Durbin to Jackson: 'It's Not Easy Being the First'

Historic confirmation hearing gets underway with opening statements
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2022 1:42 PM CDT
Durbin to Jackson: 'It's Not Easy Being the First'
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to opening statements during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, March 21, 2022, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – The first confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice of the Biden administration got underway Monday—and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they would "ask tough questions" about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's "judicial philosophy" without turning the hearing into a "spectacle." If confirmed, the 51-year-old will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation's top court. Some highlights from Monday's opening statements:

  • Graham says he welcomes diversity. "It’s good for the court to look like America," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said. He said he supports making the court more diverse, but slammed progressives' "pretty vicious" treatment of Michelle Childs, another Black woman who had been considered a contender for the spot on the court, the Hill reports.
  • "It's not easy being the first." "Not a single justice has been a Black woman. You can be the first," Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, the committee's chairman, told Jackson, describing her as a "living witness to the fact that in America all is possible," per the New York Times. "It’s not easy being the first. In some ways you have to be the best, in some ways the bravest."

  • Grassley brings up Kavanaugh hearings. Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee's top Republican, brought up the contentious confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, as did several other Republicans, the Washington Post reports. Grassley said the hearing was off to a good start" because "unlike the start to the Kavanaugh hearings, we didn’t have repeated, choreographed interruptions." Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said the committee wouldn't ask Jackson about her "teenage dating habits."
  • Praise for the former public defender. Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy said Jackson's record as a former federal public defender would bring an important perspective to the court. "I’m proud of being a former prosecutor," Leahy said. "But confidence in my prosecution of a case was strongest when I knew the defendant had the best possible representation." Leahy, seeking to head off criticism of Jackson's record, said members of the nominee's family have worked in law enforcement and she "is not anti-law enforcement," the AP reports. "She’s not soft on crime."

  • Not from a "partisan petri dish." Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said that unlike GOP nominees who had been "groomed in partisan petri dishes," Jackson was selected through a merit-based process. "She is before us on the basis of her own merit, not on the recommendation of a secretive right-wing donor operation, hiding behind anonymous multi-million-dollar donations, and aimed at capturing the United States Supreme Court, as if it were some 19th-century railroad commission," he said, per the Hill. Grassley, however, said "far-left dark money groups" had played a "troubling role" in the selection process.
(Read more Ketanji Brown Jackson stories.)

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