives up to the constitutional balance that the framers have put in place. It is the state’s burden to prove defendants have committed a crime — her role as a public defender was to put the state through their burden and to represent her client zealously,” McGee Brown said. “I think bringing that perspective to the court will be beneficial. It will give everyone an opportunity to understand what it’s like for people who can’t afford their own lawyer, and hopefully during this process it will educate the public about how important it is to have both sides fairly represented.”
Mar 21, 4:40 pm
Psaki: KBJ ‘certainly deserves’ bipartisan support
Asked by ABC News whether the White House believes Jackson’s potential confirmation would be bipartisan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she “certainly deserves that.”
“Without being able to get into the minds of a range of Republican members,” Psaki said, “our view’s that given she has been confirmed three times with bipartisan support, that she has extensive experience, that she has ruled in favor of Democrats and Republicans under leaders of both parties, that she certainly deserves that. But we will see what the outcome ends up being.”
-ABC News’ Justin Ryan Gomez
Mar 21, 4:37 pm
Sherpa Doug Jones previews KBJ’s responses Tuesday
Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the Biden administration’s sherpa for Jackson as she undergoes the Senate confirmation process, followed Monday’s opening statements by previewing what to expect from Jackson on Tuesday.
“What I think you’re gonna hear from Judge Jackson tomorrow is the way she goes about judging and a process and a methodology that some will call a philosophy, others will just call it a process, but it’s going to be very, very consistent with what you heard today from almost everybody on that dias of what they want in a Supreme Court justice,” he said. “Fairness, impartiality, judicial restraint, not staying in a judicial lane, not being a policymaker — that’s what you’re going to hear the next two days from this judge.”
Asked how he expects Jackson to respond to accusations that she’s “soft on crime,” Jones said it will be “very simple for her to make the argument because she’s going to point to her record.”
“If she was truly a judge with a demonstrated history — a judge — with a demonstrated history of being ‘soft on crime,’ she would not have been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Police Chiefs, attorney generals from across the country from both sides of the aisle, former DOJ officials, former national security officials, former George W. Bush officials — that wouldn’t happen,” Jones said.
He said attacks from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., were “not surprising” and that Jackson will be able to talk about each of the seven cases he’s taken issue with over the next two days.
Mar 21, 4:13 pm
Citing ‘red flags,’ McConnell vows GOP will conduct ‘rigorous review’ of ‘likable’ KBJ
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the GOP’s line of attack against Judge Jackson’s record on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, outlining what he called “red flags” that detract from her historic nomination.
Painting her as a judge with limited experience on the bench, McConnell said Republicans know very little about her judicial philosophy and emphasized that she has issued just two written opinions on the appeals court — both released after the opening on the high court became public. Notably, Jackson authored nearly 600 opinions during her eight years as a trial court judge.
“There is no meaningful sample size of appellate opinions or senators to consult,” McConnell said. “The country needs a respectful, dignified, but vigorous, exhaustive hearing.”
McConnell conceded that Jackson is “likable,” but stressed that he voted against her for her current post, adding that she hasn’t resolved his concerns about whether she’ll follow the law as written.
“I want to hear whether the judge actually agrees that the job the judge is to follow the law as it is read a simple straightforward proposition,” he said. “The judge’s job is to bring neutrality, not an agenda.”
For her part, Jackson said in her opening statement that she decides cases “from a neutral posture… without fear of favor.”
-ABC News’ John Parkinson
Mar 21, 4:06 pm
Confirmation hearings continue Tuesday
After nearly four and a half hours of opening statements on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m. when Judge Jackson will begin two days of intense questioning from the committee’s 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Members will speak in order of seniority, with 30 minutes each for questions Tuesday and 20 minutes Wednesday.
Democrats are expected to continue their defense of Jackson against GOP attacks on her record as a federal public defender and in response to allegations she’s “soft on crime.” The Biden White House is aiming for at least a few Republicans to vote to confirm the president’s nominee.
With members of the public invited into the hearing room for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered doors, public seats were nearly full for Jackson’s opening statement, with numerous African American women in the room.
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 21, 3:53 pm
Jackson says she stands on the ‘shoulders of so many’
Noting she has almost a decade of experience on the bench, Jackson said she approaches the law with a “careful adherence to precedent” and joked that her opinions “tend to be on the long side…because I also believe in transparency — that people should know precisely what I think and the basis for my decision.”
