Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson. Photo Credit: Tom Williams-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson faces off with Senate

President Joe Biden’s pick to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court begins her hearings.


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U.S. Circuit Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson has already made history as the first Black woman to ever be nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Should she be confirmed, she would be the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice.

On Monday, March 21, her continued journey to cement that history takes another step as her Senate confirmation hearings begin.

Jackson has completed her rounds in private to the number of senators that will decide her nomination’s fate, and will now face their questions about her judicial philosophy and hot button issues in public view.

The process, which has mutated into another opportunity for the worst of the country’s political polarization to show itself, is likely to produce a bunch of fireworks that will not affect the final result. Jackson has the support of all 50 Democrats to be confirmed, and it’s just whether a Republican wants to have a show of good grace in joining them.

The issues

Some of the issues she could be asked about include her perceived lax sentencing of defendants convicted of child pornography offenses, expanding the Supreme Court, her ties to Harvard University, and her time as a public defender for inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

The first of those issues is a prime example of the aforementioned political polarization between parties, as the questions surrounding her light sentencing for child pornography charges are backed up by opposition research into her record. 

As Politico reporters Josh Gerstein and Marianne Levine wrote about the line of questioning, its basis is murky when looking at the guidelines implemented by a large majority of federal judges. Most have also long complained of their outdated nature and inability to distinguish between individual cases.

Regarding expansion of the Court, detractors are upset she has yet to come out publicly to oppose the move — something her predecessors on the liberal side of the Court had done.

For Harvard, Jackson is a graduate of the institution and has expressed gratitude in the past for her experience there. The issue is that the school is a defendant in a case about its affirmative action practices that is set to go in front of the Court. It is expected Republicans will ask her to recuse herself.

With that reasoning, both conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and liberal Justice Elena Kagan would also need to recuse themselves from ruling in the case, as both are also Harvard Law graduates.

At Guantanamo, Jackson represented defendants facing terrorism charges, and often disagreed with then-President George W. Bush over his administration’s detainment policies.

The maximum security prison said to house the most dangerous terrorists in the world also has a long, documented history of inhumane treatment, torture, and was often a spot for a number of men detained on suspicion alone after traveling from one of the CIA’s “black sites.”

After the show of the Senate hearings are over, the U.S. should have its first Black woman Supreme Court Justice.


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