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Jackson pledges to decide cases ‘without fear or favour’ – The Denver Post

By MARK SHERMAN and MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson pledged Monday to decide cases “without fear or favor” if the Senate upholds her historic nomination as the first black woman to serve on the High Court.

Jackson, 51, addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of her first day of confirmation hearings, nearly four hours devoted almost entirely to opening statements from the 22 panel members.

Republicans have promised pointed questions over the next two days, with a particular focus on his criminal record. Democrats have praised President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee.

With her family seated behind her, her husband wearing George Washington socks, Jackson stressed that she had been independent and transparent during her nine years as a judge, and that she was always aware of the importance of this role.

“I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words carved into the facade of the Supreme Court building – and equality before the law – are a reality and not just an ideal,” she said.

Barring a major misstep, Democrats who control the Senate by the tiniest of margins intend to wrap up his confirmation before Easter. She would be the third black judge, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, as well as the first black woman on the high court.

“It’s not easy to be the first. Often you have to be the best, in some ways the bravest,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the committee, shortly after the proceedings began.

Democrats have sought to preemptively refute Republican criticism of his criminal record as a judge and before that as a federal public defender and a member of the US Sentencing Commission.

Jackson “is not anti-law enforcement” and is not “soft on crime,” said Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., noting that members of Jackson’s family worked in the law enforcement and that it enjoys the support of some nationals. law enforcement agencies. “Judge Jackson is not a judicial activist.”

The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, promised Republicans “would ask tough questions about Jackson’s judicial philosophy,” without turning the hearings into a “show.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., noted that Democrats have opposed some former Republican judicial candidates who were black or Hispanic, and he said he and his GOP colleagues would not be deterred from asking questions. deepened by the race of Jackson.

He said of some criticism from the left: “At the end of the day it’s all about ‘We’re all racists if we ask the tough questions’. That’s not going to fly with us.

Graham was one of three Republicans to back Jackson’s confirmation as appellate judge last year. But he has indicated in recent weeks that he is unlikely to vote for her again.

Jackson’s testimony will give most Americans, as well as the Senate, their most in-depth look yet at the Harvard-educated attorney with a resume that includes two years as a federal public defender. This makes her the first candidate with significant criminal defense experience since Marshall.

Jackson appeared before the same committee last year, after Biden selected her to fill a position on the federal appeals court in Washington, just down the hill from the Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association, which evaluates candidates for the bench, gave Jackson its highest rating, “well qualified.”

Janette McCarthy Wallace, general counsel for the NAACP, said she was thrilled to see a black woman on her way to a high court seat.

“Representation matters,” Wallace said. “It is essential to have a diversified experience on the bench. It should reflect the rich cultural diversity of this country.

While few Republicans are likely to vote for Jackson, most GOP senators have not criticized her aggressively, given that her confirmation would not alter the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Several GOP senators on the panel used their time to rail against Senate Democrats instead of Jackson’s record.

Republicans are trying to use his nomination to brand Democrats soft on crime, an emerging theme in GOP midterm election campaigns. Biden has chosen several former public defenders for lifelong judicial positions. Additionally, Jackson served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency created by Congress to reduce federal prison sentencing disparity.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said in his opening statement that his research showed Jackson had a history of handing down lighter sentences in child pornography cases, echoing comments he wrote in a Twitter thread last week. The Republican National Committee echoed his claims, which Hawley did not raise when he questioned Jackson last year before voting against his confirmation by the appeals court.

The White House, along with several Democrats present at the hearing, forcefully pushed back against Hawley’s criticism, calling it “toxic and poorly presented misinformation.”

Sentencing expert Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State, wrote on his blog that Jackson’s record shows that she is skeptical of the range of prison sentences recommended for the cases of child pornography,” but so are prosecutors in the majority of his cases and so are district judges across the country.

As Jackson took silent notes, Hawley said he would raise his concerns again in questioning over the next two days. He said he found her candid and “extremely thoughtful” in a meeting earlier this month.

Hawley is one of several Republicans on the committee, along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who are potential 2024 presidential candidates, and their aspirations could collide with other Republicans who would rather not not pursue a scorched earth approach to Jackson’s nomination.

Biden chose Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign promise to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history. She would take the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he would retire after 28 years on the court.

Jackson previously worked as a paralegal at Breyer early in her legal career.

Democrats are moving quickly to confirm Jackson, though Breyer’s seat won’t officially open until the summer. They have no vote to spare in a 50-50 Senate they lead under the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

But they aren’t moving as fast as Republicans did when they installed Amy Coney Barrett on the court just over a month after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and days before the 2020 presidential election.

Barrett, the third of President Donald Trump’s high court picks, cemented the court’s conservative majority when she took the place of the liberal Ginsburg.

The court revealed on Monday that Judge Thomas, the oldest member of the court at 73, was in hospital being treated for an infection but did not have COVID-19.

Last year, Jackson won Senate confirmation by a vote of 53 to 44, with three Republicans supporting her.

She is married to Patrick Jackson, a Washington surgeon, who sat in the audience with their two daughters, one in college and the other in high school. Jackson wiped away tears as his wife expressed her love to him.

She is related by marriage to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who was the Republican running mate in 2012. Ryan has expressed support for her nomination.

Jackson said her kids have kept her in touch with reality, even though she’s been holding a judge’s gavel since 2013.

In the courtroom, she told an audience in Athens, Georgia, in 2017, “people listen and usually do what I tell them to do.” At home, however, her daughters “say very clearly that I don’t know anything, I mustn’t tell them anything, much less give them orders, that is, if they talk to me at all”.