Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 22 as the Senate Judiciary Committee continued its Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Leahy asked Jackson about her work experience, including her time as a public defender and representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Jackson explained how her history working for and with defendants helped make her a better judge.
“It helped me to develop a sense of the need to communicate directly with defendants. And, you know, it didn’t change, I think, in any way the outcomes of the cases when I was a trial judge, but 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.
Jackson said that as an appellate assistant federal defender, she represented some detainees at Guantanamo Bay, working on the legal issues that underpinned their cases.
“The law was very uncertain. This was brand new. And people were trying to figure out, what are the limits of executive authority in this context?” Jackson said.
She also touted the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees counsel for all defendants, including those who can’t afford lawyers, saying it’s “crucial” 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 said.
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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