What Happened During Judge Jackson’s Hearing
Those who watched Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearing last week will be glad to know that she is on the path to confirmation as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The hearing showcased her brilliance, her deep commitment to civil rights, and her years of experience both on and off the bench. We also got to witness her strength and endurance in the face of disgraceful and unprecedented displays of disrespect from certain Republican senators.
Among the highlights:
- Judge Jackson committed to serving as an even-handed Supreme Court justice if confirmed. “I have a record over the past decade. That’s precisely how I’ve treated all of my cases. And I’ve been serving in the District of Columbia, both as a trial judge and as an appellate judge. And we see some of the most politically contentious issues. My record demonstrates my impartiality.”
- Judge Jackson talked about bringing her life experiences to the Court, including her experience as a Black woman.
- She discussed the importance of diversity on the Court, mentioning the notes, letters, and photos she’s received from little girls around the country since her nomination.
- After talking about her family’s law enforcement background, Judge Jackson stressed the importance of public defenders. She explained that “criminal defense lawyers perform a service, and our system is exemplary throughout the world precisely because we ensure that people who are accused of crimes are treated fairly.”
- She told senators about her work to open doors of opportunity to others. “So it’s been a part of my practice to go to schools to reach out to young people, to … show them that this — this is something that’s possible. If I could do it, they can do it.”
- She shared how attending public school influenced her, calling it “a wonderful opportunity to get to know people who were different than me.”
- She shared her advice for young people across the country who aspire to follow in her footsteps but are filled with doubt: “Persevere. I would tell them to persevere.”
And, of course, she went into great detail on the legal issues she has addressed as a judge over the past decade.
The Right’s Unprecedented Displays of Disrespect
Several committee Republicans used the hearing as a chance to rehash their old grievances against Democrats. These fights had nothing to do with Judge Jackson, and bringing them up just revealed how hollow their concerns about Judge Jackson actually were. A number of them mentioned another Black woman judge: Janice Rogers Brown, a far-right Bush nominee to the D.C. Circuit who was confirmed over Democratic opposition in 2005. Of course, they failed to mention that this was the last time a Black woman was nominated to any federal appellate court by a Republican president, or that all six Republican nominees to the Supreme Court since then have been white.
In another throwback to the past, Sen. Ted Cruz complained that in 2018 Democrats had asked Brett Kavanaugh about his “teenage dating habits.” (Yes, that is how Cruz characterized credible allegations of sexual assault.) Sen. Lindsey Graham even created a brand-new grievance, apparently unable to get over the fact that President Biden didn’t follow his recommendation on whom to nominate.
But most painfully, in two days that will remain seared in the memories of everyone who watched the hearing, Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz led an effort to play to the Q-Anon crowd. They leveled truly bizarre and wholly unfounded charges against Judge Jackson. She calmly explained her record, and they repeatedly distorted it. They ignored her responses. They talked over her. They had picked their narrative and were running with it, and the truth had nothing to do with it.
Judge Jackson Rose Above the Right’s Vitriol
Through it all, in the face of vicious and disrespectful attacks from privileged people in a position of power, Judge Jackson remained polite and respectful. It was a scenario all too familiar to many of the Black women watching the hearing.
And it led to Sen. Cory Booker’s unforgettable vow not to let anyone steal his joy.
We look forward to next week with joyful anticipation, when her nomination will be voted on by the Judiciary Committee and then by the full Senate. She is poised to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And we will have taken a critical step in the long-term effort to have a Supreme Court that protects the rights of all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.