Judge Jackson speaks forcefully on public safety and terrorism

WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson alternated between two types of answers on her first day of questioning during her Supreme Cour...


WASHINGTON — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson alternated between two types of answers on her first day of questioning during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Tuesday. On legal issues, she was opaque and evasive, emphasizing the limits of the judicial role.

But on more concrete matters, she was direct and even passionate. She spoke powerfully about the terrible and lasting trauma caused by child sexual abuse, the dire consequences of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the crucial role that criminal defense lawyers play in upholding constitutional values.

This two-step helped neutralize some of the lines of attack developed by Republicans since President Biden. announced the appointment of Judge Jackson last month: that she would let politics play a role in her work on the Supreme Court and that aspects of her professional background indicated that she was outside the legal mainstream.

In the legal field, she insisted that she had no legal philosophy, only what she described as a methodology bordering on robotics, a methodology that took into account the arguments of the parties and then applied the relevant law to the facts of the case.

Before applying this methodology, she said, “I clear my mind of any preconceived notions of how the case might come out and put aside any personal opinions.”

The statement was reminiscent of something Judge Clarence Thomas said at his confirmation hearing in 1991. He claimed he would not have an agenda on the bench and would address cases”stripped like a runner.”

Justice Thomas has become the most conservative member of the current Supreme Court. And there is no doubt that Judge Jackson, if confirmed, would generally vote with liberal members of the court.

That would keep the court’s lopsided conservative majority, with its six Republican nominees dominating its three Democrats.

If judging were really just the process of clearing the decks and applying the law to the facts, confirmation hearings would not be the partisan battlegrounds they have become. But Judge Jackson did not even suggest that politics, politics, ideology, personal preferences or even a judicial philosophy play a role in deciding a case.

When she described her actual job as a trial judge, another side of her came to light. She pointed out, for example, that “it is important for me to ensure that the views of children, the voices of children, are represented in my sentencing” of those convicted of possessing abuse images. child sex.

“There is only a market for this kind of material because there are spectators,” she recalled telling the defendants, one of whom wept. “You are contributing to the sexual abuse of children.”

Judge Jackson described victims who ended up using drugs or becoming prostitutes. One, she said, “can’t leave her house because she thinks everyone she meets will have seen her photos on the internet – they’re there forever – at the most vulnerable time in her life. life”.

It was one of many defining moments in which Judge Jackson broke with the usual conventions of confirmation hearings, which are usually sterile and bland.

Recalling the “tragic attack” of 9/11, she said: “We couldn’t let the terrorists win by fundamentally changing who we were.”

“And what that meant,” she said, “is that people accused by our government of participating in actions related to this under our constitutional regime were entitled to representation.”

She strongly rejected the accusation that her work as a federal public defender indicated she was soft on crime, noting that her brother and two uncles had worked in law enforcement.

“As someone who has had family members on patrol and in the line of fire,” she said, “I care deeply about public safety.”

Insofar as she discussed constitutional interpretation, she seemed to embrace originalism, which relies on the original public meaning of the Constitution at the time of its adoption.

“I don’t believe there is a living Constitution,” she said, “in the sense that it changes and is imbued with my own political perspective or the political perspective of the day.”

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that when you interpret the Constitution, you look 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 this constraint. I look at the text to determine what it meant to those who wrote it.

In response to questions about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, Judge Jackson echoed statements by the three appointees of former President Donald J. Trump, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Like them, she said Roe was a set precedent, meaning it should only be overturned if the exacting requirements of the “stare decisis” doctrine are met.

Under this doctrine, Latin for “sticking to things decided”, courts take into account factors such as whether the precedent was manifestly wrong, whether it proved unworkable, whether it was undermined by subsequent decisions and to what extent people have come to rely on that.

When a Roe challenge was argued in DecemberJustices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett seemed willing to limit or cancel it.

Like other recent nominees, Judge Jackson declined to answer a variety of questions.

She did not say whether she supports or opposes expanding the size of the Supreme Court, even after being reminded that Judge Stephen G. Breyerwhom she hopes to replace, and Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died in 2020, spoke out against the idea. “I’m especially careful not to talk about political issues,” she said, “because I’m so determined to stay in my lane of the system.”

She also wouldn’t take a position on the camera coverage of the court’s arguments, something previous nominees had said they tended to favor.

Judge Breyer, for whom Judge Jackson served as law clerk, said written and spoken with approval on the role that foreign and international law can play in the work of US courts. Judge Jackson declined to endorse this position.

“There are very, very few cases, I think, where international law plays a role and certainly not in the interpretation of the Constitution,” she said.

Asked about Justices Thomas and Gorsuch’s appeals to reconsider New York Times vs. Sullivan, the 1964 ruling that the First Amendment limited the ability of public officials to sue for defamation, Judge Jackson recited the various criteria for overriding precedents. She did not say how she would apply them.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Judge Jackson speaks forcefully on public safety and terrorism
Judge Jackson speaks forcefully on public safety and terrorism
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