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Ketanji Brown Jackson will become the first black woman on the Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a daughter of teachers who rose through the ranks of America’s legal elite, stands at the dawn of history, just two Senate votes away from becoming the first black woman confirmed as a judge in the Supreme Court.

Thursday’s votes, which are expected to conclude by mid-afternoon, represent the culmination of a whirlwind six-week confirmation process for the 51-year-old federal appeals judge.

It began in February with President Biden presenting Jackson as a distinguished candidate who would ‘help write the next chapter in America’s journey story’ and culminated in two days of tense Senate hearings. last month when Republicans sought to paint her as a left-wing radical who had coddled criminals and terrorists, only for three GOP senators to ultimately reject those claims and back her confirmation.

Jackson’s nomination was advanced by two 53-47 votes earlier this week, and senators from both parties said they expected the same tally for his confirmation on Thursday. If confirmed, she will replace Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer after the Supreme Court’s term ends in late June.

“It’s going to be a happy day – happy for the Senate, happy for the Supreme Court, happy for America,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said Wednesday night. “Although we still have a long way to go, the America of tomorrow will take a giant step towards becoming a more perfect nation.”

Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court

The historic resonance of the moment was tempered by the polarized reception Jackson received in the Senate, which has been torn apart by a growing series of grievances over judicial appointments dating back four decades. Jackson’s tally is likely to be far lower than previous trailblazing nominees, such as Thurgood Marshall, the first black judge, who was confirmed 69-11 in 1967, or Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman, who was upheld 99-0 in 1981.

The Democrats’ jubilation has also been accompanied by some anger at the rhetoric some Republicans have used to attack Jackson’s nomination, aimed at fueling the GOP campaign’s attacks on Democrats as being lenient on crime and lenient toward radical views on race and gender. GOP senators have found ammunition in her past portrayal of Guantánamo detainees when she was a federal public defender, her conviction record as a trial judge on the DC federal bench, and even the school’s curriculum. private school that her children attend and on whose board she sits.

A trio of Republican senators who have signaled higher political ambitions — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — each used the hearing to question Jackson about the sentences she imposed that were below federal guidelines, focusing in particular on a Jackson handled a cluster of cases involving men convicted of selling child pornography on the Internet.

In each of these cases, Jackson’s sentences are below federal guidelines and prosecutors’ requests. But they weren’t out of place for federal judges in general, many of whom have criticized the guidelines for being too harsh on offenders who collect images online without directly harming children.

Ketanji Brown Jackson defends sentencing decisions, says she would recuse herself from affirmative action

When Hawley asked Jackson on March 23 if she regretted a particular sentence, she replied, “What I regret is that during a hearing on my qualifications to be a Supreme Court judge, we had spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences.

Summarizing her approach to the law, Jackson said she had a “methodology” for deciding a case, but not an overarching philosophy. At times, she agreed with Republican senators on the importance of adhering to the plain text of the Constitution and the meaning that text would have had for the Founders, the essence of the conservative legal doctrine of originalism.

“Judges shouldn’t be decision makers,” Jackson said. “It is part of our constitutional design, and it prevents our government from being too powerful and infringing on individual liberty.”

Most Republican senators have said in explaining their opposition that they simply disagree with Jackson’s “judicial philosophy,” or at least his inability to define that philosophy to their satisfaction. Top GOP leaders, meanwhile, have done little to quell the more sordid attacks, with many seeing them as fair game, especially after the searing 2018 confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Calling Jackson a “liberal activist,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that the hearings he said only heightened conservative concerns about her record. He cited his handling of a case involving the Trump administration’s border policy that was later overturned on appeal, and a conviction record that he said “tilted … dramatically and consistently in the direction of a letting go of crime”.

Collins says she will back Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court

For three Republican senators, the narrative that Jackson was a partisan extremist did not ring true. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Jackson had the “experience, qualifications and integrity” to merit confirmation and, in supporting Jackson, called on her colleagues to step back from partisan politics tightrope that has increasingly dominated Supreme Court confirmations.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said much the same thing, decrying the “corrosive politicization of the Supreme Court nominee review process, which on both sides of the aisle is getting worse and worse.” detaches more and more from reality from year to year”. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), meanwhile, said Jackson was “a qualified jurist and a person of honor.”

GOP support for Jackson’s confirmation, minimal as it is in historical terms, has been gratifying for Democrats, who have been keen to put a bipartisan stamp on Jackson’s historic confirmation.

They invited a Republican-appointed judge who sits with Jackson on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Thomas Griffith, to introduce her to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They have sought to counter the GOP’s soft-on-crime attacks by touting its endorsements of the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement groups. And the White House and top Democratic senators stayed in close contact with Republican swing votes to manage concerns that arose.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who guided Jackson’s Senate nomination, said Wednesday that Jackson was “the right person at the right time for the right job.”

“She has made it very clear that when it comes to applying the law to the facts, she does so with impartiality – so much so that she is respected on both sides of the table, on the side of the prosecutors and on the side of the defense table,” Durbin said. “It takes time, but she got there. … She’s going to go down in history if we give her that confirmation vote.


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