“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,” she said. “I know that my role as a judge is a limited one. But the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases that are properly presented.”
Jackson continued, “All of my professional experiences, including my work as a public defender and a trial judge have instilled in me the importance of having each litigant know that the judge in the case has heard them, whether or not their arguments prevail in court.”
Wrapping up her opening statement and the first time she’s spoken formally before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jackson acknowledged those who came before her.
“I stand on the shoulders of so many who have come before me, including Judge Constance Baker Motley, who was the first African American woman to be appointed to the federal bench and with whom I share a birthday,” Jackson said. “And like Judge Motley, I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building ‘equal justice under law’ are a reality and not just an idea.”
“Thank you for this historic chance to join the highest court to work with brilliant colleagues to inspire future generations — and to ensure liberty and justice for all,” she said in closing.
Jackson will face marathon questioning round from senators on Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the American Bar Association and outside witnesses speaking to her qualifications on Thursday.
Mar 21, 3:39 pm
Jackson on Breyer: ‘I would hope to carry on his spirit’
Jackson in her opening remarks honored Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who she clerked for and whose seat she would fill if confirmed.
She said, “I know that I could never fill his shoes. But if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit.”
She quoted something Breyer said on the day of his own nomination to the Supreme Court: “What is law supposed to do, seen as a whole? It is supposed to allow all people — all people — to live together in a society, where they have so many different views, so many different needs, to live together in a way that is more harmonious, that is better, so that they can work productively together.”
Jackson vowed, “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.”
Mar 21, 3:36 pm
Jackson nods to her family in hearing room
After thanking her parents, siblings, husband and in-laws for being in the hearing room to support her, Jackson reserved a “special moment” in her introduction to thank her daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17.
“Girls, I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right, but I hope that you have seen that with hard work, determination and love, it can be done,” she said.
“I am so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country. I love you so much,” Jackson added.
Jackson’s husband, Patrick, a general surgeon, was seen wiping away tears in the chamber as Jackson spoke.
Mar 21, 3:33 pm
Jackson thanks God in opening statement
Ketanji Brown Jackson in her opening remarks said she wanted to “reaffirm my thanks to God, for it is faith that sustains me at this moment. Even prior to today, I can honestly say that my life had been blessed beyond measure.”
With her parents looking on, Jackson addressed how her parents “experienced lawful racial segregation first-hand” and moved from Miami to Washington, D.C. before she was born.
“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,” she said. “Like so many families in this country, they worked long hours and sacrificed to provide their children every opportunity to reach their God-given potential. My parents have been married for 54 years, and they are here with me today; I cannot possibly thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me.”
Mar 21, 3:30 pm
KBJ’s former Harvard roommate introduces her personal side
Judge Jackson’s second introducer, professor Lisa Fairfax of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, was her roommate for most of college and law school at Harvard University and spoke to Jackson’s personal side.
Fairfax described Jackson as a “sister” and “the friend that makes sure we all belong too.”
“She showed us how by the power of her example of hard work, preparation, and excellence that transformed the seemingly impossible into the achievable,” she said, calling her the “rock” of their friend group.
“We knew early on she could be anything she chose to be, but also that she seemed destined to be a judge because of her ability to see all sides,” she continued. “Above all, Ketanji is humble enough not to pretend she knows how to have it all, but she does know how to give it all. What she gives to her family, her friends, she also gives to the law — and this country.”
Mar 21, 3:26 pm
Republican-nominated judge stresses Jackson is ‘an independent jurist’
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first introducer, Judge Thomas Griffith, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was nominated by a Republican. He introduced Jackson on Monday and told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Although we did not always agree on that outcome the law required, I respected her diligent and careful approach, her deep understanding and her collegial manner.”
Griffith often reviewed Jackson’s decisions as a trial judge while he served on the Court of Appeals and wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month in support of Jackson’s confirmation.
Griffith called Jackson “an independent jurist who adjudicates based on the facts and the law and not as a partisan. Time and again she has demonstrated that impartiality.”
Mar 21, 3:25 pm
Blackburn grills Jackson on ‘hidden agendas’
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., launched into a series on concerns over Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, taking particular issue with Jackson apparently telling her in their meeting on Capitol Hill that she does not have a judicial philosophy.
“The American people deserve a Supreme Court justice with a documented commitment to the text of the Constitution and the rule of law, not a judicial activist who will attempt to make policy from the bench. Without a judicial philosophy, a judge is legally adrift and it will be inclined to consider policy rather than law,” Blackburn said.
