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Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing: Day 4

'You are worthy': Senator delivers heartfelt message during SCOTUS confirmation hearing
04:57

What we covered here

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held its final day of confirmation hearings for President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
  • The panel heard testimony from the American Bar Association and outside witnesses for and against her confirmation.
  • If confirmed, Jackson will fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s upcoming vacancy and become the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Judge Jackson’s nomination on April 4.

Our live coverage has ended. See how today’s hearing unfolded in the posts below.

17 Posts

Jackson's confirmation hearings have wrapped. Here's when to expect a vote on her nomination

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic confirmation hearings wrapped today with a round of testimonies from outside witnesses.

Thursday’s events capped a busy week on Capitol Hill that included opening statements on Monday and two days of questioning Tuesday and Wednesday. Jackson spent some 22 hours being grilled by Senate Judiciary Committee members.

Now that the public hearings have ended, the next phase of her confirmation process begins. After a committee meeting next Monday where Republicans will be allowed to hold her vote over for a week, the committee is slated to vote on her nomination April 4.

Then there will be a final Senate floor vote which is yet to be scheduled. Senate Democratic leaders have said they hope to have a vote confirming Jackson before their Easter recess.

Democrats can confirm Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court without Republican support if every member of their caucus votes in favor, which appears on track to happen, and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks a tie. It is not yet clear if Jackson will win any Republican votes. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon that he would not be voting in favor of Jackson’s nomination.

When the Senate voted to confirm Jackson last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. But Graham told CNN it’s “fair to say” he sees red flags with her nomination in an interview after his first round of questioning.

Catch up on key moments from this week’s hearings by:

McConnell defends GOP questioning of Jackson 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell brushed off criticism about the behavior of some Republicans during the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings.

McConnell suggested that the GOP’s treatment of Jackson doesn’t compare to how Democrats treated Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate vetting process. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault, a charge he forcefully denied.

The Kentucky Republican added: “The American people know it is not asking too much to ask a federal judge legal questions about her record. I just wish the Senate had gotten more answers.” 

GOP Sens. Tillis and Lee say they won’t boycott Senate Judiciary vote on Jackson

GOP Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah say they won’t boycott Senate Judiciary vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination, meaning the committee will have a quorum to hold a vote on Monday, April 4.

“Zero. Nada. Zip,” Tillis said of a boycott and added that a boycott is “never going to happen.”

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee, said he doesn’t support a boycott either.

Tillis added he was satisfied with requests for information on Jackson’s child porn case sentencing decisions — even as other conservatives have pushed for more.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall refuses to say that Biden is the "duly elected" President

Pressed by Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall refused to say that President Biden was a “duly elected” President. Marshall would only say that Biden was the President.

Whitehouse: “Is Joseph R. Biden of Delaware the duly elected and lawfully serving President of the United States of America?”
Marshall: “He is the President of this country.”
Whitehouse: “Is he the duly elected and lawfully serving President of the United States?”
Marshall: “He is the President of our country.”
Whitehouse: “Are you answering that omitting the language duly elected and lawfully serving, purposefully?”
Marshall: “I’m answering the question. He is the President of the United States.”
Whitehouse: “And you have no view to whether he was duly elected or is lawfully serving.”
Marshall: “I’m telling you he’s the President of the United States.”

The fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which was led by Marshall at the time, sent robocalls before the January 6 assault on the Capitol encouraging that protestors march to the Capitol. Whitehouse on Thursday asked Marshall several questions about the robocalls. Marshall said he was not present in DC that day, but that he couldn’t speak to whether staff of RAGA or its fundraising group Rule of Law Defense Fund were in DC.

“We’ve denounced lawlessness — not only as it related to what took place in January 6, but also the lawlessness that continues to go on across our country with violent crime,” Marshall said.

Schumer vows to bring Jackson nomination "to the floor in short order"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attends Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's hearing on her nomination on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 23.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated on Thursday he wants to move swiftly to hold a Senate floor vote on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination the Supreme Court, the latest sign Democrats are confident they will be able to confirm President Biden’s nominee.

