Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces Stiff Questioning from Republican Senators

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson” by Wikicago is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson face stiff questioning, with lawmakers asking the judge several hard-hitting queries.  These questions brought to light Jackson’s stances on issues pertaining to religious freedom, the role of the judicial branch, abortion, the sentencing of sex offenders, and other relevant matters.   

Here are a few of the lines of questioning that Republicans employed during Jackson’s confirmation hearings.

    

Senator Lindsey Graham:

 

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was one of only three Republican senators to back Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination in 2021 to the D.C. Appellate Court.  With that said, Graham has raised several notable concerns over Jackson’s past history as a justice, and whether he will vote to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court remains up in the air. 

On Wednesday, Graham revisited one of Jackson’s old cases – Make the Road New York v. McAleenan.  The case was predicated upon whether it was under the purview of the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security to broaden the department’s ability to remove certain illegal immigrants. 

Judge Jackson ruled against the Department of Homeland Security, a decision that would later be overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  As Graham noted in his questioning, the Appellate Court said in its decision: “There could hardly be a more definitive expression of congressional intent to leave the decision about the scope of expedited removal, within statutory bounds, to the Secretary’s independent judgement.”

Graham used this fact as the impetus for calling into question whether Jackson is a judicial activist.  Graham noted: “So, this is an example to me – and you may not agree – where the plain language of the statute was completely wiped out by you.  Graham later insinuated that Jackson’s ruling was due to personal animus that she held towards the Trump administration:

“You reached a conclusion because you disagree with the Trump administration.  That, to me, is exhibit A of activism,” said Graham. 

 

Senator John Cornyn:

 

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) focused his questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson on the judge’s perspective on social issues.  Most notably, Cornyn asked the prospective Supreme Court justice about her stance on religious freedom, gay marriage, and the role of the courts in arbitrating on citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights. 

Cornyn asserted that the landmark Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges had significant ramifications for persons of faith.  “Isn’t it apparent that when the Supreme Court decides that something that is not even in the Constitution is a fundamental right, and no state can pass any law that conflicts with the Supreme Court’s edict, particularly in an area where people have sincerely held religious beliefs? “Doesn’t that necessarily create a conflict between what people may believe as a matter of their religious doctrine or faith and what the federal government says is the law of the land?” 

To this, Jackson responded, “Well, senator, that is the nature of a right – that when there is a right it means that there are limitations on regulation, even if people are regulating pursuant to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”  This statement indicates that Jackson believes that the freedom to practice religion can be superseded by government edicts – a stance that concerns many conservatives who believe that the ability to freely practice their faith should be absolute.

 

Senator Ted Cruz:

 

Cornyn’s fellow Texas senator – Republican Ted Cruz – likewise asked Jackson a series of challenging inquiries, with Cruz’s questions centering on critical race theory and Jackson’s affirmation of several highly controversial figures who promote race-based education.  This prompted Cruz to say that he sees Jackson’s record as one filled with “activism and advocacy.”

Before reaching this ultimate conclusion, Cruz pointed to a speech that Judge Jackson previously gave at the University of Michigan.  In it, she praised the founder of the 1619 project – Nikole Hannah-Jones – an activist who has frequently posited that America’s founding and resultant success was predicated on racism and slavery – and that those evils are still highly prevalent today. 

Concomitantly, Cruz referenced Judge Jackson’s position as a member of the school board at Georgetown Day School.  Specifically, Cruz pointed to the school’s support of elements of critical race theory, a doctrine that breeds racism. 

Cruz noted that Georgetown Day School’s curriculum is riddled with Critical Race Theory.  He would cite multiple examples, saying, “among the books that are either assigned or recommended, they include Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.  They include The End of Policing, an advocacy for abolishing police.  They include How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi.  They include literally stacks and stacks of books, and I’ll tell you two of the ones that were most stunning. 

They include a book called Antiracist Baby by Ibram Kendi, and they’re portions of this book that I find really quite remarkable.  One portion of the book says babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist, there is no neutrality.  Another portion of the book they recommended to babies, ‘Confess when being racist.’  Now this is a book that is taught at Georgetown Day School to students in Pre-K through second grade.”

 

Senator Josh Hawley:

 

The Daily Slant recently reported on Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley’s concerns with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s sentencing of convicted sex offenders.  As expected, Hawley’s questioning of Judge Jackson was centered on her history of supposedly lenient sentences towards criminals convicted of sex crimes – specifically, child pornography.

Hawley honed in on Jackson’s decision in United States v. Hawkins.  In this case, the sex offender, age 18, was in possession of dozens of videos depicting children performing various sexual acts.  The children were as young as nine years old.  Jackson sentenced the offender to only three months in prison, a far cry from the 10 years recommended by federal sentencing guidelines and the two years advocated for by federal prosecutors.

Hawley pressed Jackson on her sentence, asking the judge if she regrets her ruling in the case.  Hawley pointed out Jackson’s very own statements on United States v. Hawkins, in which she detailed the fact that the sex offender’s actions could contribute to some of the abused children turning to “drugs and prostitution and other vices to try to deal emotionally with the pain that results from the torture they have experienced.”

Jackson indicated that she did not regret the sentence that she handed down in United States v. Hawkins, telling Senator Hawley: “No, Senator” when pressed on whether she had anything that she might do differently if she could alter her sentence.   

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