Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday pushed back at Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s questions about her faith and her past work as a public defender representing Guantanamo Bay detainees, as she testified at her U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Graham asked Jackson about the importance of her Protestant Christian faith and how regularly she went to church.
“My faith is very important, but as you know, there’s no religious test in the Constitution under Article 6, and it’s very important to set aside one’s personal views about things in the role of a judge,” she said in response.
“Senator, I am reluctant to talk about my faith in this way, just because I want to be mindful of the need for the public to have confidence in my ability to separate out my personal views,” she added.
Graham then made a reference to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s much-criticized handling of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing.
“Well, how would you feel if a senator up here said … the ‘dogma lives loudly within you,’ and that’s of concern?” the South Carolina lawmaker said.
Tuesday is the second day of Jackson’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s the first hearing day in which the nominee is facing questions from the committee’s Democratic and Republican senators, following opening statements on Monday.
GOP senators had been expected to go after Jackson’s past work defending Guantanamo Bay detainees, and Graham did that during his turn to ask questions.
“Did you ever accuse, in one of your habeas petitions, the government of acting as war criminals, for holding the detainees?” Graham asked.
“I don’t remember that accusation,” Jackson said. “What I was doing — in the context of the habeas petitions at this very early stage in the process — was making allegations to preserve issues on behalf of my clients.”
Graham raised his voice while speaking about Guantanamo Bay, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois made efforts to interject.
“I’m suggesting the system failed miserably, and advocates to change this system, like she was advocating, would destroy our ability to protect this country,” the GOP senator said.
“Look at the frickin’ Afghan government. It’s made up of former detainees at Gitmo. This whole thing by the left about this war ain’t working,” Graham said.
In her testimony, Jackson pushed back on Republican assertions that she has given lenient sentences in child-pornography cases.
Durbin, a Democrat, kicked off the questioning and asked Jackson to respond to GOP Sen. Josh Hawley’s claim that she’s more than just soft on crime. Hawley has charged that she has endangered children.
“As a mother, and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,” Jackson said in response.
The judge said she imposes “a significant sentence and all of the additional restraints that are available in the law.”
“These people are looking at 20, 30, 40 years of supervision — they can’t use their computers in a normal way for decades,” she said. “I am imposing all of those constraints, because I understand how significant, how damaging, how horrible this crime is.”
Durbin also asked Jackson to speak about her judicial philosophy, and she responded in part with talk about limits. “I am acutely aware that as a judge in our system, I have limited power. And I am trying in every case to stay in my lane,” she said.
Jackson is expected to win Senate confirmation, as Democrats control the 50-50 chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. The judge could pick up some GOP support, given that three Republican senators backed her last year when she was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But Graham was among those three GOP votes in 2021, and he didn’t sound supportive on Tuesday.