Schumer said in a floor speech that once the Senate Judiciary Committee advances the nomination, “I will move to have her nomination come to the floor in short order. The Senate is on track to have Judge Jackson confirmed as Justice Jackson by the end of this work period.”

The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the nomination on April 4.

Schumer said that “after three marathon days of speeches and questions and answers, Judge Jackson’s public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee has concluded.” He went on to say, “there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind she merits confirmation to the US Supreme Court.”

Outside witnesses hit major themes each side has presented about Jackson 

Character witnesses for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson are sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the fourth day of Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 24.

The panel outside witnesses testifying about Jackson made opening statements that emphasized the dueling points that Democrats and Republicans have sought to present about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

The Democratic witnesses leaned into the historical significance of Jackson’s ascent to the Supreme Court, while highlighting the particular characteristics the judge’s supporters say make her qualified for the post. 

“We have waited far too long for this day, but we are nonetheless overjoyed that it has finally arrived. Judge Jackson’s presence on the court will matter tremendously,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

Even as she cheered the prospect of a Jackson confirmation that “glass ceiling that many Americans… believe that they would never live to see it broken,” Rep. Joyce Beatty urged the Senate to remember “that Judge Jackson’s confirmation vote must not be isolated to her gender or to her race.” 

“Instead, I urge you to closely examine her credentials and her sterling judicial records,” Beatty, a Democrat who represents Ohio, said. “To me they read like a story book for perfectly prepared juris to sit on the nation’s highest court.” 

Attorney Richard Rosenthal, who has known Jackson since childhood said she has been one of the “kindest, warmest, most humble and down to earth people I have ever met.” 

Risa Goluboff – the dean of University of Virginia Law School who is testifying in her personal capacity — connected Jackson’s qualities to those of the justice she clerked for and may now well replace. 

“Justice [Stephen] Breyer and Justice Jackson share their deeply held patriotism,” she said, adding that, like Breyer, Jackson “has always been as interested in hearing the views of others as in sharing her own.”

As Republicans have zeroed in on Jackson’s record on crime, Captain Frederick Thomas, the national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, discussed the group’s endorsement of her nomination.  

The Republican witnesses reiterated the main qualms GOP senators say that they have with Jackson, like that that she is supposedly soft on crime and that she has not shown herself to have the type of judicial philosophy that Republicans approve of.  

One of the witnesses, Eleanor McCullen, spoke at length about her anti-abortion activism outside of clinics and how she was “deeply saddened” by an amicus brief that Jackson, as a private attorney, filed in support of a clinic buffer zone law that McCullen challenged in court. 

First Liberty Institute associate counsel Keisha Russell discussed at length “critical race theory,” an academic theory that Republicans have claimed, without evidence, influences Jackson’s jurisprudence. Alessandra Serano, an anti-human trafficking advocate at Operation Underground Railroad, decried the trend of judges issuing sentences in child pornography below the advisory guidelines – an aspect of Jackson’s record that some Republicans have critiqued. (Jackson is in the mainstream of judges in how she handles these cases, and Serano’s opening testimony did not cite anything specific in Jackson’s record that suggested she was an outlier.)  

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall stressed the tough on crime messaging, telling the committee that, “The Senate must now do its due diligence to ensure that the ideology of the anti-incarceration and anti-police movement, views the Biden administration seemingly has increasingly embraced, is never permitted to make its way onto our Supreme Court.” 

Administrative law professor Jennifer Mascott warned that Jackson “may have a different view than traditionally applied methods of originalism,” the philosophy favored by some Republican appointed judges. 

SCOTUS ruling on death penalty Thursday

Across the street from the Capitol, the Supreme Court issued a significant ruling saying that a Texas death row inmate can have his spiritual adviser “lay hands” on him and pray aloud.

In an 8-1 ruling, the ruling establishes new guidelines that will govern similar requests in other prisons across the country.

The court last September had blocked execution of John Henry Ramirez while the justices considered his requests concerning his pastor. The current policy in Texas is to allow a pastor in the chamber, but the pastor cannot speak up or physically touch the inmate.

