High Court Nominee’s Senate Hearings Set for March 21

The nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, held her first meetings with senators on Capitol Hill.

Senator McConnell and the Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, March 2, 2022. AP/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, will begin March 21, keeping the Senate on track for a possible final vote next month.

Senator Durbin, the committee chairman, announced the hearing schedule on Wednesday as Judge Jackson was holding her first meetings with senators on Capitol Hill. She met in the morning with the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. She planned to see Mr. Durbin and the committee’s top Republican, Senator Grassley, in the afternoon.

As is tradition, the hearings will last four days, with opening statements March 21 and testimony and questioning the next two days. The fourth day will include testimony from outside witnesses.

If confirmed, Judge Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve as a justice in the court’s 200-plus-year history. Justice Stephen Breyer has said he won’t leave the bench until this summer, when the court’s session is over, but Democrats are still moving quickly, taking no chances in case there is any shift in a 50-50 Senate where Vice President Harris provides the deciding vote.

After Mr. Schumer and Judge Jackson sat down in the Capitol to talk, Mr. Schumer said the Senate will move the nomination “fairly but expeditiously.”

He gushed about Judge Jackson to reporters, saying she is “an optimistic person” who tries to see all sides of an issue. He said they spoke some about her judicial philosophy but mostly about her life and her family.

“You can see it when you meet her that she has real empathy,” Mr. Schumer said. “I think it’s very important in a judge because you’re having two sides clashing over whatever the issue is, to be able to empathize and walk in the other person’s shoes.”

President Biden spoke about Judge Jackson and honored Justice Breyer in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, calling the nominee “”one of our nation’s top legal minds, who will continue Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence.”

Judge Jackson, 51, was confirmed last year as an appeals court judge in Washington after eight years on the district court. She once worked as one of Justice Breyer’s law clerks and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency that develops federal sentencing policy.

Mr. Biden said she was a “consensus builder,” noting her work as a private litigator and as a federal public defender, and that she comes from a family of public school educators and police officers.

In a 149-page questionnaire Judge Jackson returned to the Senate committee this week, she disclosed that she was first contacted by the White House January 30, three days after Justice Breyer announced his retirement. Judge Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, had long been seen as Mr. Biden’s top candidate for the job, which he had promised would go to a Black woman.

Judge Jackson met with Mrs. Harris in a video call on February 11 and then interviewed with Mr. Biden at the White House on February 14, she says in the questionnaire. Mr. Biden called and offered her the nomination on February 24, a day before he made his decision public.

The questionnaire provides the committee with a record of every job she has held and the decisions she has made in her nine years as a federal judge, as well as any recusals and potential conflicts of interest. Senators and staff will be able to vet that information much more quickly than they would have for other candidates since they just considered her last year for her current position.

Judge Jackson’s list of her most significant cases contains only one new entry from the appeals court, describing an opinion she wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that came out in favor of labor unions.

Messrs. Schumer and Durbin are still hoping to win some GOP votes for her confirmation, even though many Republicans have expressed skepticism that Judge Jackson is too liberal. Senators Collins of Maine, Murkowski of Alaska and Graham of South Carolina were the only Republicans who voted to confirm Judge Jackson to the appeals court last year.

While Ms. Collins has appeared open to voting for Judge Jackson again, Ms. Murkowski said in a statement last week that her previous vote did not mean she would be supportive this time.

Mr. Graham had pushed for a different candidate from his home state, a federal judge, J. Michelle Childs, and expressed disappointment that she was not Mr. Biden’s pick.

Mr. Schumer said after his meeting with Judge Jackson that she is someone who should appeal to all sides, noting her past as a public defender and support from some police groups, for example.

He said he hopes that when Republicans meet her, “they will be as wowed as I was. She’s an amazing person.”

The New York Sun

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