June 22, 2024

LIVE UPDATES DAY 1: Confirmation Hearing for the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)

Live updates provided by theGrio‘s Gerren Keith Gaynor, Managing Editor of Politics and Washington Correspondent, and Natasha S. Alford, Senior Correspondent

About the nominee

  • The Washington, D.C. native, who grew up in Miami, received an A.B. from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1992. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in government.
  • The jurist continued her education at Harvard Law School where she was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Published monthly and averaging 2,500 pages per edition, the Review is a student-edited compilation of legal scholarship. Jackson graduated cum laude in 1996 with a juris doctorate.
  • Jackson completed three clerkships for federal judges: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who she has been nominated to replace upon his retirement; Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which covers four states and Puerto Rico; and Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
  • For the District of Columbia, Jackson worked in the appeals division of the Office of the Federal Public Defender as a public defender. If confirmed, she will be the first justice to have worked in that public service capacity.
  • In 2013, with bipartisan support, Jackson was confirmed as a district court judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Last year, again with bipartisan support, she was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

About the process

Here’s what to expect during Jackson’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a committee press release.

  • Monday: Starting at 11 a.m., each of the 22 committee members (11 Democrats and 11 Republicans) has 10 minutes for an opening statement. Jackson will also make a 10-minute statement.
  • Tuesday 9 a.m. — Members have 20 minutes each, in order of seniority, to question Jackson.
  • Wednesday 9 a.m. — Committee members ask follow-up questions, then meet in closed session to discuss Jackson’s FBI background investigation.
  • Thursday 9 a.m. — The committee will hear from the American Bar Association and other outside groups.
  • Committee vote on Jackson’s nomination: The Washington Post reported that’s likely to happen the week of March 28. The full Senate could vote the week of April 4, the Post reported.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gives opening statements

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)

3:40 p.m. (Natasha): Well, that concludes Day 1! Watching Judge Jackson offers her remarks gave me chills.  She remained calm and collected under the incredible spotlight of this day (something she’s done three times before at Senate confirmation hearings), and gave us a preview of what’s to come with her testimony. Her message of faith in the constitution and this country is a clear one.  The question is whether GOP Senators will keep their promise to keep their questions fair, focused and impersonal. Stay tuned.

3:25 p.m. (Gerren): KBJ took her oath before making her opening remarks.

“I’m also very thankful for the confidence that President Biden has placed in me and for the kindness that he and the First Lady and the Vice President and the second gentlemen have extended to me and my family,” said Jackson.

Jackson, expressing gratitude, gave thanks to God, her parents who have been married for nearly 54 years (who named her Ketanji after an African name that means “lovely one”) and her husband of 25 years, Dr. Patrick Jackson.

She reserved special remarks for her two daughters, Talia and Leila: “I know it has not been easy, as I’ve tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you’ve seen that with hard work, determination and love it can be done.”

“If I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution. I take that responsibility, and my duty to be independent, very seriously,” vowed Judge Jackson.

“Now in preparing for these hearings, you may have read some of my more than 570 written decisions. and you may have also noticed that my opinions tend to be on the long side. That is because I also believe in transparency; that people should know precisely what I think and the basis for my decision,” she said.

She added, “And all of my professional experiences, including my work as a public defender, and as a trial judge, have instilled in me the importance of having each litigant know that the judge in their case has heard them, whether or not their arguments prevail in court.”

The first day of the Supreme Court hearing came to close at 3:38 p.m. and will pick back up on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. ET.

Welcome and opening remarks

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson attends the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)

2:31 p.m. (Gerren): Sen. Neely Kennedy (R-LA) congratulated Jackson and the Biden White House for selecting Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) to advise her during the Supreme Court confirmation process. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by that statement, but it’s clear he’s impressed by Judge Jackson’s temperament– and hopefully equally impressed by her credentials.

2:17 p.m. (Gerren): True to form, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is keeping to his brand of positivity, saying “I just want to talk about the joy” as he emphasized the historical nature of Judge Jackson’s nomination.

“This is not a normal day for America…the Senate is set to break another barrier…on the precipice of shattering another glass ceiling,” said Booker. “I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Booker called Jackson a “bridge-builder” and praised her background as a public defender, noting that 80% of those who appear before a court can’t afford legal representation. He also drew parallel lines between him and Jackson, revealing his father attended the same HBCU as Jackson’s father, North Carolina A&T University, and that his mother also taught in public schools.

