Biden Supreme nominee claims she has no judicial philosophy

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2022. (Video screenshot)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2022. (Video screenshot)

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday about her service on the board of an elite private Washington, D.C., school that promotes Critical Race Theory, arguing it raises concerns in light of her claim that she has no judicial philosophy.

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., noted to Jackson that the judge made the claim in a personal meeting with the senator earlier this month.

“The American people deserve a Supreme Court justice with a documented commitment to the text of the Constitution and the rule of law, not a judicial activist who will attempt to make policy from the bench,” Blackburn said on day two of the confirmation hearings.

The senator argued that “without a judicial philosophy, a judge is legally adrift and will be inclined to consider policy rather than law.”

Blackburn noted Jackson once wrote that every judge has “personal hidden agendas” that influence how they decide cases.

“So, I can only wonder,” the senator said, “what’s your hidden agenda?”

See Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s remarks:

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he found Jackson’s testimony that she didn’t know if Critical Race Theory was taught in K through 12 “a little hard to reconcile with the public record.”

He said the curricula of the school where she serves on the board of trustees, Georgetown Day School, is “overflowing with Critical Race Theory.”

Among the books either assigned or recommended are “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” “The End of Policing: An Advocacy for Abolishing Police” and Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How To Be An Anti-Racist,” which declares that “capitalism is essentially racist” and “racism is essentially capitalist.”

Cruz also pointed to a book for children from pre-K through second grade titled “Anti-Racist Baby” by Kendi that contends babies fundamentally are racist and should confess their racism. He asked Jackson if she agreed with the premise of the book, that “babies are racist.”

“Senator,” she began, before pausing for more than five seconds to gather her thoughts. “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less than, that they are victims, that they are oppressors. I don’t believe in any of that.”

She explained that when she was asked whether or not Critical Race Theory was taught in schools, her understanding was that Cruz was talking about the theory that is taught in law schools and that the reference was to public schools, whereas Georgetown Day School is private.

But when queried further, she said she didn’t know whether or not Critical Race Theory is taught at Georgetown, because the board doesn’t “control the curriculum” or focus on it.

“That’s not what we do as board members, so I’m actually not sure.”

Cruz then cited another book by Kendi, for third through fifth grade, titled “Stamped for Kids.” Calling it an “astonishing book,” Cruz noted that in page 33 it asks the question, “Can we send white people back to Europe?” And on page 115 Kendi describes as “ridiculous” the concept of “color blindness,” which Cruz pointed out was a principle espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I have a dream” speech.

The senator asked Jackson if she was “comfortable” with those ideas being taught to children.

“Senator, I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas. They don’t come up in my work as a judge, which, I am, respectfully, here to address.”

See the exchange between Cruz and Jackson:

‘The transformative power of a rigorous progressive education’
Jackson’s questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee says that she has been a board of trustees member at Georgetown Day School since 2019. And she has been a member of the school’s community for nearly a decade.

“Since becoming part of the GDS community seven years ago, Patrick and I have witnessed the transformative power of a rigorous progressive education that is dedicated to fostering critical thinking, independence, and social justice,” Jackson said in the Winter 2019/2020 edition of Georgetown Day School’s magazine, referring to her husband.

Contrary to Jackson’s testimony to the Senate, Georgetown’s website says the board is involved in executing the school’s “anti-racism action plan.”

The tasks of board members include reviewing and revising “current language around community expectations” and reviewing “anti-racist work” to “inform potential governance changes.”

“We at GDS have been engaging across the community to further define and deepen our commitments to being an anti-racist institution and staying true to our founding mission. We have identified a path forward for the institution, and we want to transparently share how we have performed in meeting our commitments for the 2020-21 school year and beyond,” the website states.

‘Disparities in the system’
On Monday, Jackson responded to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s contention that as a federal judge and as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission she consistently sympathized with child porn offenders and gave them sentences well below those in the sentencing guidelines.

She argued that in the digital age, in which offenders tend to accumulate a much larger volume of child porn than in the past, federal guidelines should be adjusted to ensure proportionate punishment.

Jackson said there are “disparities in the system because it’s so easy for people to get volumes of this kind of material now, by computers.”

So the law is “not doing the work of differentiating who is a more serious offender in the way that it used to.”

She said the sentencing commission is taking that into account, and courts are “adjusting their sentences in order to account for the changed circumstances.”

See Jackson’s response:

Cruz used a chart to show that on average the sentences Jackson gave defendants in child porn cases was 47.2% shorter than what prosecutors recommended.

See Cruz’s remarks:

‘Private family decisions’
During the hearing Tuesday, Blackburn summarized the concerns of many Republicans on the committee about Jackson’s record.

Pointing to parental rights in education, the senator wanted to know what Jackson meant when she spoke of “the transformative power of a rigorous progressive education.”

Blackburn noted the school teaches kindergartners that they can choose their gender and teaches them about “white privilege.”

“The American people want a Supreme Court justice who will protect their family’s freedoms, not allow government overreach into private family decisions,” she said.

Blackburn also pointed out that at the beginning of the pandemic, Jackson advocated for releasing all 1,500 criminal defendants in D.C. Department of Corrections custody.

And she mentioned Jackson’s representation of terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay and her giving child porn offenders lighter sentences, on average five years below the minimum recommended sentence.

“And you have stated publicly that it is a mistake to assume that child pornography offenders are pedophiles,” Blackburn said.

“Your philosophy, it appears, is backward on these issues,” the senator said. “Restrictions on children and families and freedom for criminals.”

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