Senate Hearings Conclude In Judge Jackson's Path To The Supreme Court

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Senate Hearings Conclude In Judge Jackson's Path To The Supreme Court
The Senate Judiciary Committee has now wrapped up after about 30 hours of hearings on Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Legal experts praised Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in her final day of Senate hearings on Thursday, with a top lawyers' group saying its review found she has a "sterling" reputation, "exceptional" competence and is well qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

The testimony from the American Bar Association and other experts came after two days of questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and wrapped up about 30 hours of hearings on Jackson's nomination. In the days of questioning, Republicans asked Jackson about her record as a federal judge, including her sentencing of criminal defendants, as she seeks to become the first Black woman on the nation's highest court.

"Outstanding, excellent, superior, superb," testified Ann Claire Williams, chair of the American Bar Association committee that makes recommendations on federal judges. "Those are the comments from virtually everyone we interviewed."

Williams said the group spoke to more than 250 judges and lawyers about Jackson. "The question we kept asking ourselves: How does one human being do so much so extraordinary well?"

Democrats are hoping to win bipartisan votes for President Joe Biden's historic nominee, but Republicans have portrayed Jackson as soft on crime in her nine years on the federal bench. Jackson, supported by committee Democrats, pushed back on that GOP narrative in more than 22 hours of questioning, explaining the sentencing process in detail and telling them: "nothing could be further from the truth."

The final, four-hour hearing Thursday featured not only legal experts but government officials and civil rights groups who supported Jackson and conservative advocates who opposed her.

GOP senators aggressively questioned Jackson on the sentences she has handed down to child pornography offenders in her nine years as a federal judge, her legal advocacy on behalf of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, her thoughts on critical race theory and her religious views.

The focus on sentencing was part of a larger effort by the committee's Republicans — several of whom are potential presidential candidates — to characterize Jackson's record, and her judicial philosophy, as too empathetic and soft on criminals who commit the worst offenses. It was also reflective of an emerging emphasis on crime in GOP midterm election campaigns.

Durbin began Thursday’s hearing by thanking most Republicans on the committee, but he also said "some of the attacks on the judge were unfair, unrelenting and beneath the dignity of the United States Senate."

The sustained focus on her record suggested that, contrary to Democratic hopes, Jackson’s confirmation vote in the full Senate is unlikely to garner much, if any, Republican support. Still, several Republicans acknowledged that she is likely to be on the court. Democrats can confirm her without any bipartisan support in the 50-50 Senate as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tiebreaking vote.

Biden chose Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. She would take the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he would retire this summer after 28 years.

Jackson would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. Her confirmation would maintain the current 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.