The battle for the Supreme Court
On Monday, March 21st, the confirmation process for President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, began in the US Senate.
Judge Jackson is likely to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, after Justice Stephen Breyer steps down at the end of the current term. If they stay united, Democrats will be able to confirm Jackson without any Republican votes, making her the first woman of colour to sit on the highest judicial bench on the land.
Throughout the confirmation process, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee ask the Supreme Court nominee questions on their past rulings, trying to get a sense of what kind of a jurist she will be, when deciding on monumental pieces of legislations, that could affect the layout of the country on important issues and policies.
As expected, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled the nominee on her record. On Tuesday, some heated exchanges took place between Jackson and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who accused her of endorsing the teaching of critical race theory (this is a legal theory, taught in higher education and much maligned by conservatives, that argues race is a prevailing factor in all parts of American life).
Cruz, who overlapped with Jackson for two years at Harvard Law School, brought and displayed blown-up posters showing pages in books taught at Georgetown Day School, a private school in Washington, D.C., where Jackson sits on the board. Cruz argued that such books taught that “babies are racist” and asked if Jackson endorsed that view, according to a report by the Idaho Capital Sun.
Another argument, which Senator Cruz tried to push, was that Jackson had been too lenient of her rulings on child pornography sentencing decisions. The hearing, which opened with Committee Chairman, Dick Durbin, a Democrat, tried to give Jackson the space to lead the conversation, allowing her to set the record straight, anticipating some of the attacks that the Republican members of the Committee would go for.
“Jackson described to Durbin her process for removing her own biases as a judge and articulated a vision of a constrained federal judiciary, a day after Republican senators complained that Jackson had not disclosed her judicial philosophy and said they feared she would be an activist justice. She repeated throughout the day her process and that she wanted to “stay in my lane” as a judge, not advocate for policy positions” explains the same news report.
Another Republican, Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the most outspoken supporters of President Trump’s and a former US attorney, pushed Jackson on her record as a public defender on behalf of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, even though public defenders don’t choose their clients and defence attorneys are an integral part of the legal system.
But Graham, who voted to confirm Jackson for her current role as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, did take issue with arguments Jackson raised as a public defender, including that the United States committed war crimes against Guantánamo Bay detainees, an apparent reference to a case when Jackson represented a detainee tortured by military handlers at the detention facility. Jackson said she was preserving legal arguments on behalf of her clients.
Graham probed Jackson about her religious beliefs and to place on a scale of 1-10 her level of faith. When Jackson objected to providing details about her beliefs, Graham said he asked because Democrats raised the issue about Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, during her confirmation hearings, claiming a double standard. Republicans are all expected to vote against the confirmation of Judge Jackson.
Jackson also said little about said little about the hot-button issues of the day, declining to offer her views on abortion, court packing and same-sex marriage.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle sought to pin Judge Jackson down on whether she believes that Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, whether politicians in Washington should expand the Supreme Court with additional justices and whether the high court was correct in recognizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.
Judge Jackson repeatedly deferred to existing Supreme Court precedent and the authority of Congress and offered few clues about how she would approach divisive issue, reports the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday, after a marathon 12-hour questioning session of Jackson by the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of the highlights of the day had been the pressure by Republicans to grill the nominee on her views around abortion with Marsha Blackburn, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, pressing Jackson with questions on the subject.
Blackburn, the only Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, implied that the judge had used incendiary language to describe women who oppose abortion as hostile and noisy, a reference to a legal brief Judge Jackson worked on while in private practice two decades ago. “We filed it on behalf of our client to advance our client’s arguments”, the judge said.
The senator noted the Supreme Court is currently considering a case that could weaken or abolish constitutional protections for abortion rights and asked Judge Jackson if she would respect the court’s decision if it overturned Roe v. Wade. The judge said she would. “I commit to treating it as I would any other precedent,” she said.
Judge Jackson came into Tuesday’s hearing on track to be the next Supreme Court justice, with Democrats having the votes to confirm her as long as their caucus remains united. Judge Jackson has already been confirmed by the Senate three times and Republicans uncovered little information about her record that wasn’t already known.
Senators generally took a restrained approach to questioning. All in all, Judge Jackson rarely appeared visibly flustered, even by more contentious questions on topics such as child pornography and race, the same report continues.
Jackson’s presence would do little to change the court’s ideological balance. She is a Democratic appointee nominated to replace a Democratic appointee (Breyer, for whom she clerked) on a court dominated by Republican appointees. And on many of the court’s biggest cases, a justice’s partisan background predicts his or her vote.
Jackson will often be writing or signing dissents, along with Democratic Justices, like Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, according to a New York Times profile of Jackson, in the context of the Supreme Court hearings.
Sursă foto: Associated Press