Ramirez was convicted of robbing and murdering Pablo Castro in 2004, stabbing him 29 times in a convenience store parking lot. He also robbed a second victim at knifepoint and fled to Mexico, evading arrest for three and a half years, according to the Texas attorney general’s office.

The ruling does not change Ramirez’s death sentence.

Read more about the ruling from CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Devan Cole here.

Read testimony from the witnesses testifying today before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Today’s hearing features outside witnesses from the American Bar Association, who will discuss the group’s well-qualified rating of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, as well as outside witnesses for and against her nomination.

Read the prepared testimony from each witness below:

Witnesses from the American Bar Association

  • Ann Claire Williams, American Bar Association, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary
  • D. Jean Veta, American Bar Association, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary
  • Joseph M. Drayton, American Bar Association, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary 

Witnesses called by Democrats

Witnesses to be called by Republicans

  • Steve Marshall, Attorney General, State of Alabama
  • Jennifer Mascott, Assistant Professor of Law & Co-Executive Director, The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  • Eleanor McCullen, plaintiff in case about buffer zones around abortion clinics
  • Keisha Russell, First Liberty
  • Alessandra Serano, Operation Underground Railroad

Where the Senate vote math stands on Jackson’s nomination 

Senate Democrats continue to project confidence that they will be able to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court as confirmation hearings for President Biden’s nominee are in their final day Thursday. 

That’s largely because Senate Democrats have the votes to confirm her, as long as every member of their caucus remains united and Vice President Kamala Harris steps in to break a tie vote. 

So far, no Democrats have publicly signaled they would vote against the nominee, even as Republicans have worked this week to unleash potentially politically damaging attacks during the confirmation hearings. 

On Monday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democratic swing vote, seemed unfazed by allegations from Republicans that Jackson is soft on crime that Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley raised in how Jackson sentenced in a series of child pornography cases. Asked about Hawley’s allegation that she is soft on crime, Manchin asked reporters, “It’s Hawley right?” Reporters responded, yes. “Take that for what it’s worth,” Manchin said. 

For now, one big question is whether any Republicans will vote for Jackson. 

When the Senate voted to confirm her last year to fill a vacancy on a powerful DC-based appellate court, three Republican senators voted with Democrats in favor: GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. As a result, those three Republicans have been closely watched this week. 

Collins and Murkowski are not on the Senate Judiciary Committee so they have not had a chance to question the nominee during the hearings. 

But Graham is a member of the panel. The South Carolina Republican has directed fierce, and highly critical, lines of questioning toward the nominee during confirmation hearings this week as he appears to be signaling he will not support her nomination. 

Graham told CNN, it’s “fair to say” he sees red flags with her nomination after his first round of questioning the nominee, saying that her answers on defending Guantanamo Bay detainees “just doesn’t make sense to me.”

ABA panel rejects claims that Jackson was biased in child porn cases

Republican claims that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was unduly lenient in child porn cases were not backed by what the American Bar Association committee found in its review, the committee members testified Thursday. 

ABA committee member Joseph Drayton said that the standing committee spoke to various prosecutors and defense attorneys who appeared in front of Jackson, including in some of the child pornography cases she heard. 

“None of them felt that she demonstrated bias in any way,” Drayton said, before recounting specific remarks the committee from the prosecutors that included that she was “fair to all sides” and showed the “highest level of competence.” 

“We asked pointed questions as it related to bias, whether to be to defendants, whether it be to the government, and we found no bias,” he said. 

Drayton later said the committee “did not find any evidence” that her sentencing approach endangered children.

“To the extent that a prosecutor or defense counsel who appeared before her in those types of cases felt that way, it would have come out in our interviews,” he said. 

ABA officials explain "well qualified" rating of Jackson

Members of the standing committee that issued a “well qualified” rating for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination explained to the Judiciary senators how the American Bar Association came to the conclusion.

