Washington, U.S. | Xinhua | The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee began on Monday the first day of a series of hearings for the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, in opening statements, highlighted Jackson’s qualifications, as well as the historic nature of her nomination by U.S. President Joe Biden.
“President Biden nominated you because he knew your qualifications are outstanding,” the Illinois Democrat said. “Your professional record and life experience tell us what kind of lawyer, what kind of judge, and what kind of person you really are.”
Jackson, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, would be the first African American woman to sit on the Supreme Court if confirmed. She is 51.
“In its more than 230 years, the Supreme Court has had 115 Justices,” Durbin continued. “Not a single Justice has been a Black woman. You, Judge Jackson, can be the first.”
Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in his remarks that he’ll be scrutinizing Jackson’s legal philosophy.
“I’ll be looking to see whether Judge Jackson is committed to the Constitution as originally understood,” the Iowa Republican stressed. “Some of us believe that judges are supposed to interpret the laws of what’s understood when written, not make new laws or simply fill in the vacuum.”
Biden announced in late February he would nominate Jackson to succeed liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is about to retire this summer. It was one of his major campaign promises to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy with an African American woman.
“As Judge Jackson begins her Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week, I look forward to the Senate and country seeing how incredibly qualified she is for the job,” the U.S. president tweeted on Monday. “She’s a brilliant legal mind with the utmost character and integrity. I know she’ll make an exceptional Justice.”
Committee members will begin questioning the nominee on Tuesday and the hearings will take place through Thursday.
Born in D.C. but raised in Miami, Jackson received her law degree from Harvard University and graduated cum laude in 1996. Earlier in her legal career, she worked as an assistant federal public defender in D.C. and served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for four years.
“I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” Jackson told senators on Monday. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me, without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath.”
It requires a simple majority of votes from the 100-seat Senate to confirm Jackson to be the next Supreme Court justice.
The Senate is evenly split between the two parties. Democrats can approve the nomination without Republican support, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.
This year, the Supreme Court will rule on cases involving a series of major issues, including abortion, affirmative action, and gun control.
Court watchers have argued Jackson is expected to vote very similarly to Breyer and her ascension won’t change the Supreme Court’s ideological balance, in which conservatives have a 6-3 majority over liberals.
The Supreme Court is the final appellate court of the U.S. judicial system, with the power to review and overturn lower court decisions, and is also generally the final interpreter of federal law, including the country’s constitution.
The justices have life tenure and can serve until they die, resign, retire, or are impeached and removed from office.