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Ketanji Brown Jackson thanks family in Supreme Court confirmation hearing

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Ketanji Brown Jackson thanks family in Supreme Court confirmation hearing
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson departs with her husband Dr. Patrick Jackson (L) after the first day of her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington D.C., on Monday. Pool photo by J Scott Applewhite/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) -- Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's selection to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, thanked her family Monday in an opening statement on the first day of her confirmation hearing.

Jackson, 51, who was selected to fill the seat left open by Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires in July, appeared before the Senate judiciary committee to answer questions on her nomination.

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If confirmed, she would be the sixth woman appointed to the bench and the first Supreme Court justice to have served as a public defender.

In her opening remarks, Jackson acknowledged her parents, who were in the audience, saying they gave her an African name "to express both pride in their heritage and hope in the future."

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"My parents taught me that unlike the many barriers that they had had to face growing up, my path was clearer," she said. "So if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America, I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be."

Like so many who had experienced "lawful racial segregation first-hand, my parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, left their hometown of Miami, Florida, and came to Washington, D.C., to experience new freedom," she added.

Jackson said her father inspired her to study law as a young girl.

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"My very earliest memories are of watching my father study -- he had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books," she said.

She also acknowledged her husband Patrick, who wiped away tears as Jackson said she had "no doubt that, without him by my side from the very beginning of this incredible professional journey, none of this would have been possible."

The hearings are set to span four days with senators convening for two days of questioning on Tuesday and Wednesday before hearing from outside witnesses and the American Bar Association on Thursday.

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In opening remarks, lawmakers on the panel expressed a need for a respectful confirmation process.

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the committee chair, said that as a federal judge Jackson has ruled for and against members of both parties -- as well as for prosecutors and defendants -- and reminded the panel that Biden has sought input for Jackson from members of both parties.

"Now there may be some who claim without a shred of evidence that you'll be a rubber stamp for this president. For these would-be critics, I have four words: look at the record," he said, noting that multiple law enforcement organizations, including the National Association of the Chiefs of Police, have endorsed Jackson's nomination

"Your complete record has been scoured by this committee on four different occasions. All of your nearly 600 written opinions read and re-read."

Last year, Jackson was confirmed with bipartisan support to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, but is expected to face more Republican opposition for a seat on the high court.

"Despite your record, we have heard claims that you are 'soft on crime,'" Durbin added. "These baseless charges are unfair. A conservative columnist for the National Review called claims brought by one of my colleagues 'meritless to the point of demagoguery.'"

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"I am confident that the American public will see through these attacks and last-minute attempts to derail your confirmation," he added.

Democrats have enough votes in the Senate to confirm Jackson without Republican support, but Biden and lawmakers have expressed a desire for bipartisan agreement on her appointment.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said before the hearing that Jackson's Supreme Court appointment is "a different game" than when she voted to confirm Jackson to the appellate court last year -- a notion reflected by some GOP lawmakers at Monday's hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, said he's encouraged other GOP senators to meet personally with Jackson -- something a few senators have already done.

"In addition, I have continually emphasized the need for a thorough, respectful process by the committee," Grassley added.

He also promised that the committee will conduct a "thorough, exhaustive examination" of Jackson's record and her views without "trying to turn this into a spectacle on alleged process fouls."

"Good news, on that front, we're off to a very good start," he said.

Some Republicans at Monday's hearing recalled the contentious confirmation process that Democrats gave then-nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 -- which stemmed from past sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recalled Monday that GOP senators couldn't "go back to our offices during Kavanaugh without getting spit on."

Jackson was scheduled to address the committee later on Monday.

In nominating Jackson to the high court, which fulfilled a campaign promise to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the high court, Biden praised her "extraordinary qualifications."

"For too long, our government, our courts haven't looked like America. I believe it's time that we have a court [that] reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level," he said.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets senators

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (L) holds a copy of "All Labor Has Dignity" by Martin Luther King Jr. gifted from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 2022. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

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