(WASHINGTON) — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, faces up to 11 hours of grilling Tuesday on Day 2 of her four-day confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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 be questioned by each of the committee’s 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats over two days. 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.
Here is how the news is developing Tuesday. Check back for updates.
Mar 22, 1:37 pm
‘Calm, cool and collected’: Key takeaways from morning session
ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer, reporting from inside the hearing room, said the big takeaway so far is that Jackson has stayed “calm, cool and collected.” With no major missteps or gaffes, he said, and a slim Democratic majority on her side, she appears on her way to Senate confirmation.
There was some tension in the morning session when Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Jackson a barrage of questions on her faith, to which she declined to go in-depth, saying she’s “mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views.”
Graham, who let it be known his favored nominee was not selected, went on to say he wasn’t trying to attack Jackson but make a point about how “our people” — conservative judicial appointees — have been treated in the past.
In the afternoon session, Republicans are expected to continue pressing Jackson on court precedent, her record as a federal public defender and representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and her sentences for child sex offenders, among other issues.
As senators try to probe her judicial philosophy, Jackson told the committee that she has developed a methodology that she uses when approaching any case to ensure impartially and stressed that she views her role as a judge as “limited.”
Mar 22, 12:58 pm
Confirmation hearings break for lunch
The Senate Judiciary Committee has gone into a break until approximately 1:30 p.m. after a marathon morning of questions from Democrats and Republicans on the committee considering Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
After the break, 15 more senators will have 30 minutes each for one on one questions with Jackson, giving them the chance to probe her judicial philosophy, her record as a public defender and her legal opinions spanning nearly nine years on the bench.
The grilling is unlike any other for federal judges or political nominees in large part because of the nature of the high court and the justices’ lifetime tenure.
-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
Mar 22, 12:51 pm
Cornyn questions Jackson on same-sex marriage
In his questioning, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Judge Jackson about same-sex marriage and asserted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which said same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, conflicts with the beliefs of some religions.
“When the Supreme Court decides that something that is not even in the Constitution is a fundamental right and no state can pass any law that conflicts with the Supreme Court’s edict, particularly in an area where people have sincerely held religious beliefs, doesn’t that necessarily create a conflict between what people may believe as a matter of their religious doctrine or faith and what the federal government says is the law of the land?” Cornyn asked.
“That is the nature of a right,” Jackson replied. “That when there is a right it means that there are limitations on regulation, even if people are regulating pursuant to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Pressed further on whether that is an act of judicial policymaking, Jackson said the Supreme Court considered that to be an “application of the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” which ensures equal protection under the law.
ABC News Political Director @RickKlein talks about what he thinks has been the most challenging moment for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson so far during confirmation hearing.
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) March 22, 2022
Cornyn continued to bash the court for what he called establishing a new “unenumerated right” and asked Jackson, what other unenumerated rights are “out there.”
“Senator, I can’t say. It’s a hypothetical that I’m not in a position to comment on. The rights that the Supreme Court has recognized as substantive due process rights are established in its case law,” she said.
Later on, Cornyn lamented that he thinks “nominees from both parties tend to be over-coached.”
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 22, 12:16 pm
Jackson’s family shows support inside hearing room
Judge Jackson’s family members showed their support again on the second day of her confirmation hearings with their steady presence inside the hearing room as she fielded, at times, contentious questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jackson’s husband, Patrick, a general surgeon, was again seated behind Jackson. Photographers snapped photos of him sporting Benjamin Franklin-themed socks and jotting down notes during the morning session.
Jackson’s parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, were also in the audience, near two seats reserved for Jackson’s daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17. Leila arrived in the room after the morning break.
In an emotional moment on Monday, Jackson’s daughters looked to their father as he wiped away tears while Jackson read her opening statement.
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 22, 12:03 pm
Jackson speaks to ‘meaningful’ representation on Supreme Court
Raising gender balance in the judiciary and the fact that, if confirmed, there would be four women on the Supreme Court, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., gave Judge Jackson an opportunity to speak to what it would mean to her personally to see more women represented on the nation’s highest court in its history.
“I think it’s extremely meaningful,” Jackson replied. “One of the things that having diverse members of the court does is it provides for the opportunity for role models.”