The senator from Tennessee suggested Jackson used the COVID-19 pandemic as justification to release criminals and also took issue with Jackson as a federal public defender for Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying, “You used your time and talent not to serve our veterans or other vulnerable groups, but to provide free legal services to help terrorists.”
“The American people want a justice who will protect their families’ freedoms, not allow government overreach. Moms that I am speaking with raised the issue of crime. You have consistently called for greater freedom for hardened criminals,” Blackburn added.
She also echoed arguments raised by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that Jackson was too lenient on child porn criminals, although ABC News reporting found Hawley’s claims misleading.
“You once wrote that every judge has ‘personal, hidden agendas” that influence how they decide cases,” Blackburn said. “I can only wonder, what your hidden agenda is. Is it to let child predators back to the streets? Is it to restrict parental rights and expand government into our schools and private family decisions? Is it to support the radical left’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court?”
Mar 21, 3:13 pm
Judiciary members continue opening remarks
Senate Judiciary Committee members continued opening statements in the afternoon ahead of an opening statement from Jackson herself.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., echoed Democrats who have touted the historic nature of Biden’s appointment, saying, “Even before your first opinion or dissent, your appearance before us today already begins a new chapter in our nation’s history.”
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he hopes the hearings will focus on the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and the appropriate balance of government. He also offered compliments to the Biden White House for selecting former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones to serve as Jackson’s sherpa, and Jones appeared to respond with a soft smile.
“Senator Jones knows the Senate and the Senate knows Senator Jones,” Kennedy said.
Offering the most praise for Jackson on the Republican side thus far, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., spoke to her qualifications and character and said he’s currently reading Jackson’s Harvard University thesis. He expects to finish it by Tuesday’s questioning.
Mar 21, 2:51 pm
Senate on ‘precipice of shattering another ceiling’: Booker
After Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., launched into a series of attacks on the Biden administration, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. — one of only three African American senators in the chamber and the only African American on the Judiciary Committee — took a more optimistic tone in his opening statement, calling the day “joyful.”
“Forgive me, I grew up in a small Black church where I was taught to make a joyous noise under the Lord,” Booker said through a grin. “This is not a normal day for America. We have never had this moment before. I just want to talk about the joy.”
“Today is a day of joy. Today is a day of joy. Today we should rejoice. President Biden nominated someone we have heard who is extraordinarily talented, who also happens to be a Black woman,” he said, in an apparent swipe at critics.
Booker acknowledged that Tuesday and Wednesday’s marathon questioning from senators will be “tough” but said the American people should not overlook the history-making moment before them.
“The Senate is poised right now to break another barrier. We are on the precipice of shattering another ceiling, another glass ceiling,” he said. “We are continuing to rise to our collective idea. I just feel the sense of overwhelming joy as I see you sitting there, as I see your family sitting behind you.”
He also recalled how Jackson’s daughter, Leila, present in the hearing room, wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama asking for him to put her mother on the Supreme Court. Now, with Democrats holding a razor-thin majority in the Senate, she’s headed for confirmation.
“Generations of little young girls and generations of young boys — no matter who their parents are — will have the audacity to write the president of the United States, whether they are daughters of white parents, Black parents, biracial parents, Muslim and Jewish parents, we are going to see a new generation of children talking about their mamas,” Booker said. “And daring to write to the president of the United States of America.”
“I want to tell your daughter right now, that dream of hers is so close to being a reality,” he added. “It is a tough day ahead but I think it could happen.”
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 21, 2:28 pm
Confirmation hearings resume
After a 30-minute break, the Senate Judiciary Committee reconvened for confirmation hearings for Biden’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.
Seven more senators will deliver opening statements before the public hears from two introducers and then Jackson herself.
Democrats have continued to highlight the significance of the moment as Monday marks the first time the Senate has considered a Black woman for the nation’s highest court. They have also used their time to defend Biden’s nominee against GOP attacks that she’s “soft on crime,” touting her ties to law enforcement and her endorsement from the fraternal order of police.
Several Republicans, meanwhile, have raised past grievances regarding Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, suggesting their nominee wasn’t treated fairly in 2018.
“We won’t try to turn this into a spectacle based on alleged process fouls,” said Ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “On that front, we’re off to a good start.”
Mar 21, 1:38 pm
Confirmation hearings enter break
The Senate Judiciary Committee has gone into a 30-minute break following a morning of opening statements from Democrats and Republicans on the committee considering Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
After the break, seven more senators have opening statements to deliver before the public hears from two introducers and Jackson herself.
