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Ketanji Brown Jackson: ABA evaluators reject GOP claims that SCOTUS nominee soft on crime

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 24 (UPI) -- On the final day of confirmation hearings in the Senate on Thursday, representatives of the American Bar Association effectively debunked one of Republicans' primary complaints about Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown jackson -- that as a judge she's been soft on crime.

Members of the bar association said in their testimony before the Senate judiciary committee that they have found no evidence that Jackson's been lenient in punishing criminals -- particularly child pornography offenders. A central theme from GOP lawmakers at hearings this week, and in the weeks since her nomination, has been that Jackson has gone easy on criminals in the past.

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Ann Claire Williams, standing chair on the ABA's federal judiciary committee, told the committee that the association interviewed 250 judges and attorneys who had first-hand knowledge of Jackson's work.

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"None of them felt she showed bias in any way," ABA committee member Joseph Drayton said. "We asked pointed questions that related to bias, whether to the government or defendants and we found no bias."

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Those who were interviewed, in fact, often raved about Jackson -- using terms such as "brilliant," "impeccable" and "A-plus" in describing her.

The testimony Thursday reflects qualifications that the bar association gave last week in rating Jackson as a Supreme Court candidate. The standing committee unanimously gave her its highest rating -- "well qualified" to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer on the high court bench.

Many Senate Republicans have expressed concern recently about Jackson's body of work -- and some have expressly painted her as too radical for the Supreme Court.

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This week, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, had suggested a partisan bias in the ABA's recommendation for Jackson, based on past written opinions by current ABA leadership. Williams, however, insisted on Thursday that the standing committee isn't influenced in any way by ABA officers when rating candidates.

Jackson, 51, concluded her second and final day of questioning on Wednesday. Over both days, she was pressed on other issues including abortion, religion, terrorist detainees, politics and the makeup of the high court itself.

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The tone often became contentious under questioning from GOP senators such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who made clear at this week's hearings that he preferred federal judge J. Michelle Childs, from his home state, to be President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee.

Graham and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among Republicans who often and repeatedly interrupted Jackson's testimony during questioning on Tuesday and Wednesday. At one point, Graham got up and walked out after sparring with committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., about detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. Jackson, a former public defender, had represented some of the detainees.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday during the second day of confirmation hearings by the Senate judiciary committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

The experts called by GOP senators to testify on Thursday included Republican Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall; Jennifer Mascott, an assistant law professor at George Mason University; Eleanor McCullen, the plaintiff in a case against a Massachusetts law on abortion clinic buffer zones; First Liberty Institute expert Keisha Russell and Alessandra Serano of the anti-trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad, who all voiced concern over Jackson's nomination.

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In his testimony Thursday, Marshall said he opposes Jackson's nomination because he's "concerned" about the direction of law and order in the United States.

Marshall, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump who supported efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, also refused several times at the hearing to acknowledge that Biden is the "duly elected and lawfully serving" president of the United States.

While Jackson can win Senate confirmation without any Republican votes, Democrats have hoped to win some GOP support for Biden's first Supreme Court nominee.

Graham, one of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson last year for the D.C. appellate court, has already signaled that he won't vote for her again.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also announced Thursday he won't support Jackson's nomination.

"I went into the Senate's consideration of Judge Jackson's nomination with an open mind," he tweeted. "But after studying the nominee's record and watching her performance this week, I cannot and will not support Judge Jackson for a lifetime appointment to our highest court."

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, frequent swing vote Republicans who also voted to confirm Jackson last year, have not indicated which way they are leaning.

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On the first day of questioning Tuesday, Jackson was asked about a range of topics including "packing" the Supreme Court, her track record in sentencing child sex offenders and representing Guantanamo detainees.

Jackson defended her record as a federal judge and rejected accusations that she's soft on crime.

Many Republicans on the committee spent a good deal of time during this week's hearings condemning Democrats for the contentious confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's second high court nominee in 2018.

Kavanaugh narrowly won confirmation from a Republican-held Senate and opposition mainly stemmed from sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh when he was in college. At the end of Kavanaugh's hearings, accuser Christine Blasey Ford testified on the final day when the committee heard from scholars, legal experts and other witnesses.

The Senate judiciary committee is expected to vote on Jackson's nomination on Friday. If approved, her nomination would likely move to the full Senate for a vote next week -- and, if confirmed, Jackson would be sworn in a short time later.

Because Republicans in the Senate changed the rules in 2017 to confirm Trump's first high court justice, Neil Gorsuch, Jackson needs only a simple majority -- 51 votes -- to win confirmation. The chamber is evenly split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as Senate president, can cast any tie-breaking votes.

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Jackson wouldn't begin her tenure on the Supreme Court until after the current term ends in June and Breyer retires forthwith.

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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