“Since I was nominated to this position, I have received so many notes and letters and photos from little girls around the country who tell me that they are so excited for this opportunity and that they have thought about the law in new ways because I am a woman — because I am a Black woman — all of those things people have said have been really meaningful to them,” Jackson added.
“And we want, I think, as a country, for everyone to believe they can do things like sit on the Supreme Court. So, having meaningful numbers of women and people of color, I think, matters,” she said. “I also think that it supports public confidence in the judiciary when you have different people, because we have such a diverse society.”
Mar 22, 11:41 am
Jackson on abortion cases: ‘Roe and Casey are the settled law’
As she’s asked previous Supreme Court nominees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., questioned Judge Jackson on her judicial views on abortion with the nation’s high court set to decide cases this term that could overturn decades of legal precedent.
“I do agree with both Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett on this issue,” Jackson said, referring to their answers to Feinstein at their confirmation hearings. “Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.”
Feinstein then asked, “Does Roe v. Wade have the status of being a case that is a super precedent, and what other Supreme Court cases do you believe have that status?”
“Well senator, all Supreme Court cases are precedential, they’re binding. And their principles and their rulings have to be followed,” she said.
“Roe and Casey, as you say, have been reaffirmed by the court, and have been relied upon, and reliance is one of the factors that the court considers when it seeks to revisit or is asked to revisit a precedent,” she continued. “In all cases, the precedent of the Supreme Court would have to be reviewed pursuant to those factors because stare decisis is very important.”
Mar 22, 11:30 am
Graham laments the fate of his preferred Supreme Court pick
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina brought up Judge J. Michelle Childs, a U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina and his preferred nominee for the Supreme Court seat, asking Jackson about progressive groups supporting her nomination over that of Childs.
His voiced tinged with anger, Graham said, “In your nomination, did you notice people from the left were pretty much cheering you on?”
“A lot of people were cheering me on,” Jackson replied.
Graham went on to allege there was a concerted effort to disqualify Childs because progressive groups painted her as a “union-busting unreliable Republican in disguise,” but Jackson reminded him that she is still a sitting judge and said she has been focused on her cases.
“Would it bother you if that happened?” Graham continued to press.
Jackson, who received Graham’s vote last year for the appellate court, answered that it would be “troublesome” if groups were doing anything to interfere with the nomination, but maintained that she wasn’t aware of the criticism.
Mar 22, 10:38 am
Jackson stresses her record as an ‘independent jurist’
As she reintroduces herself to the American public as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Jackson what aspect of her record as a judge does she believe has been the most important for the good of the country.
“Well, I think that all of my record is important to some degree because I think it clearly demonstrates that I’m an independent jurist, that I am ruling in every case consistent with the methodologies that I’ve described, that I’m impartial,” Jackson said.
“I don’t think anyone could look at my record and say that it is pointing in one direction or another or that it is supporting one viewpoint or another. I am doing the work and have done the work for the past 10 years that judges do to rule impartially and to stay within the boundaries of our proper judicial role,” she added.
Trying to hone in further on her judicial philosophy, Grassley asked, of the previous 115 justices, are there any of them now or in the past that has a judicial philosophy that most closely resembles her own. She said she hasn’t studied the philosophies of all of the prior justices but that her background as a trial judge resembles that of left-leaning Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“I will say that I come to this position, to this moment as a judge who comes from practice — that I was a trial judge and my methodology has developed in this context. I don’t know how many other justices other than Justice Sotomayor have that same background,” she said.
Jackson has also emphasized in previous confirmations hearings that she does not have a judicial philosophy per se, but she applies the same methodology to all the cases she approaches, regardless of its parties.
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 22, 10:14 am
Grassley grills Jackson on ‘court-packing’
Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tried to get more clarity on whether Judge Jackson would support the idea of expanding the Supreme Court beyond nine justices, but Jackson said that was a policy question she couldn’t answer.
The question comes after several Republicans said Monday they were disappointed that Jackson hasn’t clarified her position on court-packing after she received the support of the progressive group Demand Justice, which is pushing for the court’s expansion.
