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Hearing opens for Jackson, first Black female nominee for U.S. Supreme Court

UPDATED: Mon., March 21, 2022

By Mark Sherman and Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson pledged Monday to decide cases “without fear or favor” if the Senate confirms her historic nomination as the first Black woman on the high court.

Jackson, 51, thanked God and professed love for “our country and the Constitution” in a 12-minute statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of her first day of confirmation hearings, nearly four hours almost entirely consumed by remarks from the panel’s 22 members.

Republicans promised pointed questions over the coming two days, with a special focus on her record on criminal matters. Democrats were full of praise for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee.

With her family sitting behind her, and her husband in socks bearing George Washington’s likeness, Jackson stressed that she has been independent, deciding cases “from a neutral posture” in her nine years as a judge, and that she is ever mindful of the importance of that role.

“I have dedicated my career to ensuring that the words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building – equal justice under law – are a reality and not just an ideal,” she declared.

Barring a significant misstep, Democrats who control the Senate by the slimmest of margins intend to wrap up her confirmation before Easter. She would be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, as well as the first Black woman on the high court.

Jackson’s sternest Republican critics as well as her Democratic defenders all acknowledged the historic, barrier-breaking nature of her presence. There were frequent reminders that no Black woman had been nominated to the high court before her and repeated references to another unique aspect of her nomination: Jackson is the first former public defender nominated to be a justice.

“It’s not easy being the first. Often, you have to be the best, in some ways the bravest,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the committee chairman, said in support.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., spoke of the “joy” in the room and acknowledged her family’s pride as Jackson’s parents beamed behind her. Booker repeated a story Jackson has frequently told about a letter her youngest daughter wrote to President Barack Obama several years ago touting her mother’s experience.

“We are going to see a new generation of children talking about their mamas and daring to write the president of the United States that my mom should be on the Supreme Court,” Booker said. “I want to tell your daughter right now, that dream of hers is so close to being a reality.”

In their opening statements, Democrats sought to preemptively rebut Republican criticism of her record on criminal matters as a judge and before that as a federal public defender and a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Jackson “is not anti-law enforcement,” and is not “soft on crime,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, noting that members of Jackson’s family have worked in law enforcement and that she has support from national law enforcement organizations.

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