Supreme Court

What we’ve learned after three days of hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

By Dave Andrusko

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Photo: Lloyd DeGrane
CC BY-SA 4.0

By the time you read this, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will have finished her third, and final, day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. To be blunt, she has said nothing that would assuage pro-life concerns that Judge Brown Jackson will be a reliable third vote to uphold Roe v. Wade.

The heads of nearly 40 national pro-life groups, including NRL President Carol Tobias, sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee this week, outlining their concerns with Judge Jackson’s record. It read in part

Even before Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement, radical pro-abortion groups had spent six -figure sums promoting Jackson. Now that she is the nominee, they have already pledged a million more.

Planned Parenthood NARAL  and the National Women’s Law Center have issued support for Jackson’s confirmation. The American Constitution Society, which has frequently hosted Jackson as a speaker and applauded her nomination, has publicly supported efforts to “reform” the Supreme Court to protect abortion

CBS News reported, “Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee spanned 13 hours of questioning, with senators grilling Jackson on her judicial philosophy, including on abortion, as well as her past rulings.”

What is her view on precedent?

According to Andrew Goudsward

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson stressed the importance of the U.S. Supreme Court abiding by its precedents in exchanges with senators during her confirmation hearing on abortion and press protections.

Jackson said the principle of stare decisis “furthers the rule of law in this country” and upholds public confidence in the court by keeping the Supreme Court’s rulings stable.

“If there are massive shifts every time a new justice came on, or new circumstances arose, there would be a concern that public confidence would be eroded,” Jackson told Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

Does that mean the Court can never revisit previous decisions?

Jackson acknowledged that the court can overturn its precedents, but would have to follow a specific set of criteria, including finding that the court’s prior decision was “egregiously wrong.”

Jackson also said 

that Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal, is “settled law.” 

Townhall’s Spencer Brown quoted an exchange between Judge Jackson and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) at length:

“When does life begin, in your opinion?”

“Senator… um… I don’t… know,” Judge Jackson replied.

“Do you have a belief?” Kennedy pressed.

“I have, um, personal religious and otherwise beliefs that have nothing to do with the law in terms of when life begins,” Jackson responded.

“Do you have a personal belief though about when life begins?” Kennedy probed.

“I have a religious view that I set aside when I am ruling on cases,” Jackson evaded again.

Senator Kennedy pushed further on the point, asking Judge Jackson an important follow-up, “When does equal protection of the laws attach to a human being?”

“Well Senator, um… I believe that the Supreme Court… actually I, I actually don’t know the answer to that question — I’m sorry — I don’t.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Judge Jackson a very important question: whether unborn babies feel pain.

“Can an unborn child feel pain at 20 weeks in the birthing process?”

“Senator, I don’t know,” she replied.

Veteran pro-life reporter and columnist Russ Shaw noted

Years back, Jackson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, author of the majority opinions in all the court’s major abortion cases of the last two decades. Aside from the most obvious differences–gender and race–the most significant difference between Breyer and Jackson is age. He is 83 and she is 51, which will make her the court’s second youngest member after Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is 50.

On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee will hear from constitutional scholars.

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