“Respectfully, senator, other nominees to the Supreme Court have responded as I will, which is that it is a policy question for Congress,” Jackson said. “I am particularly mindful of not speaking to policy issues because I am so committed to staying in my lane of the system. Because I’m just not willing to speak to issues that are properly in the province of this body.”
Presented with the fact that retiring Justice Stephen Breyer and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated their views on the position, Grassley then asked if the Supreme Court has been bought by dark money groups.
“Senator, I don’t have any reason to believe that that’s the case,” she replied. “I have only the highest esteem for the members of the Supreme Court whom I hope to be able to join, if I’m confirmed, and for all of the members of the judiciary.”
Mar 22, 9:58 am
Jackson discusses representing Gitmo detainees
Continuing to give Judge Jackson opportunities to respond to GOP attacks, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also asked her what impact representing Guantanamo Bay detainees had on her judicial career after Republicans made clear they will take aim at those cases she was assigned as a federal public defender.
“September 11th was a tragic attack on this country. We all lived through it,” she began. “We saw what happened, and there were many defenses, important defenses that Americans undertook. There were Americans whose service came in the form of military action. My brother was one of those Americans, those brave Americans who decided to join the military to defend our country.”
“After 9/11, 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 continued. “And what that meant was that the people who were being accused by our government of having engaged in actions related to this, under our Constitutional scheme, were entitled to representation — were entitled to be treated fairly. That’s what makes our system the best in the world. That’s what makes us exemplary.”
She reminded the committee that federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients but said, “You are standing up for the constitutional value of representation — and so I represented, as an appellate defender, some of those detainees.”
Mar 22, 9:50 am
Addressing Hawley attacks, Jackson recalls story she tells child porn offenders
In his questioning, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill, criticized attacks from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who accused Jackson Monday of a “long record” of letting child porn offenders “off the hook” in sentencing. Noting that several independent fact-checkers, including ABC News, have found the claims misleading, Durbin gave Jackson a chance to respond by asking what was going through her mind when Hawley leveled that criticism Monday.
“As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” Jackson said, taking a tough tone. “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. We’re talking about graphic descriptions that judges have to read and consider when they decide how to sentence in these cases, and there’s a statute that tells judges what they’re supposed to do.”
She noted that federal sentencing laws are set by Congress, and the statute says, “Calculate the guidelines, but also look at various aspects of this offense, and impose a sentence that is, quote, sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of punishment,” she said.
Calling the crimes “sickening and egregious,” Jackson went on to recall a story she said she tells every child porn defendant “when I look in the eyes of a defendant who is weeping because I’m giving him a significant sentence.”
“What I say to him is, ‘Do you know that there is someone who has written to me and who has told me that she has developed agoraphobia? She can not leave her house because she thinks that everyone she meets will have seen her, will have seen her pictures on the internet. They’re out there forever. At the most vulnerable time of her life, and so she’s paralyzed,” she said.
“I tell that story to every child porn defendant, as a part of my sentencing, so that they understand what they have done. I say to them that there’s only a market for this kind of material because there are lookers. That you are contributing to child sex abuse. And then I impose a significant sentence, and all of the additional restraints that are available in the law,” she continued in an emotional riff. “I am imposing all of those constraints because I understand how significant, how damaging, how horrible this crime is.”
Jackson noted that in addition to prison terms of many years for the crimes, she also requires “20, 30, 40 years of supervision” and that the offenders “can’t use computers for decades.”
Mar 22, 9:33 am
Jackson addresses her judicial philosophy
Hoping to disarm GOP attacks, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., posed the first question to Judge Jackson and gave her the opportunity to address her judicial philosophy after Republicans on Monday swiped at her for claiming previously that she doesn’t have one.
“So would you like to comment at the outset, of those who are looking for a label, what your position is on judicial philosophy?” Durbin said.
Jackson replied that she has developed a methodology that she uses when approaching any case “to ensure that I am ruling impartially and that I am adhering to the limit on my judicial authority.”
“I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power, and I am trying, in every case, to stay in my lane,” she said.
Without importing her personal views or policy preferences, Jackson explained that she follows three steps when approaching a case: First, she enters each from a position of neutrality. Next, she intakes the parties’ arguments, and the last step, she said, is the interpretation and application of the law to the facts.
