Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson began Monday with more than four hours of speeches by senators, introductions of Jackson by two of his colleagues and remarks by the candidate herself.
Jackson’s opening statement touched on her humble journey and the gratitude she felt toward those who spurred her legal rise. She and her supporters have highlighted the “independent” approach she brings to the bench, while Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have argued that her confirmation would make the High Court more representative of the country it serves.
While previewing the parts of Jackson’s brief they intended to review, Republicans launched a round of criticism at Democrats over how they handled GOP nominee confirmations.
Here are the takeaways from day one:
Jackson looks at gratitude and humility
Much of Jackson’s opening remarks were about her upbringing and the gratitude she felt towards her parents as well as her faith.
As she affirmed her ‘thanks to God’, she said: ‘The first of my many blessings is that I was born into this great nation’ in 1970, the decade after Congress passed of two major civil rights bills.
Her name, “Ketanji Onyika”, means “beautiful”, she told the committee – an expression of “her parents’ pride in their heritage and their hope for the future”.
She recounted the interest she developed in law watching her father study law, while praising the “great mentors” she had in high school and the judges she worked for.
“Justice (Stephen) Breyer has not only given me the best job a young lawyer could ever hope for, but he also exemplifies what it means to be a Supreme Court justice of the highest standard of skill and integrity, of civility and grace,” she said, referring to the justice she both clerks and would replace if confirmed.
“It’s extremely humiliating to be considered for Judge Breyer’s seat, and I know I could never fill his shoes,” she added. “But if he is confirmed, I hope to carry on his spirit.”
Jackson promises an ‘arm’s length’ approach to the law, which supporters echoed
Jackson said she takes her responsibility to uphold the Constitution and her “duty to be independent” “very seriously.”
“I decide cases from a neutral posture,” she said. “I assess the facts, and interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, in accordance with my judicial oath.”
This description of his approach comes as Republicans have criticized his refusal to align himself with a specific judicial philosophy, such as originalism or pragmatism.
On Monday, a prominent conservative judge testified about how she approaches her role as a jurist.
“Judge Jackson is an independent jurist who rules on the basis of facts and law and not as a partisan,” said retired Judge Thomas Griffith, a Republican appointee who served on the United Nations Court of Appeals. United States of DC circuit. “Time and time again she has demonstrated that impartiality on the bench.”
Democrats seek to get him to hear about public confidence in the court
Democrats have repeatedly reminded their audiences of the high stakes in these confirmation fights, referencing major cases before a conservative-dominated Supreme Court as they seek to connect the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination to confidence. audience in the courtyard.
As is common in these hearings, Democratic senators have addressed legal issues that resonate with their base – with allusions to Supreme Court cases involving health care, abortion rights, control of firearms and the environment.
“The American people, our voters … and their faith in the courts, that’s at the heart of our democracy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “They lose faith, then democracy loses. The decisions made by our courts – and ultimately by the Supreme Court – affect the daily lives of all of us.”
Because Jackson, if confirmed, will replace a fellow Liberal, her appointment alone is unlikely to change the 6-3 vote tally between Conservatives and Liberals on these various issues. But Democrats pointed to other ways Jackson — through the demographic and professional diversity she would bring — will give the court new perspectives and enrich the trust Americans place in it.
Republicans talk about the treatment Kavanaugh received from Democrats
More than three years ago, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed after a series of tumultuous and intense hearings that tested the Judiciary Committee’s relationship. But despite time, their victory and the subsequent confirmation of another conservative justice, Republicans made it clear on Monday that they could not see Jackson’s nomination without the context of Kavanaugh’s.
Despite the fact that Republicans have pledged to seize his past writings, rulings and convictions, nearly every Republican member on the panel has pledged to draw a line.
“No Republican senator is going to throw a character attack on you when the hearing is pretty much over,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in her opening statement, alluding to how late it was in the process. when the allegations against Kavanaugh were revealed.
Learn more about key moments from day one of Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings here.