Judge Thomas Griffith, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and professor Lisa Fairfax of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School will have five minutes each to introduce Jackson, whom they know personally.
Griffith often reviewed Jackson’s decisions as a trial judge while he served on the Court of Appeals and wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month in support of Jackson’s confirmation. Fairfax and Jackson were roommates for most of college and law school at Harvard University.
Jackson’s 10-minute opening statement will air on ABC News Television network with special coverage.
Mar 21, 1:35 pm
Sasse raises the ‘Ginsburg rule’
The Ginsburg rule, named for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who famously deflected senators’ questions when asked at her confirmation hearings how she would rule on a hypothetical case, follows the thinking that justices shouldn’t hint at how they would rule because they should be open-minded when an actual case comes before them.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in his opening statement that despite the Ginsburg rule, Jackson should be able to answer in detail questions about her own judicial philosophy — and how she goes about deciding a case.
“It’s incredibly important for a judge to tell us how she or he works out those principles in times that are new and confusing,” Sasse said. “Unfortunately, too many of the court’s decisions do not rest on solid constitutional foundations and reliable legal reasoning. Justices have too often written decisions to claim partisan policy victories and then retrofit bad legal or decision-making to justify that ruling.”
“It’s for that reason that, while we should all respect the Ginsburg rule, the idea that judges sitting before this panel should not weigh in on hypothetical cases likely to come before the court, nominees do, nonetheless, have a duty to be very clear about their judicial philosophy, their legal views and interpretive principles,” he continued. “The American people should not be asked to consent to any nominee who operates on principles that are obscure, confused or concealed.”
Mar 21, 1:26 pm
Blumenthal praises ‘giant leap into present’ with Jackson’s nomination
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke about the historic nature of the hearings — the first time in 233 years the Senate will consider the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
“Historic is a word often overused in this place where a lot of history is made, but today seems truly to merit it,” Blumenthal began. “Certainly it is an inflection point — an inflection pinnacle — for our nation. The appointment of a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court — let’s be very blunt — should have happened years ago.”
“This day is a giant leap into the present for our country and the court,” he added. “The appointment of a Black woman to the court will make the court look more like America. Hopefully, too, it will make the court think more like America.”
Blumenthal went on to praise Jackson’s experience as a public defender, saying the American justice system works best when there is good counsel on both sides. Jackson is the first nominee to the nation’s highest court with a background as a public defender.
“Representation matters for the legitimacy and credibility of our judicial system,” he said. “People walking into your courtroom or any other in this country look to the human being, not just to the robes.”
“Your presence will ensure the court more fully and deeply understands the lives and experiences of everyday Americans,” he added.
Mar 21, 1:14 pm
Republicans relive Kavanaugh hearings in opening statements
Republicans have continually used their opening statements in Jackson’s confirmation hearings to lament Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to the court in 2018.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, all brought up Kavanaugh in their opening statements, claiming Jackson will be treated with more respect.
“Judge Jackson, I can assure you that your hearing will feature none of that disgraceful behavior,” Cruz said. “No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits. No one is going to ask you with mock severity, ‘Do you like beer?'”
Cruz attempted to get ahead of the argument, he said, that rigorous questioning or a vote against Jackson’s confirmation means “you must somehow harbor racial animus” and went on to list instances when Democrats blocked nominations of racial minorities to judicial posts.
A theme emerging for Democrats, meanwhile, has been to preempt attacks from Republicans that Jackson is “soft on crime” with several of them speaking about her ties to law enforcement.
Mar 21, 12:46 pm
Klobuchar compliments Jackson’s family values — and wardrobe
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., ticked through Judge Jackson’s qualifications to the high court in her opening statement but first, she took a moment to compliment her “bold purple” blazer and turned to Jackson’s family values.
“If Senator Whitehouse is pleased that you once clerked for a Rhode Island judge, we, in Minnesota, are equally happy that you are wearing bold purple today, winning over both Prince and Minnesota Vikings fans the world over,” she joked.
Klobuchar also welcomed Jackson’s husband, Patrick, two daughters, Talia and Lelia, and parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, all seated inside the hearing room, and told Jackson it was clear, “your family has been a constant source of inspiration and support for you.”
