March 22, 2022

The KBJ Confirmation Hearings Begin

Ketanji Brown Jackson won’t suffer like Republican nominees do, but tough questions should be asked.

Barring a catastrophic mistake from the nominee, the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson should occur in the coming days. We already know the Democrats will vote in lockstep for Joe Biden’s nominee, with the only question being how many Republicans will decide to confirm a judge whose record — which includes what analyst Ed Whelan termed “a striking number of reversals” by higher courts — has already drawn serious questioning about whether she’s soft on crime.

Real questions won’t be asked until today. For her part, though, KBJ came to the first hearing with a rather vanilla and boilerplate opening statement. She spent much of it thanking her parents and extended family, many of whom were in attendance. But she also made a bold claim about her impartiality:

I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously. I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.

I know that my role as a judge is a limited one — that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented. And I know that my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent.

Now, in preparing for these hearings, you may have read some of my more than 570 written decisions, and noticed that my opinions tend to be on the long side. That is because I also believe in transparency: that people should know precisely what I think and the basis for my decision. And all of my professional experiences, including my work as a public defender and a trial judge, have instilled in me the importance of having each litigant know that the judge in their case has heard them, whether or not their arguments prevail in court.

Perhaps the biggest “tell” in Jackson’s statement was the part about “adherence to precedent,” as that would indicate her fealty to the leftward lurch the Supreme Court has made over the last several decades and not to the Constitution it’s supposed to uphold. It’s part of what we recently termed “her leftist disregard for the Constitution.”

Yet the most newsworthy feature of day one of the hearings may have come from one of Jackson’s eventual questioners. In his opening statement, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham made clear he was still bothered that District Judge J. Michelle Childs, who hails from Graham’s home state of South Carolina, was passed over for a Supreme Court seat because of criticism from progressives. “The attacks from the Left against Judge Childs [were] really pretty vicious, to be honest with you,” said Graham, who predicted Childs would have received more than 60 votes if nominated. “This is a new game for the Supreme Court,” he added, “and this game is particularly disturbing to me.”

He then alluded to the despicable and bruising Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in 2018, noting that Republicans “couldn’t go back to our offices during Kavanaugh without getting spit on.” Of course, this was pretty much the case with all of President Donald Trump’s SCOTUS selections, and for virtually every Republican nominee since Democrats made a blood sport of confirmation hearings with Robert Bork in 1987.

On the other hand, Democrat Senator Cory Booker gushed about his “sense of overwhelming joy” that KBJ’s confirmation placed us “on the precipice of shattering another ceiling.” Graham also shot that down, pointing out, “I remember Janice Rogers Brown, the African-American woman … was filibustered by the same people praising you.” Brown was reputedly on the short list for a SCOTUS seat during George W. Bush’s presidency, but a filibuster led by Joe Biden showed Democrats were more than happy to maintain a glass ceiling when it suited them. Maybe “Brown” was just the wrong part of her last name.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz called out Democrat racism explicitly: “As Senator Ted Kennedy said in writing at the time, the Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada, quote, ‘because he is Hispanic.’ They were explicitly racial. If you are Hispanic or African American, and you dare depart from their political orthodoxy, they will crush you. They will attack you. They will slander you. They will filibuster you.” Fortunately for Jackson, she appears to march in lockstep with leftist ideology and will be spared such racist treatment.

Still, there is one more unusual trait present in KBJ worth considering, besides her philosophy and hairstyle. (Yes, her hair is a topic of discussion, including the fact that Jackson’s distinctively thin dreadlocks can cost hundreds of dollars a year to create and maintain.) As noted above, Jackson thanked her parents and extended family in attendance and, combined, they are something rarely found within most black communities: an intact nuclear family.

In fact, her family is laudable. KBJ noted in her statement that her parents have been married for 54 years, while she and her husband have been wed for 25 and have two daughters. While we know Jackson’s career path, she also mentioned that her brother was a policeman and later an Army officer who served in the Middle East. And the Brown kids came by it honestly, since their father was an attorney and her mother worked to assist the family while her dad went to law school full-time. “Like so many families in this country,” said Jackson, “[my parents] worked long hours and sacrificed to provide their children every opportunity to reach their God-given potential.”

“My parents taught me,” she added, “that if I worked hard, and I believed in myself in America, I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be.” That, at least, is quite contrary to the Left’s CRT message of “systemic racism.”

Regardless of whether you agree with KBJ’s judicial philosophy, her family upbringing is a part of the story that’s not going to get a lot of traction because we’re supposed to believe it takes a village to raise a child. Certainly there are a fair share of stories of people overcoming broken homes and other adversity to achieve great things, but studies and common sense dictate that success for children comes more readily from families where the parents get through school, find a job, get married, and then have the kids. This is the order her parents seem to have worked in, and it appears in turn that the Jacksons are setting up their children for success whether or not she’s confirmed for a promotion to the Supreme Court.

On a final and related note, we extend our prayers and well wishes for Justice Clarence Thomas, who is hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

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