By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Mar 21 (EFE).- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated by President Joe Biden to fill an upcoming vacancy on the US Supreme Court, on Monday endured unperturbed the attacks from Republicans during her Senate confirmation hearing.
Jackson was careful not to reveal any emotion when, with television cameras focused on her, several Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned her career and even painted her as a “soft on crime” judge, one of their standard gambits during past hearings on Democratic-nominated high court hopefuls.
Ignoring the attacks, in her first statement before the committee, Jackson said that if she is confirmed by the Senate for one of the nine lifetime appointments to the US high court she will act “independently” and without “favoritism” or “fear,” following the law as established in the Constitution.
She said she had been a judge for almost a decade and takes very seriously her responsibility and duty to be independent, adding that she decides cases from a neutral stance, evaluates the facts and interprets and applies the law to those facts that are presented to her in court in a “coherent” way in keeping with her oath as a judge.
Jackson referred to the historic nature of her nomination, given that she could be the first black woman to sit on the Supreme Court in the 232 years since it was founded, and she paid homage to Constance Baker Motley, who in 1966 became the first African American federal judge.
She thanked the senators for this “historic opportunity” to join the high court and serve with “brilliant” colleagues to inspire future generations and ensure that there is “liberty and justice for all.”
She made her remarks at the end of a hearing that lasted almost five hours, the first part of which consisted of 10-minute speeches by the 22 committee members – 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans – one after the other.
During all that time, Jackson remained calm, giving no sign that might reveal her opinion of the remarks made by the senators. She only smiled when one of the members of the committee mentioned her two daughters and her parents, who were public school teachers and who were sitting in the first row.
Saying that “It’s not easy to be the first” black woman on the court, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin praised Jackson’s career, just as did all the other members of his party on the committee.
Meanwhile, the Republicans tried to link Jackson with leftist groups like Demand Justice, which lobbies for the appointment of progressive judges, and they made clear that their strategy is to paint Jackson as a “soft on crime” judge.
One of those Republicans was Ted Cruz, from Texas, who accused Democrats of trying to “abolish the police” by naming judges who are on the side of violent criminals or are in favor of releasing them, instead of enforcing the law to protect “innocent citizens.”
As a defense attorney for low-income people, Jackson defended four men accused of terrorism at the Guantanamo Naval Base.
The judge, who currently serves on the District of Columbia court of appeals, also worked on the US Sentencing Commission where she contributed to reducing the jail terms for federal drug crimes, which disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos.
Meanwhile, ultraconservative Sen. Josh Hawley accused Jackson of having handed down lighter sentences against people convicted of child pornography charges, something that the White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates asserted last week is “toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context – and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny.”
Some other GOP committee members have tried to distance themselves from Hawley’s comments about Jackson, who did hand down sentences to people convicted of child pornography charges that were below the minimum established under federal guidelines, but in the majority of those cases the prosecutors themselves had asked for lighter sentences.
Hawley and Cruz are two of the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee, along with Tom Cotton, who are weighing running for president in 2024, and thus they could be interested in using the hearings this week to gain some kind of political advantage over potential rivals.
The Democrats want Jackson’s nomination to be approved by the full Senate before April 8.
The road to that result should be relatively easy because a simple majority of 51 senators is all that is needed for approval, and Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate and can rely on Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, as president of the Senate, even if every Republican votes against Biden’s nominee.
Jackson’s arrival on the high court would not change its ideological composition, given that six conservative justices and three progressives are currently seated there, with one of the latter retiring soon and thus freeing up his progressive seat. At present, the court is more conservatively weighted than at any time since the 1930s.