Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about an article she wrote as a law student at Harvard about sentencing of sex offenders as the Senate Judiciary Committee continued its Supreme Court confirmation hearings March 22.
“I wanted to try to understand here. Is it your view that society is too hard on sex offenders who say they truly are shunned in society?” Hawley said.
Jackson responded that she wrote her article as part of a discussion on legislation that suggested making laws about sex criminals retroactive.
“It was about the characterization of the law. Is it a punitive law, it it a prescriptive law and how would a court go about determining that?” Jackson said.
“My article’s now in the record, people can read it and they can see that I was evaluating these laws not to determine their constitutionality, not to say that they shouldn’t be enacted, but to talk about the ways in which courts make determinations about the character of the law and all of the consequences that follow from them,” she said.
Hawley asked Jackson questions about her sentencing of an 18-year-old who, while still in high school, had possessed images depicting child abuse. Jackson had given the 18-year-old a sentence of three months, shorter than the 72 months prosecutors had requested and shorter than the than the 97 to 121 months Congress had recommended in sentencing guidelines. The senator asked about the connections between her sentencing and her article written as a law student.
Jackson said her sentencing of Hawkins was consistent with the role of a judge.
“I was doing what judges do: exercise discretion, as Congress has required us to do, take into account all of the various aspects of a particular case and make the determination consistent with my authority, my judgment and understanding fully the egregious nature of the crime,” 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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