Booker mentioned that Judge Jackson’s daughter wrote a letter to President Biden to urge him to select her mother as his Supreme Court nominee. “That dream of hers is so close to being a reality,” he said.

2:08 p.m. (Gerren): Hearing is back in session after a break. In his opening remarks, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said President Biden is “waging war on rule of law.” Cotton is returning to Republican talking points about “liberal” Democrats wanting to pack the Court, and “destroy our criminal justice system from within.”

“[Judge Jackson’s] decisions will have a direct impact on the safety of Americans,” said Cotton.

1:30 p.m. (Gerren): The hearing has paused for a 30-minute break.

1:27 p.m. (Gerren): Sen. Hirono noted that throughout history the Supreme Court has handed down decisions like affirmed the LGBTQ+ community and women, but also has upheld slavery and internment camps detaining Japanese Americans. Hirono is very clearly emphasizing that the Supreme Court is an imperfect body and that who sits on the bench is incredibly important to how it rules on important issues that impact the lives of everyday Americans.

1:16 p.m. (Gerren): Sen. Josh Hawley wasted no time overviewing about seven child pornography cases that came before Judge Jackson in which she handed down less sentencing time for defendants than recommended by prosecutors. Hawley made headlines in recent days after he publicly raised questions about Judge Jackson’s record on child pornography defendants.

“Some have asked why did I raise these questions before the hearing,” said Hawley. “I’m not interested in trapping her… I’m interested in answers,” said Sen. Hawley.

Sen. Patrick Hawley (R-MO) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Judge Jackson hasn’t had the chance yet to respond to this and she deserves that chance so others have made these arguments I don’t agree with them, but I think it’s important we hear from the judge in coming days. I’m not interested in trapping Judge Jackson,” said Hawley.

1:10 p.m. (Natasha): In Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s opening remarks he argues that representation matters for the legitimacy of the court, and that people look to the human being not just to the robe. Blumenthal also addresses her public defender, saying the system works best when there is good counsel on both sides.

12:55 p.m. (Gerren): Sen. Coons said KBJ’s time on the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission proves she has a record of building consensus across the political aisle. He also spoke about meeting with Judge Jackson’s family ahead of the hearings. Notably, he said Jackson’s brother mentioned that he was not surprised to see his sister at this juncture — she was “destined” for this moment, he said.

12:42 p.m. (Natasha): Senator Cruz now is talking bout Judge Jackson and letting her know that any criticism that comes her way will not be about race, and cites examples of Democrats filibustering nominees such Miguel Estrada— insisting it’s Dems who punish people of color for not being liberal.

He proposed a rhetorical question to Judge Jackson asking “will you protect freedom or restrict it?” He begins by citing controversial issues such as school choice, abortion, crime, and guns.

“All those questions are fair game. Will you follow the law?”

12:38 p.m. (Natasha): Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) opens up with a full-out attack on Democrats. Shocking. “Our Democratic colleagues want the Supreme Court to be anti-democratic. It’s much simpler to convince five lawyers in Black ropes than it is to convince 300 million Americans.” He adds a plug to his podcast to boot.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

12:27 p.m. (Natasha): Amy Klobuchar heaps praise on Judge Jackson for the impact and history she is making as a Black woman justice. She also shouts out her bold purple outfit for its connection to the Minnesota Vikings and Prince fans in her home state. However, I’m personally hoping that purple is a shout-out to the official colors of the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW) from KBJ’s alma mater.

Harvard played a huge role in Judge Jackson’s story — it’s where she met her husband, where she’d return for law school, and it’s why she has to play defense against a few salty conservatives who say she is TOO “elite” and pedigreed. As Klobuchar points out, Judge Jackson’s parents once attended segregated schools and became school teachers. KBJ more than knows the definition of humble beginnings.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MD) (L) shakes hands with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

12:11 p.m. (Gerren): Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pushed back against Republicans’ suggestion that KBJ’s nomination was influenced by “dark money,” firmly declaring that she got here because of her own merit. KBJ smiled in approval.

12:04 p.m. (Natasha): Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says he wants to explore KBJ’s judicial philosophy saying she hasn’t provided enough clarity on that matter. He implies this is on purpose as if she’s withholding something. “This is not your first rodeo.” 

