As the Senate Judiciary Committee continued its Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 23, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that he received a letter signed by 10 Republican members who voiced concerns over whether they have access to the same information that’s been given to Democrats and the White House. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., was the lone Republican on the committee who didn’t sign the letter.
Durbin affirmed that Republicans, Democrats and the White House are all privy to the same information. He added that he is opposed to the letter’s request for pre-sentence reports from some of Jackson’s cases, which are typically filed under seal and “can contain highly sensitive personal information not just about the defendant, but about innocent third parties and victims.”
“I would not want it weighing on my conscience that we are turning over these pre-sentence reports to this committee — for the first time in history — and that information out of this or because it was released would somehow compromise or endanger any victim as a result of it,” Durbin added. He emphasized that examining pre-sentencing reports is a “critical policy question” that goes far beyond Jackson’s nomination.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, responded to Durbin, saying that he wrote the letter in question. He argued that Jackson herself said that members did not have the necessary information to assess her sentencing decisions in the absence of reports from the probation office. Cruz added that he’s “confident” his fellow members would be willing to redact any personal information from victims within those reports, and said they have the statutory authority to make their request.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also noted that it’s not unusual for members of the committee to review sensitive materials, and said that he and his colleagues would be happy to review redacted versions of the pre-sentencing reports.
“Not one of us wants to endanger anyone or render public information that is sensitive in nature,” Lee said, adding there are “abundant ways around that.”
But Durbin remained firm in his opposition to the release of those reports, adding that he doubts they would change any members’ mind in terms of how they plan to vote on Jackson’s nomination.
“I am not going to be party to turning over this information and endangering the life of an innocent person for a political quest to find more information,” Durbin said. “We have exhausted this topic, we’ve gone through it over and over again. And I think this is a bridge too far for this committee.”
Wednesday was senators’ final day to question Jackson, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in February to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman on the high court. On the final day of the hearings March 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from friends and colleagues of Jackson about her temperament and approach to the law.
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