Ketanji Brown Jackson's US Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings Begin in Historic Process

If confirmed, Ketanji Brown Jackson would become the first Black female on the nation's highest court.

American history was made Monday as confirmation hearings began for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court.

Jackson, 51, smiled broadly as she entered the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, on the first of what is expected to be four days of intensely monitored proceedings.

The hearings began with opening statements from committee members, and an introduction from Jackson herself, who is nominated to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement at age 83 in January.

President Joe Biden reviewed several candidates to fulfill his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the high court.

She is expected to win confirmation, with Democrats having enough votes for approval without GOP support, though there is speculation a few Republicans might cross the aisle to support her.

Some GOP senators wasted no time in voicing concerns and critiques of the veteran judge. 

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri promised to discuss Jackson’s rulings in cases related to child pornography.  "I think there’s a lot to talk about there and I look forward to talking about it,” Hawley said.

Hawley raised that issue last week during a series of tweets. 

"I've been researching the record of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, reading her opinions, articles, interviews & speeches. I've noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson's treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children," Hawley wrote on Twitter.

His approach last week drew the ire of the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durban, a Democrat from Illinois.

“Judge Jackson is a proud mother of two, whose nomination has been endorsed by leading law enforcement organizations, conservative judges, and survivors of crime," said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. "This 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."

On Monday, Durbin opened the hearings by saying, "The reality is that the court's members, in one respect, have never really reflected the nation they served."

The senator described Jackson's nomination as giving “inspiration to millions of Americans who see themselves in you.” 

He added, “Today is a proud day for America.” 

Durbin also confronted likely GOP line of attacks, saying Jackson would not be a “rubber stamp” for the president. Durbin also shot down claims Jackson is “soft on crime” as “baseless” and "unfair."

If approved, she would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent defendants accused of committing criminal offenses.

She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School. She was an editor at the Harvard Law Review.

She has served as an assistant federal public defender, a commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a private practice lawyer and on two federal courts.

Jackson grew up in Miami. When she told her high school guidance counselor that she wanted to attend Harvard, she was advised to not set her “sights so high.”

Former President Barak Obama has previously praised her nomination, saying Jackson had already inspired "young Black women like my daughters to set their sights higher."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday blasted Democrats, saying Jackson's hearings  "won't be a circus" while evoking the contentious 2018 confirmation proceedings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was publicly accused of sexual harassment during his high school and college years. Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

"Most of us couldn't go back to our offices during Kavanaugh without getting spit on," Graham told Jackson. "I hope that doesn't happen to you all. I don't think it will."

He also noted Jackson's remarks that she had no agenda as a judge.

“So you say, Judge Jackson, you don’t have any judicial philosophy per se. Well, somebody on the left believes you do or they wouldn’t have spent the money they spent to have you in this chair. So we’re going to find out how that statement holds up over time," Graham said.

Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey one of the Senate’s three Black members, praised Jackson's nomination on Monday.

“Let me just acknowledge the fact that this is not normal. It’s never happened before,” he said. 

“I can’t tell you how happy I am. Today we should rejoice,” Booker added.

Though historic, Jackson's confirmation would not change the ideological makeup of the court. It currently has six conservative justices and three liberal ones. If confirmed, she would become only the third Black person to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court since its establishment in 1789, behind Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. 

Related Stories