Op-Ed: The Disgusting Republican Hate Campaign Against Ketanji Brown Jackson


The fight to nominate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is compelling evidence that our political system is broken like never before. There is no plausible basis to oppose Jackson, who has impeccable qualifications and about whom nothing controversy has been discovered.

However, her confirmation hearings, which begin Monday, are likely to be highly controversial, and she is unlikely to win the votes of more than one or two Republican senators. Lacking a credible basis to oppose it, Republicans turn to unfair slanders.

In the legal world, testimonials don’t get any better than yours. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, she worked for judges on the federal district court and federal circuit court of appeals and for Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the United States Supreme Court. She has extensive practice experience in a variety of situations and has served as a federal judge on the Federal District Court and the US Court of Appeals since 2013. Lawyers who have appeared before her, liberal and conservative, have given her lavish praise as a judge.

With no reason to resist, Republicans resort to slime. She has been criticized by some for having worked as a public defender, including representing a Guantánamo detainee. But under our constitutional system, every accused person is entitled to an attorney, and attorneys who exercise that role fulfill the noblest aims of the legal profession. That Jackson will be the first public defender to become a Supreme Court justice should be celebrated, not attacked.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley bows even lower. He criticizes an article she wrote as a law student and says when she was a federal judge, there were seven counts of child pornography in which she received fewer convictions than recommended by the Justice Department. But as the White House pointed out, in five of those cases, Judge Jackson imposed sentences equal to or greater than those recommended by the United States Parole Board.

Hawley criticizes statements she made when she was a member of the United States Sentencing Commission, but omits that the commission was bipartisan and voted unanimously to change the recommended penalties for possession of child pornography when there was no evidence to support it admitted that the person was involved in the production of or trafficking in child pornography.

Kyle Martinsen of the Republican National Committee, Email Reporter that Jackson has a “pattern of standing up for terrorists AND child kidnappers. What other criminals is Ketanji Brown Jackson an attorney for?” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Your supporters look at her resume and they see a special empathy for criminals.”

Aren’t they ashamed? Representing criminal suspects or Guantánamo detainees reflects a desire to uphold the Constitution, not “particular empathy for criminals.” One can’t help but wonder if, as a black woman, Jackson is fueling this “soft crime” attack.

Not long ago, impeccably qualified Supreme Court nominees could easily be confirmed with bipartisan support. In 1993, the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed 96 votes to 3, and seven years earlier the conservative Antonin Scalia was unanimously confirmed.

What has changed? Republicans may see this as “payback” for Democratic opposition to President Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court. Brett M. Kavanaugh faced serious allegations of sexual assault from Christine Blasey Ford. Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation was stamped through less than six weeks after Judge Ginsburg’s death — although those same Republicans refused to allow a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, on the grounds that the Senate did not have a candidate should consider presidential election year.

But what’s really going on is that Republicans believe they can appeal to their political base by opposing any Democratic Supreme Court election. And they are ready to resort to whatever it takes.

I don’t know the way out of this toxic mess. Perhaps it’s important to remember that as long as all Democrats vote for Jackson, she will be confirmed. Republicans can make a lot of noise and throw dirt, but they don’t have the votes to block them. Candidates are rarely defeated when the President and Senate belong to the same political party.

Still, Republicans are sure to make a spectacle of this week’s hearings by attacking a candidate who deserves full bipartisan support.

Erwin Chemerinsky is Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law and co-author of Opinion. Most recently, he is the author of Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights. Op-Ed: The Disgusting Republican Hate Campaign Against Ketanji Brown Jackson

Caroline Bleakley

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