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WATCH: Jackson explains how being a public defender made her a better judge

In his questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked the Supreme Court nominee how her experience as a public defender has made her a better judge.

Jackson noted that any experience in the criminal justice system is beneficial to judges, but her work as defense shaped the way she interacted with defendants as a trial judge. “I understood from my time as an appellate defender that a lot of defendants go through the system and don’t really understand it,” Jackson said.

That lack of understanding creates a sense of victimhood and a sense of being wronged, Jackson said, and in her view, that leads defendants to spend their sentence feeling bitter instead of reflecting on their actions and being able to rehabilitate themselves. She also said she was strongly in favor of public defenders for those who cannot afford counsel. It’s “crucial,” she said, to have strong arguments on both sides of a trial. “That is what allows for judges to reach just results in cases and it’s what makes our system so exemplary,” she added.

Jackson 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. After opening statements from Jackson, her colleagues and the senators March 21, senators will spend two days questioning Jackson at length about her rulings and judicial philosophy. 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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