“While these hearings are truly an opportunity for my colleagues have pointed out for Americans to get to know your legal acumen, we also learned about your background, your experiences, your values, and for so many of us, including people watching this hearing across the country, our values start with our family,” she said.
As many senators had before her, Klobuchar also acknowledged the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination.
“You, judge, are opening a door that’s long been shut to so many and by virtue of your strong presence, your skills, your experience, you are showing so many little girls and little boys across the country that anything and everything is possible,” she said.
Klobuchar also noted the historic timing of the hearings — “at a moment in our history when the people of this country are once again seeing, this time in Ukraine, that democracy can never be taken for granted. Eternal vigilance, it’s been said, is the price of liberty.”
Mar 21, 12:31 pm
GOP to drill Jackson on record defending Guantanamo Bay detainees
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also raised a red flag at the support Judge Jackson has gotten from progressive advocacy groups like Demand Justice, saying he is “troubled” that the same group that supports so-called “court-packing” or expanding the Supreme Court.
He said that he’s concerned that she hasn’t clarified her position on the matter. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has raised a similar objection.
Cornyn also warned Jackson that he, like Graham, intended to drill down on Jackson’s role defending Guantanamo Bay detainees both as a federal public defender and in private practice.
“This is not your first rodeo,” he said. “You’ve had an impressive record as a trial court judge and appellate court. I like the fact you have such broad experience in our judicial and legal system but there’s still unanswered questions that remain.”
“As someone who has deep respect for the adversarial system of justice, I understand the importance of zealous advocacy, but it appears that sometimes this zealous advocacy has gone beyond the pale, and in some instances, it appears that your advocacy has bled over into your decision-making process as a judge,” he added.
He immediately noted that Jackson has been overturned in some high-profile cases.
“You’ve had some cases reversed, like all judges do, but some of them were particularly high profile when you ruled against a Republican administration,” he said. “I’m eager to understand why in some instances, you found you could not decide a particular issue while in other instances, you adjoined a Republican administration from implementing its policies.”
Mar 21, 12:23 pm
Graham previews tough questioning from GOP
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he’s in favor of a more diverse court but said he has not yet pledged support for Judge Jackson.
“I think it’s good for the court to look like America, so count me in on the idea of making the court more diverse,” he said, but adding he has also said, “I want the court to play a particular role in America … make it operate in the confines of the Constitution.”
Attempting to get ahead of any political backlash to GOP questioning, Graham said he’s interested in Jackson’s record as a public defender during Guantanamo Bay proceedings and told Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to ask about her record as a federal district judge, calling it “fair game.” ABC News reporting found Hawley’s claims were misleading.
“The bottom line here is when it is about philosophy when it’s somebody of color on our side. It’s about we’re all racist if we ask hard questions. It’s not going to fly with us,” Graham said.
“We’re going to ask you what we think you need to be asked,” he added.
The South Carolina senator claimed that progressive groups came to Jackson’s aid “at the expense of Judge Childs,” whom he pledged to support had Biden nominated her, adding she “would have gotten 60-plus votes.” Jackson has said she knew nothing of the endorsement from the progressive advocacy group Demand Justice in a committee questionnaire.
Graham said the hearings will be “challenging” for Jackson, “informative” for the American public, and “respectful” by the committee.
Mar 21, 12:19 pm
Grassley reminds committee members of their goal
Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, complained that the committee hasn’t received all of the records Republicans originally sought from Jackson’s time on the sentencing commission but offered a bit of praise.
“We’re off to a good start,” Grassley said, comparing Jackson’s hearings against those for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
As senators have used Supreme Court confirmation hearings in recent years for political grandstanding, Grassley also reminded the committee of its purpose.
“In any Supreme Court nomination, the most important thing we look for is the nominee’s view of the law, judicial philosophy and view on the role of a judge. I’ll be looking to see whether Judge Jackson is committed to the Constitution as originally understood,” he said.
Mar 21, 11:52 am
Democrats defend Jackson against GOP attacks
After drawing a contrast between America of the past and present, from a nation that once had hundreds of thousands of enslaved people to that of a “more perfect union,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., defended Jackson against concerns voiced by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans that, as a former public defender, she will have “special empathy” as some Democrats touted.
“The cameras and the lights here today can make it easy to forget that at its core the responsibility you seek is one of service — and I’m fully confident you’ll serve Americans from all walks of life, all backgrounds fairly and faithfully,” Durbin said.
“Now there may be some who claim without a shred of evidence that you’ll be a rubber stamp for this president. For those would-be critics, I have four words: Look at the record,” he added.