Reviewing the comments the ABA received from over 250 judges, attorneys, and academics, the committee heard “uniform praise” like “brilliant, beyond reproach, first rate patient, insightful, impeccable” to describe Jackson, according to Ret. Judge Ann Claire Williams, the chair of the ABA standing committee on the federal judiciary.

Another member of the standing committee, D. Jean Veta said that, “Given the uniform strength of these and many other comments, the standing committee readily concluded that Judge Jackson demonstrates the exceptional professional competence expected of a Supreme Court justice and thus merits a well qualified rating.”

Veta said that the committee considered whether she was biased towards criminal defendants had said “notably, no judge, defense counsel or prosecutor expressed any concern in this regard and they uniformly rejected any accusations of bias.” 

How young Black women see Jackson's nomination

Samiya Williams reads a letter to Judge Jackson in front of the Supreme Court ahead of hearings on Monday, March 21, 2022.

CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright takes a look a the historic nature of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination:

When 16-year-old Samiya Williams first saw Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson standing next to President Biden as he formally announced her nomination in February, she knew that one day she would follow in Jackson’s footsteps.

Williams is among a new generation of young Black women, who for the first time, will come of age seeing a Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, they’ll know first-hand of her seat on the bench, as though it was normal for a Black woman to occupy it.

Read more from Jasmine Wright here.

The fourth day of Jackson's confirmation hearings begins

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said Thursday that he was “saddened” by the approach some Republicans took to questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson this week, even as Durbin said that a “majority” of the committees’ GOP members “handled themselves professionally in the best traditions of the United States Senate.”

Durbin made the remarks as he was kicking off the fourth day of hearings concerning Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Thursday’s proceedings will feature multiple panels of outside witnesses to testify about the judge, starting with a slate of American Bar Association officials who served on the ABA committee that rated Jackson “well qualified” to the Supreme Court post.

“The last three days have been long, exhausting for senators, and certainly … much more so for Judge Jackson,” Durbin said Thursday. “I believe that she carried herself with grace, humility and dignity, was thoughtful and forthright and her responses.”

Durbin spoke positively of remarks made by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker — who gave an emotional address to Jackson towards the end of Wednesday’s hearing — and Sen. Ben Sasse, who commented on the “jackassary” that tends to be exhibited in front of the cameras, as the Nebraska Republican discussed proposals to put cameras in the Supreme Court’s courtroom.

“Some of the attacks on this judge were unfair, unrelenting and beneath the dignity of the United States Senate,” Durbin said. “You can disagree with the senators vote. You can disagree with a judge’s ruling. But to draw conclusions that really reflect on them personally and their values and take it to the extreme is unfair whether the nominee is Democrat or Republican [nominee].”

Durbin said he was so “saddened” by those tactics “and it happened over and over and over again.”

“I hope that is not the last impression that people have of the work of this committee,” Durbin said. “My last impression is a judge who sat through it all, head held high, with dignity and determination and strength.”

A portrait of Jackson as a Supreme Court justice

Beyond the hyperbole and theatrics that have punctuated this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, a portrait of Ketanji Brown Jackson as jurist has begun to emerge, Joan Biskupic, CNN’s legal analyst & Supreme Court biographer writes.

From Joan’s story this morning:

Like the justice she would succeed, Stephen Breyer, Jackson leaned on multi-part legal methods and data points. She emphasized regard for judicial precedent. She also took a page from the conservative side of the bench when she spoke of searching for the original meaning of the Constitution.

On Wednesday, ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa tried to pin Jackson down on her precise “judicial philosophy.”

“The philosophy is my methodology,” she said. “It is a philosophy that I have developed from practice. Unlike some judges who come to appellate work from academia and who have some overarching theory of the law, I approach cases from experience, from practice and consistent with my constitutional obligations. So my philosophy is one in which I look at cases impartially, consistent with my independence as a judicial officer.”

Read more from Joan Biskupic here.

Here are a few key moments from yesterday's confirmation hearing

It’s the final day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings today.

In case you missed yesterday’s hearing, here were some of the key moments:

On her “empathy” shown on the bench: Jackson explained the way she spoke to defendants as a trial judge during sentencing, as she faced Republicans who had raised concerns about the “empathy” she has shown on the bench.

