UPDATE, 7:44 AM PT: News networks again carried the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson — with some breaks for other news — as she faced what was to be a very long day of questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), started the queries and very quickly asked about GOP attacks on her judicial record, namely one from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) that she was lenient on sentences for child porn sex offenders.
“As a mother and a judge who has to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with because we are 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.”
She said that congressional statute “doesn’t say impose the highest possible penalty for this sickening and egregious crime. The statue says, ‘Calculate the guidelines, but also look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of punishment.”
She said that “in every case, when I am dealing with something like this, it is important to me to make sure that the children’s perspective, the children’s voices, are represented in my sentences. And what that means is that for every defendant who comes before me and who suggests, as they often do, that they’re just a looker, that these crimes really don’t really matter, they’ve collected these things on the internet and it’s fine, I tell them about the victim statements that have come into me as a judge. I tell them about the adults who were former child sex abuse victims, who tell me that they will never have a normal adult relationship because of this abuse. I tell them about the ones who say, ‘I went into prostitution. I fell into drugs because I was trying to suppress the hurt that was done to me as an infant. And the one that was the most telling to me that I describe, at almost every one of these sentencings.”
She said that she tells of a story of one victim who has developed agoraphobia and “cannot leave her house because she thinks that everyone she meets will have seen her pictures on the internet. They’re out there forever.”
Jackson added that the sentencing guidelines were structured before internet distribution, when lengthier sentences were imposed on offenders based on the volume of material they received in the mail. Now, she said, “it’s so easy for people to get volumes of this kind of material now by computers, so it’s not doing the work of differentiating who is a more serious offender in the way that it used to.” She said that the U.S. Sentencing Commission “has taken that into account, and perhaps more importantly, the courts are adjusting their sentences in order to account for the changed circumstances, but it says nothing about the court’s view of the seriousness of this offense.”
Jackson also declined to answer whether she thinks that additional members should be added to the Supreme Court, noting that Amy Coney Barrett also was asked the same question and declined to weigh in on a political issue.
PREVIOUSLY, MONDAY, 12:59 PM PT: Ketanji Brown Jackson said in her opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she takes judicial independence “very seriously” and decides cases from a “neutral posture.”
Avoiding any of the issues that Republicans have raised about her nomination, she instead devoted much of her 10-minute opening remarks to her personal background, including how her father inspired her when he was a law student.
“My very earliest memories are of watching my father study. He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books,” she said.
Her parents, Johnny and Ellery, were present for the hearing.
Among those who introduced Jackson was Thomas Griffith, a retired conservative appellate judge, who said that Jackson had “time and again” demonstrated impartiality.
“Although we did not always agree on the outcome the law required, I respected her diligent and careful approach, her deep understanding and her collegial manner,” he said.
But there are doubts of just how many Republicans will support Jackson’s nomination. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lamented that Joe Biden had not nominated Michelle Childs, a federal judge from his home state, who also was on the president’s short list. Graham voted for Jackson when she was nominated to the D.C. circuit. His comments make it seem less likely that he will do so again, as he told her that she was the choice “sponsored by the most radical elements of the Democratic Party when it comes to how to be judge…You were their choice.” Other Republicans on the committee, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) also attacked Jackson as a figure of the radical left during their opening statements, as did Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who revived his claim that she is soft on child porn sex offenders. That claim earned him Three Pinocchios from The Washington Post’s fact checker. The AP and ABC News also found his claims misleading.
PREVIOUSLY: Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings kicked off Monday with opening statements from Judiciary Committee members, as networks prepared to cover the weeklong proceedings with an eye for recognizing when they’ve become a bit of a slog.
That came shortly after the committee’s chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), delivered their opening remarks. Then each of the committee members was to deliver up to 10 minutes of opening remarks each. CNN and MSNBC then cut away for analysis, while Fox News had already featured legal scholar Jonathan Turley offering commentary with a split screen of the proceedings.
The network plan coverage when Jackson delivers her remarks, but that is not expected until later this afternoon. NBC, CBS and ABC also plan special reports, while networks streaming services will provide ongoing coverage.
At the hearing Durbin invoked Abraham Lincoln as he told Jackson that she was “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.”
If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Durbin also tried to head off what is likely to be a GOP line of attack on Jackson: That her record shows she is “soft on crime.” He called the charge “unfair,” and cited fact-checking stories in the Washington Post, ABC News and CNN. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), one of the committee members, wrote on Twitter last week that Jackson “has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”
But the Post, for example, found that Hawley was taking her past statements out of context. His attacks on her time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Post noted, ignored the bipartisan nature of its recommendations on lowering the mandatory minimum sentences in two types of child porn offenses.
Grassley, meanwhile, devoted much of his opening remarks to complaining about how Democrats behaved toward judicial nominees during Donald Trump’s presidency. When Grassley was Judiciary Committee chairman, Brett Kavanaugh faced what ended up being one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in Senate history, and the opening day was marked by outbursts from protesters in the hearing room. By contrast, there was no interruption in opening remarks on Monday, albeit there also were no visitors allowed given the Covid restrictions.
Jackson will face questions from committee members on Tuesday and Wednesday, and witness testimony on Thursday. Democrats have the votes to confirm her if all members of the caucus stick together, and the question is whether Jackson garner many Republican votes in a process that has grown ever more partisan.
The hearings are being held in the same Hart Senate Office Building room as the initial Kavanaugh hearings, but there is much less media space given social distancing.
The post Ketanji Brown Jackson Defends Sentencing Record As Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Continue– Update appeared first on Deadline.