Legal experts find no 'concern' with confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court

Outside experts gave Biden's Supreme Court nominee its highest 'well-qualified' rating

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to Cory Booker, a US senator, speak on the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on her nomination to the Supreme Court. Retuers
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Legal experts and interest groups weighed in on Ketanji Brown Jackson in the final hours of the four-day marathon of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her historic nomination to become the first black woman on the US Supreme Court.

Members of an American Bar Association panel that gave Ms Jackson its highest professional rating for the Supreme Court said reviewers found no evidence she’s soft on crime as Republicans charged at her confirmation hearings.

“Notably, no judge, defence counsel, or prosecutor expressed any concern in this regard, and they uniformly rejected any accusations of bias,” D Jean Veta, a co-lead evaluator on Jackson’s "Well-Qualified" review told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Ms Jackson forcefully defended herself against Republican accusations over two days of questioning, facing myriad questions and accusations on her sentencing record, particularly of those accused of child pornography charges.

The Supreme Court nominee on Wednesday also fended off Republican accusations that she was soft on crime, a theme the party will likely pursue during the midterm elections later this year.

Standing committee reviewers interviewed 250 judges, lawyers, and others who they said had first-hand knowledge of how Jackson conducted herself on the bench. The ratings noted her integrity, even-handed nature, and exceptional competence.

The reviewers said they found no evidence of bias toward defendants or the prosecution, including her handling of child pornography cases.

A number of experts have labelled claims that she favoured defendants in certain cases —pursued aggressively by senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, among others — as misleading.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed the issue in floor remarks on Thursday, echoing the comments of others that he was not satisfied with Ms Jackson’s responses to questions on her sentencing record and said he will vote against confirmation.

"Judge Jackson refuses to reject the fringe position that Democrats should try to pack the Supreme Court," Mr McConnell said.

Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the chamber was "on track" to confirm the federal appellate judge to the lifetime job before its expected break for Easter on April 8.

Republicans also pressed Ms Jackson on her legal advocacy defending terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay, her thoughts on critical race theory and her religious views.

Democrat Dick Durbin, chairman of the committee, at one point slammed down his gavel when Republican Ted Cruz refused to yield after his time to question Ms Jackson expired.

“You can bang it as long as you want,” Mr Cruz snapped, shouting that he only wanted Ms Jackson to answer his question.

“At some point, you have to follow the rules,” Mr Durbin shot back.

But not all Republicans indulged in the party's line of attacks.

Ben Sasse, in an apparent shot at Mr Cruz and Lindsey Graham, who repeatedly interrupted Ms Jackson, said “cameras change human behaviour".

“I think we should recognise that the [expletive] we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities,” he said.

Mitt Romney, who is not on the committee, told The Washington Post that Republicans' attacks on her were “off course".

Democrat Cory Booker used his time to assure Ms Jackson that she was suitable for the job.

“I know what it’s taken for you to sit here in this seat,” he said. “You have earned this spot.”

With Democrats holding a narrow majority in the Senate, Ms Jackson's confirmation seems all but certain. If confirmed, she would serve as the 116th justice on the Supreme Court.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 24, 2022, 9:25 PM
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