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Confirmation hearings for Jackson conclude after testimony from outside witnesses

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) decried Republican attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 24. (Video: Reuters)
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The fourth and final day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson concluded Thursday after the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from an array of outside witnesses, including representatives of the American Bar Association, who said President Biden’s nominee would bring “impeccable” credentials to the job.

Witnesses invited by Democrats highlighted Jackson’s temperament and the historic nature of her nomination. She would be the first Black woman on the court in its 233-year history. Those invited by Republicans questioned Jackson’s judicial philosophy and whether she would try to use her position to remake the court system.

The ABA representatives said they said they found no evidence to support repeated criticism from Republican senators that Jackson was lenient in her sentencing as a federal trial court judge.

Here’s what to know

  • The committee is expected to vote April 4 on the nomination of Jackson, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
  • If Democrats stick together, Jackson could be confirmed by the full Senate without any Republican support in the evenly divided chamber, with Vice President Harris casting a deciding vote. Former senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said Thursday that he is hopeful Jackson’s nomination will attract some GOP support.
  • Jackson, 51, has been nominated by Biden to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is retiring. Breyer, 83, the high court’s oldest justice, has been a reliable liberal vote.
12:16 p.m.
Headshot of Ann Marimow
Legal affairs reporter
Republican senators have criticized Jackson for declining to embrace a particular judicial philosophy; Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) did so again Thursday. But Jackson did seem comfortable in her remarks concerning the concept of originalism that’s embraced by the Supreme Court’s most conservative members. “I do not believe that there is a living Constitution in the sense that it’s changing and it’s infused with my own policy perspective or the policy perspective of the day,” Jackson said Tuesday. Jackson went on to say that the court has “made clear that when you are interpreting the Constitution, you’re looking at the text at the time of the founding and what the meaning was then as a constraint on my own authority,” she said. “And so I apply that constraint. I look at the text to determine what it meant to those who drafted it.”
10:47 a.m.
Headshot of Ann Marimow
Legal affairs reporter
At her confirmation hearings, Jackson studiously avoided labeling her judicial philosophy or choosing a sitting justice she has emulated on the bench. But her friend Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, told the Senate Judiciary Committee about the traits Jackson shares with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the man Jackson would replace and for whom both Jackson and Goluboff served as law clerks. “Justice Breyer and Justice Jackson shared their deeply held patriotism, which both absorbed from family members who dedicated lives to public service. Judge Jackson believes as deeply as Justice Breyer in service to American values and in the value of the American constitution.” While Jackson is “very much her own judge,” Goluboff said, like Breyer, Jackson has “always been as interested in hearing the views of others as in sharing her own. She has worked with lawyers from across the political spectrum and found consensus with her colleagues on the Sentencing Commission and the D.C. Circuit.”
10:13 a.m.
Headshot of Ann Marimow
Legal affairs reporter
The questions from Senate Republicans for the witnesses from the American Bar Association, which thoroughly reviewed Jackson’s record, underscore how the GOP has come to view the organization as political. During the Trump administration, the White House sped up judicial nominations in part by ditching the traditional practice of waiting for ABA reviews of candidates before making formal nominations. The Biden administration has taken a page from the Trump White House to push through its judicial picks more quickly.