Pointing out that the committee has already scoured her records now on four different occasions and seen “every published and reported word you’ve written or spoken,” Durbin said, “For those who say they need more, I would answer that you’ve sat down personally with every member of the dais of the committee, Democrats and Republicans.”
In what’s likely to become a theme for Democrats, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., echoed Durbin’s defense.
“Judge Jackson is not anti-law enforcement. She hails from a law enforcement family. She’s also won the support of preeminent national law enforcement organizations including the national fraternal order of police,” Leahy said. “And no, she’s not soft on crime. Her background as a federal public defender would bring an informed perspective of our criminal justice system to the Supreme Court.”
Mar 21, 11:31 am
Biden tweets support for Jackson
In a show of support for his nominee, Biden tweeted a video from Judge Jackson’s nomination ceremony at the White House ahead of her confirmation hearings Monday.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a brilliant legal mind with the utmost character and integrity,” the tweet read. “She deserves to be confirmed as the next Justice of the Supreme Court.”
Democrats, with 50 seats in the Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, already have the votes to confirm Jackson, but the White House is hoping to secure Republican votes and the approval of the American public with this week’s hearings.
Mar 21, 11:29 am
Durbin opens historic hearings
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gaveled in the hearings at 11:02 a.m. — marking the first time in 233 years that the Senate will consider the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
“The rule of law has stood the test of time, but the reality is that the court’s members have never really reflected the nation they served,” Durbin said.
“Today is a proud day for America,” he continued, noting he saw many young African American women on the steps of the Supreme Court at a rally for Jackson’s confirmation earlier this morning.
Durbin also had a preemptive message for Republicans on the committee like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who are expected to attack Jackson’s credibility, noting that she’s been vetted three times by the Senate and confirmed.
“Despite your record, we’ve heard claims that you’re, quote, soft on crime. These baseless charges are unfair,” he said.
“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 living witness to the fact that in America all is possible,” Durbin continued.
Mar 21, 11:06 am
Jackson’s family in the room as confirmation hearings kick off
Confirmation hearings for Judge Jackson — Biden’s first nominee to the Supreme Court — are officially underway. Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gaveled them in just after 11 a.m.
To begin, the committee’s 22 members will each have 10 minutes each for opening statements ahead of two introducers to Jackson and an opening statement from Jackson herself.
If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court.
A Monmouth University Poll released this morning found a majority of Americans (55%) say Jackson should be confirmed as an associate justice on the Supreme Court. Only 21% say she should not be confirmed, and 24% offered no opinion.
Jackson’s husband, Patrick, two daughters, Talia and Lelia, and her parents, Johnny Brown and Ellery Brown, are all in attendance for the historic event.
In a sign of pandemic restrictions easing across the country and in Washington, almost no one in the hearing room was wearing a mask.
Mar 21, 10:31 am
Ketanji Brown Jackson: The meaning behind the name
Judge Jackson recounted in a 2017 speech that her parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, wanting to show pride in their African ancestry, asked her aunt, who was then in the Peace Corps in West Africa, for a list of African girl names.
Taking one of her suggestions, Jackson’s parents named her Ketanji Onyika, which translates to “lovely one.”
Jackson’s parents grew up in South Florida under segregation, “but never gave up hope that their children would enjoy the true promise of America,” Biden said at a White House event last month introducing Jackson.
Biden said Jackson was a “star student” who fell in love with a law career while watching her own father going to law school at the University of Miami, often drawing on coloring books at the dining room table next to her father’s homework. Jackson went on to attend Harvard Law School herself, despite some cautioning her against setting her sights too high.
“My life has been blessed beyond measure and I do know that one can only come this far by faith,” Jackson said at the White House. “Among my many blessings, the very first is the fact that I was born in this great country. The United States of America is the greatest beacon of hope and democracy the world has ever known.”
She married Patrick Jackson, a general surgeon, in 1996, and the couple has two daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17.
Mar 21, 10:22 am
In nominating Jackson, Biden fulfilled campaign pledge
With Biden’s nomination of Judge Jackson, he officially followed through on his 2020 campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and his vow to make the high court look more “like America.”
“For too long our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said at a White House event last month introducing his historic pick. “And I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications. And that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”
A former clerk to retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, Jackson has more than eight years experience on the federal bench, following a path through the judiciary traveled by many nominees before her. If confirmed, she would be the first federal public defender to serve on the Supreme Court and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall to have criminal defense experience.
