COMMENT: Judicial committee hearings are sufficient; Ketanji Brown Jackson should be on the Supreme Court
By Tanu Henry, California Black Media
Young California United States Senator Alex Padilla says he is excited and honored to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee as he and his colleagues conduct hearings to confirm Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman appointed to the United States. Supreme Court in the 233-year history of the judiciary.
On February 25, President Joe Biden nominated Jackson, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, to become the 116th judge on the nation’s highest court.
If Jackson is confirmed, she will replace Judge Stephen Breyer, one of her mentors, who announced his retirement in January.
“I am honored to share this historic and significant moment in our nation’s history,” Padilla told California Black Media (CBM) in a phone interview.
The first Latino to represent California in the upper house of the United States Congress, Padilla spoke to CBM while taking a short break from a day-long hearing on March 23. During that session, lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans cross-examined Jackson.
“I am optimistic about Justice Jackson’s confirmation process. She is an outstanding candidate. She has the qualifications and she has the experience,” Padilla continued. “If confirmed, she will bring much-needed perspective to the Supreme Court. .”
In January 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Padilla to replace current Vice President Kamala Harris in the United States Senate. Prior to that, he served as California’s Secretary of State for six years.
Jackson met with Padilla at his office in the United States Capitol before his confirmation hearings last week.
“I am impressed by Justice Jackson’s commitment to the rule of law, her long experience of public service and her clear understanding of how the law affects people’s daily lives,” Padilla said after the meeting.
Due to the 50-50 equal split of Democrats and Republicans currently elected to the United States Senate, no party has a majority of members on any committee. So there are six members from both parties who sit on the Judicial Committee.
Padilla says the upcoming vote on Jackson presents an opportunity for members of the Judiciary Committee — and the Senate, more broadly — to put behind them the extreme partisanship and rancor that has characterized the U.S. Congress in recent years.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, also a Democrat, also sits on the committee.
Last week, some Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were questioned in the media about the veracity of some of their claims about Jackson and the general nature and content of their questioning during the hearings.
For example, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) described Jackson as soft on sex offenders, recalling sentences she handed down in seven cases.
“Judge Jackson’s views on this issue are not only commonplace; they are correct in my opinion. Without a doubt, Jackson — a progressive who worked as a criminal defense attorney — is more sympathetic to criminals than I am,” wrote Andrew McCarthy, a senior fellow at the conservative National Review Institute, disagreeing with Hawley’s assertion.
“If I were a judge, I’m sure I would impose sentences that were at least slightly harsher than her. (Contrary to Hawley’s suggestion, however, she appears to have followed the guidelines, at the lower end of the sentencing range, as most judges do.),” McCarthy continued.
Charlie Savage, National Security and Legal Policy Correspondent for The New York Times, wrote: “Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, ripped Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Monday during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, linking the candidate to a wide range of conservative grievances. But the lawmaker’s accusations often appeared to be based on quotes taken out of context.
Savage examined statements and accusations Blackburn made about Jackson on a range of issues, including parental rights, critical race theory, transgender athletes and criminal convictions.
Prior to serving on the United States Court of Appeals, Jackson served as a federal judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and Vice Chairman of the US Sentencing Commission. She has also worked in private practice and as a clerk at the United States Supreme Court.
Alumnus of Harvard College, where she studied government, and Harvard Law School, where she was editor of the Harvard Law Review, Jackson graduated from Palmetto Senior High School in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where she grew up.
Jackson is close to his parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown and his brother, Ketajh Brown, a former Baltimore City police officer and U.S. Army soldier. All three attended Jackson’s confirmation hearings last week.
Both of her parents, HBCU graduates, are educators (her father is also a lawyer).
Jackson is married to surgeon Patrick Graves Jackson, whom she met in college. The couple have two daughters. One, who attended her mother’s hearings last week, was captured in photos watching the proceedings with rapt attention, beaming with pride.
“We know that progress is not easy. Breaking down barriers and being first not only means a great opportunity, but also a huge responsibility,” Padilla said in his opening statement last week at the start of the hearings.
“But Judge Jackson, I also know that you have a tremendous record of experience and accomplishment, and you’re ready to lead that way,” Padilla continued. “Judge Jackson, even before your next opinion or dissent, your appearance before us today already begins a new chapter in the history of our nation.”