“My attempts to communicate directly with defendants is about public safety, because most of the people who are incarcerated — via the federal system and even via the state system — will come out, will be a part of our communities again,” Jackson said in response to a question from Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina. “And so it is to our entire benefit, as Congress has recognized, to ensure that people who come out stop committing crimes.”

On being the “the first generation” to benefit from the civil rights movement: The judge recounted the childhood of parents, who attended segregated middle and high schools in Florida, and how her upbringing was like “night and day” to theirs.

“I do consider myself, having been born in 1970, to be the first generation to benefit from the civil rights movement, from the legacy of all of the work of so many people that went into changing the laws in this country so that people like me, could have an opportunity to be sitting here before you today,” she said.

On recusing herself from a lawsuit against Harvard over its affirmative action policies: Jackson told Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz that if confirmed to the Supreme Court, she plans to recuse from a lawsuit against Harvard over its affirmative action policies the justices are hearing next term.

“That is my plan, senator,” Jackson said. Jackson is on the school’s board of overseers.

Pushing back against GOP focusing on a “small subset” of her sentences: Jackson had a sharp response to a question from GOP Sen. Josh Hawley asking her if she regretted the three-month sentence she issued in a child porn case where prosecutors were seeking two years.

“Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences,” Jackson said.

Booker defends Jackson: Democratic Sen. Cory Booker defended Jackson and slammed his GOP Senate colleagues for their treatment of the judge during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

At one point during his remarks, Booker became emotional, speaking to the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Jackson could be seen wiping away tears as Booker spoke about how powerful this moment was for the country in that she would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court and then spoke of African Americans before her that have made history. 

Booker added, “You are my harbinger of hope. This country’s getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice. And I’m going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination on Monday, April 4.

New polling finds most Americans say it's important for the Supreme Court to look like the country as a whole

Most Americans think it’s important that the demographics of the Supreme Court resemble the country as a whole, new polling finds. And a majority believe Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Court holds potential historical significance.

In a new Monmouth University survey, 69% of Americans say it’s at least somewhat important for the Supreme Court to look like the racial, ethnic and gender composition of the country as a whole, with 46% saying it’s very important. Majorities of women (54%), Black Americans (78%) and Democrats (80%) consider such representation to be very important. That aligns with a Pew Research poll released last week, in which about two-thirds of Americans said that having a Black woman on the Supreme Court would be at least somewhat historically important, with 43% calling it very or extremely important.

The surveys were taken following President Joe Biden’s nomination of Jackson to the Supreme Court, but before the start of her confirmation hearings on Monday. The polls find that Americans start off with largely positive or uncertain feelings about her nomination — not unusual for a potential Supreme Court Justice. Across four — Monmouth’s, Pew’s and surveys from Quinnipiac University and Gallup — an average of 52% thought Jackson should be confirmed by the Senate, with only about 23% saying she should not be, and the remaining one-quarter that they weren’t sure.

“For too long, our government, our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said in announcing Jackson as his nominee. “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications, and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level.”

A modest 53% majority of Americans approve of Biden’s decision to make his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman a primary factor in his choice of nominee, Monmouth finds, with 41% disapproving. Just 19% say they expect having a Black woman on the Supreme Court will have a real impact on how cases are decided, while 46% expect it to have only a limited impact, and 31% expect no impact at all.

Read more about the polling here.

Jackson's Senate hearings wrap today. Here's what happens next in the Supreme Court confirmation process.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings will wrap up today with testimonies from outside witnesses.

Once the public hearings end, there will be a committee vote on whether to advance the nomination, and then there will be a final Senate floor vote.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Durbin announced that the committee will convene Monday to consider the nomination. That Monday meeting, however, will likely not include a committee vote. That is because Republicans can ask to hold the vote over until the next meeting.

A source told CNN that the next Judiciary meeting to consider Jackson’s nomination will be Monday, April 4. That’s when there will be a committee vote, which would advance the nomination to the Senate floor.