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Ketanji Brown Jackson laments focus on 'small subset' of past rulings

American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary member Ann Claire Williams, a witness during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing of Ketanji Brown Jackson, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2022. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- After questioning that lasted well into the evening on Tuesday, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson returned to the Senate on Wednesday, where Republicans continued to press the nominee on her past record as an attorney and judge.

Jackson on Wednesday pushed back against the GOP's focus on seven cases regarding child pornography in which Republican senators, led by Josh Hawley of Missouri, said she issued sentences that were below federal sentencing guidelines.

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Hawley on Wednesday asked if she regretted issuing a three-month sentence in a case in which prosecutors sought two years.

"Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we've spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences," Jackson responded.

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"No one case, senator, can stand in for judging an entire record," she added.

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was among the most combative during the second tense day of questioning, as he attacked her on some of her past child pornography sentencing rulings, saying she did not properly factor in the use of computers in child pornography with the seriousness it deserved.

"Every person in all of these charts and documents I sent to jail, because I know how serious this crime is," Jackson said, adding that she also issued appropriate terms of imprisonment.

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"I ensured that they were facing lengthy periods of supervision and restrictions on their computer use so they could not do this sort of thing again," she said. "That's what Congress has required of judges, and that's what I did in every case."

Graham also accused Jackson of acting as an activist on the bench as he criticized her for disagreeing with the Trump administration on expediting removals in one immigration case that came before her as a federal judge, saying the administration had sole discretion.

"This is an example to me, and you may disagree, that the plain language of the statute was completely wiped out by you. You reached a conclusion because you didn't agree with the Trump administration," Graham said, pointing out that the D.C. court of appeals eventually disagreed with Jackson's ruling.

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"That to me is Exhibit A of activism," Graham said.

Jackson said she considered two statutes, including one that lays out how regulatory decisions should be made.

Committee Chair Dick Durbin of Illinois clashed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, after admonishing him for inappropriately interrupting Jackson and speaking beyond his time limit.

"Look, I appreciate the chairman trying to filibuster," Cruz said. "And if you don't like your witness' answers, you're welcome to provide your own. She is declining to answer the question and, Chairman Durbin, if you want to join her on this bench, you can."

During Cruz's questioning Jackson said that, if confirmed, she planned to recuse herself from the Supreme Court's hearing of a lawsuit regarding affirmative action policies at Harvard, as she is on the university's board of overseers.

She did not comment on a case challenging the University of North Carolina's affirmative action program, which has currently been consolidated with the Harvard case.

Earlier in the day, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized Jackson for being "evasive and unclear" about adding more judges to the court, commonly referred to as "court-packing."

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"The far-left fringe groups that promoted Judge Jackson for this vacancy want Democrats to destroy the court's legitimacy through partisan court-packing," McConnell said on the Senate floor, according to The Hill newspaper. "She was literally the court packers' pick for the seat, and she has repeatedly refused to reject their position."

On Wednesday, each senator on the Senate judiciary committee got 20 minutes to question Jackson.

Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff asked Jackson for her views on freedom of the press and how it relates to past Supreme Court rulings.

"Press freedom is one of the First Amendment freedoms that undergird our democracy," Jackson answered, citing a 1964 case that said public figures can't sue news organizations unless there was actual malice involved.

Republican senators opposed to Jackson's nomination have argued that she is too radical for the Supreme Court and some have used the hearings so far to call out Democrats for their treatment of nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, when he was dogged by past accusations of sexual assault.

GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said early in Wednesday's hearing that "now is the time" to relitigate the treatment of Kavanaugh, who was former President Donald Trump's second high court nominee.

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Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., became emotional as he emphasized the historic nature of Jackson's nomination.

"You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American," said Booker, the only Black member of the panel. "You are my harbinger of hope. This country's getting better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I'm going to rejoice. And I'm going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you."

During Tuesday's hearing, Jackson was peppered with questions from Democrats and Republicans about a wide range of topics -- her judicial treatment of defendants in child sex cases, her past defense of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval prison and her religious views.

Jackson spent much of her time Tuesday explaining that her role as a judge is narrow and tasked with faithfully interpreting the laws on the books. Republicans repeatedly pushed her to give personal opinions on rulings which they suggested had liberal leanings, such as abortion.

Jackson's confirmation hearings will ultimately span four days this week. Opening statements were heard on Monday, followed by questioning on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the panel will hear testimony from outside witnesses and the American Bar Association.

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Durbin said he hopes to give Jackson a confirmation vote before Easter recess on April 8.

Most experts and observers expect that Jackson will win confirmation, as she will need only a simple majority -- 51 votes -- in the full Senate to ascend to the Supreme Court.

Before 2017, all Supreme Court nominees required a supermajority -- 60 votes -- to win confirmation and avoid a filibuster. Senate Republicans led by then-majority leader Mitch McConnell changed the threshold for Supreme Court nominees to a simple majority, called the "nuclear option," so that they could confirm President Donald Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court without any Democratic support.

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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