By LISA MASCARO, AP Congress correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The historic Senate hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman appointed to the Supreme Court, were joyous, combative and clarifying, highlighting the extent of the nation’s partisan divide and the unresolved issues from his past.
The fourth and final day of Jackson’s consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded Thursday with several hours of testimony from outside experts.
The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave its highest rating, “well qualified,” to the Harvard-educated Jackson. A high school friend raved about the “supernova” debate team champion. Skeptics, including Alabama’s attorney general, have warned that his views on crime and policing are “outside the mainstream.”
Yet in the 50-50 Senate, where a Trump-era rule change means it’s no longer necessary to muster broad support to confirm Supreme Court nominees, hearings have become less about voting to come and more on the development of the policy of the end result.
Democrats are on track to confirm President Joe Biden’s pick, with a vote expected by the time senators leave for a spring break scheduled for April 8.
A few takeaways from day four of the week-long hearing:
“Outstanding, excellent, superior, superb.
The ABA panel gave Jackson the same highest rating that has been given to recent Supreme Court nominees except Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Committee chair Ann Claire Williams testified about the review of some 250 legal professionals on Jackson’s case. Asked how Jackson’s integrity was perceived, Williams replied, “It’s the comments.”
Republican senators are focused on a small part of the judge’s job, the child pornography cases which Jackson herself says are some of the “most difficult” of her career – some of which still give her nightmares.
Just as senators opposed to the first black candidate for the court, Thurgood Marshall, half a century ago portrayed the legendary civil rights lawyer as soft on crime in his work defending black people, Republicans have shed light on Jackson’s convictions in criminal cases, they show too much “empathy” for the defendants.
A witness on the Republican side, Attorney General Steven T. Marshall of Alabama, said he thought Jackson showed more deference to criminals appearing in her courtroom than she showed victims. He said his views on law enforcement reforms were “outside the mainstream”.
Republicans are trying to link Jackson to left-wing “defund the police” movements, but it’s unclear if the approach is working. The judge has the backing of the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, and she spoke fondly of her brother and uncle who worked as police officers.
Donald Trump left the White House, but his influence on the Republicans continues.
One witness called by Republicans was Alessandra Serano, legal director of Operation Underground Railroad, a Utah-based anti-trafficking nonprofit group. He is under criminal investigation in the state for exaggerating his role in law enforcement arrests involving child predators, to raise money.
The organization has become popular online and has been successful in raising funds through conspiracy theories that are popular among suburban mothers and groups spun off from the QAnon conspiracy theory, which casts Trump as a hero fighting a cabal of cannibals Satan worshipers leading a child. sex trafficking ring.
As Republicans focus on Jackson’s rulings on child porn cases, they’re tapping into this GOP tension and his popularity among the former president’s supporters, sparking voter interest ahead of the November election that will determine control. of Congress.
Since retiring to Florida, Trump has wrongly insisted he won the 2020 election, a belief shared by many Republicans, despite dozens of court cases and independent reviews that have dismissed claims. GOP claims about a rigged election. Trump is considering another presidential bid in 2024.
At some point Thursday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., tried to air some of those points. He asked the Alabama Marshal if Biden was the “duly elected president” of the United States.
Marshall replied that Biden was the president.
Pressed to know if the witness deliberately omitted the words “duly elected”, Marshall simply repeated, “I answer the question. He is the President of the United States.”
Alabama, along with Marshall, was among other states joining a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results.
THE NEXT ERA OF CIVIL RIGHTS
Senate hearings were filled each day with some of the top civil rights leaders celebrating, as Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J. put it, the “joy” at reaching this milestone in American history.
Testifying Thursday, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Representative Joyce Beatty said Booker was “not just speaking to black America, but to America.”
Beatty, D-Ohio, put Jackson’s moment alongside those of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and other Americans and urged senators to consider what the judge’s confirmation to the High Court would mean for the country.
“We don’t look back 50-65 years ago,” she said, of the past era of civil rights battles, “but yet we are still fighting.”
Senators no longer need bipartisan cooperation to confirm judicial nominees, after rule changes that allow a simple majority of 51 votes for lifetime appointment to the court.
With Jackson’s nomination all but assured by Democrats, who hold a slim 50-50 majority in the House with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie, Republicans unable to stop the judge’s confirmation want to at least sow the seeds of trouble. doubt in the result.
Republican Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee led the charge, questioning the federal judge on her views on issues of race and crime, amplifying election-year grievances and a violent reaction to changing culture.
Jackson is the first federal public defender to be appointed to the Supreme Court and her efforts to represent those charged with crimes, alongside her work as a federal judge, have provided a long record of difficult cases for senators to consider.
Jackson presented herself as a judge who relies on method, not judicial philosophy, to stay neutral as she strives to “stay in my lane.”
If confirmed, Jackson would also become the sixth female judge in the court’s history and the fourth among the current nine members of the court.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.