“She listens. She looks people in the eye, lawyers, defendants, victims and families. And she strives to ensure that everyone understands why she made a decision, what the law is and what it means to them,” Biden said. “She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice.”
While the White House was eager to follow through on Biden’s pledge, an ABC News/Ipsos poll from January found just 23% of Americans said they wanted him to automatically follow through on his history-making commitment. Over three-quarters of Americans (76%) said they wanted Biden to consider “all possible nominees.”
Mar 21, 10:02 am
Jackson preps for intense hearings by — knitting
While Judge Jackson has more experience fielding questions during high-intensity Senate hearings than any Supreme Court nominee since Clarence Thomas in 1991, she has described the process as “extremely nerve-wracking,” although she’s seen Senate confirmation three times.
To offset that nervous energy, Jackson says she took up — knitting.
“The lights are as bright as they are in here, in terms of cameras and attention, and you do your best not to make a fool of yourself in front of the senators,” Jackson said in a conversation for the D.C. Circuit Historical Society in 2019.
She said that she “started so many scarves I could have outfitted a small army,” recalling her first Senate confirmation process in 2012, when she was nominated by then-President Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. District Court in Washington. She currently sits on currently sits Washington’s federal appellate court.
Ahead of this week’s marathon questioning, Jackson met one-on-one with 44 senators ahead of her hearings next week, including all members of the Judiciary Committee and its 11 Republican members, according to former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, the White House “sherpa” for the nominee, escorting her on Capitol Hill.
Mar 21, 9:40 am
Some in GOP paint Jackson as ‘soft on crime,’ White House rejects accusation
Several GOP senators have telegraphed plans to question Judge Jackson’s defense of detainees at Guantanamo Bay as a private defense attorney, her support of reduced sentences for convicted drug offenders and the backing of her nomination by outside progressive advocacy groups.
In a sign the hearings could get contentious, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — a former Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts and a potential presidential hopeful — suggested in a barrage of tweets Thursday that Jackson has a “long record” of letting child porn offenders “off the hook” and suggested she is “soft on crime.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back last week, calling it a “last-ditched eve-of-hearing desperation attack.”
“The facts are that, 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 U.S. probation [authorities] recommended. And so, this attack that we’ve seen over the last couple of days relies on factual inaccuracies and taking Judge Jackson’s record wildly out of context,” Psaki said.
While court records show that Jackson did impose lighter sentences than federal guidelines suggested, Hawley’s insinuation neglects critical context, including the fact that the senator himself has voted to confirm at least three federal judges who also engaged in the same practice. ABC News’ Devin Dwyer fact checks Hawley here.
-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
Mar 21, 9:23 am
Will any Republicans vote for Jackson?
Judge Jackson has been vetted twice previously by the Judiciary Committee and twice confirmed by the full Senate as a judge — most recently last year, with three Republican votes. She was also confirmed by the Senate in 2010 as vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Lindsey Graham voted in favor of Judge Jackson’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2021, but after private meetings with Jackson this month, all three were noncommittal about supporting her again.
While Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has said he is hopeful more than three Republicans will support the nomination this time around, GOP Whip Sen. John Thune said last week he would be surprised it that were the case.
“I think it’s important to recognize that she has been confirmed three times now, so this is not a candidate who is a blank slate to us,” Collins said after spending more than 90 minutes one-on-one with Jackson. “I will, of course, await the hearings before the Judiciary Committee before making a decision.”
No Republican senator has publicly disputed Jackson’s qualification to be a justice, though several have raised concerns about her rulings and presumed judicial philosophy.
-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
Mar 21, 9:06 am
What to expect at Monday’s hearings
Monday marks the first day of four high-profile hearings where the Senate Judiciary Committee and American people will hear from Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — President Joe Biden’s first Supreme Court nominee and the first Black woman nominated to the nation’s highest court in its 233-year history.
The hearings will gavel in at 11 a.m. with 10-minute statements from the committee’s 11 Republican and 11 Democratic members. Following member opening statements, Judge Thomas Griffith, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and professor Lisa Fairfax of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School will have five minutes each to introduce Jackson, whom they know personally.
Finally, Judge Jackson will then deliver an opening statement in the afternoon for 10 minutes. ABC News will air special coverage of her remarks.
And for the first time since the pandemic, for each half-hour of the proceeding, up to 60 members of the public invited by senators will also be allowed to attend.
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