“The entire exercise is about trying to understand what those who created this policy or this law intended,” she said. “As a lower court judge, I’m bound by the precedent. Even in the Supreme Court, if I was fortunate enough to be confirmed, there’s stare decisis, a binding kind of principle that the justices look at when they’re considering precedent. So, all of these things come into play in terms of my judicial philosophy.”
Mar 22, 9:11 am
Confirmation hearings gavel back in
The second day of confirmation hearings for Judge Jackson — Biden’s first nominee to the Supreme Court and the first Black woman considered to the nation’s highest court in its 233-year history — are officially underway.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gaveled in the hearing room just after 9 a.m. In a show of support, Jackson’s husband, Patrick, was seated behind her in the room, as he was Monday.
Jackson faces a marathon day of questioning from the committee’s 22 members, with each senator receiving 30-minutes to question Jackson one on one for a total of 11 hours Tuesday. Senators, in order of seniority, will take turns probing her judicial philosophy, her record as a public defender and her legal opinions spanning nearly nine years on the bench.
In a sign of COVID restrictions easing across the country, almost no one in the hearing room was wearing a mask, and for the first time since the pandemic, for each half-hour of the proceedings, up to 60 members of the public invited by senators will also be allowed to attend.
Mar 22, 9:01 am
KBJ arrives on Capitol Hill
Judge Jackson arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to continue a marathon week of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will need to approve sending her nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate for a floor vote.
The hearings will gavel in at 9 a.m. and each of the committee’s 11 Republican and 11 Democratic members will have up to 30 minutes to question Jackson one on one.
Jackson, 51, was sworn in Monday and delivered an opening statement to reintroduce herself to the nation.
“I hope that you will see how much I love our country, and the Constitution and the rights that make us free,” she told the senators who will vote on her historic nomination.
She also hinted at how she might address GOP critiques on Tuesday, telling senators that she adopts a “neutral posture” and sees her judicial role as “a limited one.”
Mar 22, 8:59 am
Republicans preview how they’ll question KBJ
While Democrats have emphasized the historic nature of Judge Jackson’s nomination and her compelling personal story, Republicans have vowed “thorough and civil” scrutiny of her record in hundreds of cases, which several have alleged shows she is “soft on crime.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., leveled the most pointed critique of Jackson’s record so far in his opening statement Monday, accusing her of a “long record” of letting child porn offenders “off the hook” in sentencing. The White House, several independent fact-checkers, and conservative outlet The National Review have called the claims misleading and unfair.
Republicans including Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., have also made clear they will also take aim at Jackson’s defense of an accused terrorist held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay — a case she was assigned to as a federal public defender. Jackson has previously explained her service as an example of belief in constitutional values.
Others indicated they planned to press Jackson to characterize her judicial philosophy, though she’s said outright she doesn’t have one, and to answer for progressive legal advocacy groups backing both her nomination and expanding the Supreme Court’s bench.
Mar 22, 8:25 am
Questioning could prove critical in securing GOP votes
Questioning over the next two days could prove critical to the White House goal of securing at least some Republican support for Judge Jackson’s confirmation.
Three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Lindsey Graham — voted in favor of Jackson’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit last June, but after private meetings with Biden’s nominee this month, all three were noncommittal about supporting her again.
Jackson has been vetted twice previously by the Judiciary Committee and twice confirmed by the full Senate as a judge. She was also Senate confirmed in 2010 as vice-chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
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, which she has insisted she does not have.
Even without bipartisan support, Democrats have the votes on their own for Jackson’s confirmation, which party leaders have said they plan to complete before Easter.
Mar 22, 8:08 am
KBJ faces fourth Senate grilling Tuesday
Confirmation hearings for Judge Jackson — the first Black woman to be considered for the U.S. Supreme Court — continue on Tuesday at 9 a.m. when she’ll face up to 19 hours of questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members over two days.
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. She also met individually with each of the committee’s members and 23 other senators from both parties.
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, ahead of 20-minute rounds on Wednesday. The grilling is unlike any other for federal judges or political nominees in large part because of the lifetime tenure on the line.
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