Douglas Andrews / March 23, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson Stumbles

Joe Biden’s race-based Supreme Court nominee seemed to have trouble answering some very fundamental questions.

Maybe she just misspoke. We’re hoping that’s the case.

During yesterday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, while being questioned by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn about the legal concept of due process, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson seemed stumped about the nature of the High Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857, which declared that people of African descent were not U.S. citizens.

“I don’t quite remember the basis for the Dred Scott opinion,” she said, “but I’ll trust you.”

Now, we’re no legal expert, no SCOTUS wonk, but we found this admission to be stunning. The Dred Scott case was, after all, one of the handful of Supreme Court cases that we learned about in history class when we were a kid. Heck, we even remember the name and the visage of the presiding chief justice at the time: Roger Taney. And yet Judge Jackson, whom Joe Biden swears has one of the finest legal minds in the country but whose LSAT scores haven’t been made public, said she couldn’t quite remember the basis for that landmark decision. (About those test scores, political analyst Clay Travis made a great point: If it’s okay to examine a nominee’s mindless comments in a high school yearbook — as the Democrats did with Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his grotesquely contentious 2018 confirmation hearings — then it should be well within reason to ask to see a nominee’s LSAT scores.)

Nor could Judge Jackson answer an even more fundamental question posed by Louisiana Senator John Kennedy: when the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution become applicable to a person. “When does life begin, in your opinion?” asked Kennedy.

“Senator, I don’t know,” Jackson replied. “I have personal — religious and otherwise — beliefs that have nothing to do with the law, in terms of when life begins.” She went on to say that she sets aside her personal views when she’s ruling on cases. This, we suppose, is a good thing, but the question of when people begin to enjoy protection under the Constitution seems fairly important. When Kennedy pressed her further about when she thought that document’s Equal Protection clause became applicable, Jackson said, “I actually don’t know the answer to that question, I’m sorry.”

Jackson also seemed stumped by another fundamental matter of biology: that of what defines a woman. Toward the end of yesterday’s hearing, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn asked her to provide a definition for the word “woman.”

“Can I provide a definition?” Jackson asked. “No. I can’t. … Not in this context. I’m not a biologist.”

That’s just as well because, according to the Left, biologists are not allowed to answer these scientific questions. The answers are only to be found in the feelings of the person most directly involved in the question. No wonder Jackson — whom Biden chose because she’s a black woman — wouldn’t answer either query.

Furthermore, we suppose some of this sort of thing is to be expected. Due to their high stakes and highly political nature, Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become the most relentlessly anodyne of events, with nominees going to extraordinary lengths to avoid causing the slightest offense. But still. Please tell us you know what a woman is. Some day, during the next few decades of your tenure on the bench, it might come in handy.

And while you’re at it, please support and defend the venerable institution you wish to join.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to Judge Jackson earlier this month, he couldn’t get a straight answer from her about whether she supported court-packing. “I asked her to defend the court,” he said. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice [Stephen] Breyer both publicly opposed court-packing — that is, trying to increase the number of court members in order to get an outcome you like. … That would have been an easy thing for her to do to defend the integrity of the Court. She wouldn’t do that.”

McConnell also had this to say: “Fringe groups that attack the Supreme Court’s legitimacy and want partisan court-packing spent a great deal of time and money promoting Judge Jackson for this nomination. And once nominated, prominent soft-on-crime activists and open-borders pressure groups quickly rallied to her side. The Senate needs to understand why.”

Judge Jackson’s hearings will continue throughout the week. Let’s hope, for the sake of a lifetime appointment, that the worst of her performance is behind her.

PS: We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that there seems to be something refreshingly different about Ketanji Brown Jackson, especially compared to other high-profile personalities on the Left: namely, that she’s not afraid to speak about the goodness and the greatness of her country. She’s spoken lovingly of her family members in law enforcement, and yesterday, as she reflected on the childhood of her parents, she said this: “The fact that we had come that far was, to me, a testament to the hope and the promise of this country, the greatness of America, that in one generation — one generation — we could go from racially segregated schools in Florida, to have me sitting here as the first Floridian ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States.” Of course, this doesn’t itself merit her a seat on the Supreme Court. Still, we appreciate it, and we wish there were more of it.

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