Note Cornyn’s use of words like “advocacy” to suggest #KetanjiBrownJackson is not an impartial judge even as he says he respects her accomplishments.

Cornyn claims there are unanswered questions that remain about Jackson’s judicial philosophy and that he’s troubled by arguments she’s allegedly made for people who’ve committed terrorist acts against the United States. He’s most likely referring to Jackson’s role as a defense attorney for a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay back when she was a public defender. This role, however, is part of what is supposed to make America so great— that people have a right to counsel.

11:48 a.m. (Gerren): Graham expressed that he is not happy that his preferred candidate for Supreme Court, Michelle Childs, was not ultimately nominated by President Joe Biden.

“I think it does matter that the groups that came to your aid at the expense of Judge Childs. How did that happen? Why were they doing what they were doing? What is it about your nomination, that the most liberal people under the umbrella threw their money, their time, and threatened Joe Biden if he picked Judge Childs?”

Notably, Graham previewed that Republicans will ask Jackson about her views on whether she supports expanding the Supreme Court (also known as “packing the court”), which has been supported by progressive Democrats.

As previously reported, Sen. Mitch McConnell asked Jackson about her position on court-packing but said she did not say she was for or against it.

11:40 a.m. (Gerren): Sen. Lindsey Graham said the hearing will be challenging for KBJ and said Republicans should not shy away from pressing Judge Jackson about matters of race, despite Republicans risking being labeled as “racists” because she is a Black woman.

“We’re all racist if we ask hard questions, it’s not gonna fly with us,” said Graham. “We’re used to it but now — at least I am. So it’s not gonna matter a bit to any of us.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, makes an opening statement during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images)

11:34 a.m. (Gerren): Sen. Patrick Leahy said KBJ is “not soft on crime,” adding, “Her background as a Federal Public Defender would bring an informed perspective to our criminal justice system to the Supreme Court.”

“So I would say that Judge Jackson’s background is not a liability to the court. It’s a much needed asset to the court.”

11:29 a.m. (Gerren): Grassley is spending a lot of time bringing up past Supreme Court hearings (Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett), but ultimately congratulated Judge Brown Jackson on her nomination and said he looked forward to hearing more on her “judicial philosophy.”

11:22 a.m. (Gerren): Grassley reacted to accusations from Democrats that Republicans have been “cherry-picking” KBJ’s record. “Don’t worry,” he said, “We’re going to talk about other cases as well.”

KBJ is smiling throughout Sen. Grassley’s remarks.

Grassley also called out “dark money” groups that “played a role” in getting KBJ nominated. Demand Justice has rallied for KBJ as a nominee.

Additionally, the Republican ranking member said, “The White House has still withheld 48,000 pages, under the presidential records. Now that’s a lot of hiding.”

11:16 a.m. (Gerren): Republican ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley promised that the hearing would not be a “spectacle.” He did take a jab at Democrats who “interrupted me for over an hour during the Kavanaugh hearings.”

11:12 a.m. (Gerren): Sen. Durbin was sure to preempt criticisms that KBJ is “soft on crime.” Senators Josh Hawley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been very vocal about KBJ’s record as a federal public defender and her time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) delivers remarks during the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill March 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“I’m fully confident you’ll serve Americans from all walks of life, all backgrounds, fairly and faithfully. Now there may be some who claim without a shred of evidence that you’ll be a rubber stamp for this President,” said Durbin. “For these would-be critics. I have four words. Look at the record. Your complete record has been scoured by this committee on four different occasions.”

11:09 a.m. (Natasha): If you’re home wondering whether your cable is acting up, never fear. It’s Dick Durbin’s mic and we’re all only hearing partial segments of his sentences. We hate to see this happening during Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s big moment. Hopefully, the mic works when she speaks because she’s really who we want to hear from.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) welcomed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Before his opening statement, he extended well wishes to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was reportedly hospitalized on Sunday.

“I speak for all the members of the committee in wishing him a speedy recovery,” said Durbin.

Gathered outside holding large placards and cutouts of Brown Jackson’s initials “KBJ.” There is also a pro-life group urging senators to reject her.

11:05 a.m. (Natasha): Senator Durbin laid down the law saying no disruptions will be tolerated. We know that they’ve happened before and in this day and age, with a nominee as unique as Brown Jackson, it has to be made clear.

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