On the second day of confirmation hearings Tuesday, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced questions from members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
Tuesday’s hearings started off with Senator Dick Durbin asking Jackson about her judicial philosophy and how she decides cases. Jackson shared a three-step process she follows while deciding any case. When a case comes to the judge for the first time, she removes any preconceived notions from her head and clears her mind to proceed from a position of neutrality. In the second step, the judge said she receives all relevant information including hearings and briefs from both parties and evaluates the facts from different perspectives. In the final step, she looks into the written law. She uses the interpretation and application of law from the written text and observes the limits of her authority. Jackson specified that she does not interpret the law from her own understanding but tries to interpret it according to its intended purpose. She said she also relies upon precedent and the concept of stare decisis to reach her judgment and form an opinion.
In another effort to understand the judge’s stance, Senator Chuck Grassley asked Jackson if she believes that the Constitution is a living and breathing document. He pointed out that in 2013, while she was being nominated to a federal district court, she affirmed this question with a yes, but, in 2021 while she was being nominated as a circuit judge, she declined to answer this question. The senator asked if the judge believed there were different ethical rules for sitting judges versus judicial nominees that prompted her to change her opinion on the Constitution.
Jackson stated that she does not believe in different ethical rules for members of the bar. However, in her experience, she has learned that the Constitution has limitations on the exercise of judicial power and adherence to the text, and it cannot be infused with the judge’s policy perspective or even the policy perspective of the day. Her understanding of the text stems from the text at the time of its founding and what was meant by those who drafted it.
Durbin also asked about court-packing, a concept which deals with changing the size and structure of the Supreme Court. Jackson took the same approach as Justice Amy Coney Barrett did during her confirmation hearings and refused to answer this question. Jackson, maintaining her apolitical stance, stated that her north star was the consideration of the proper role of a judge and that judges should not be speaking on political matters.
One of the most pressing questions during the hearing concerned allegations leveled against Jackson by Senator Josh Hawley on his Twitter page. The senator stated that the judge showed excessive leniency while deciding on child pornography cases. When Jackson was asked to explain her stance, she stated that as a mother and a judge she knew the crimes were horrific and acknowledged that victims of child sexual violence continue to bear its ramifications far into adulthood. However, her main argument was that the law was not in accordance with the times. She stated that previously being in possession of a large number of images of child pornography was a serious crime because it showed heavy involvement, but now in the age of the internet, it is so easy to get a massive volume of images in a matter of minutes. Jackson quoted the sentencing statute, which states “sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purpose of the punishment.” She went on to state that she gives the punishment according to the current times and those accused face decades of internet monitoring by the state.
Durbin agreed with Judge Jackson’s views and mentioned that the cases raised by Hawley have all led to incarceration. He also went on to mention reports by news agencies that fact-checked the senator’s reports and disregarded his claims.
Questions were also asked about the judge’s religious views, her opinion on critical race theory, and her defense and advocacy for the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. One Republican even asked her on a scale of one to 10 how religious would Judge Jackson consider herself, but she declined to answer this question.
You can read what happened on the opening day of the confirmation hearing here.