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US Supreme Court pick Jackson explains judicial approach at Tuesday hearing

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for the second day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, in Washington. (Evan Vucci, Associated Press)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

WASHINGTON — Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday pledged to “stay in my lane” if she is confirmed to a lifetime position on the US Supreme Court as she began two days of questioning by senators at her confirmation hearing, with some Republicans signaling aggressive lines of attack .

“Over the course of my career of almost a decade on the bench I have developed a methodology that I use in order to ensure I am ruling impartially and I am adhering to the limits of my judicial authority. I’m acutely aware that as a judge in our system I have limited power and I try to stay in my lane,” said Jackson, nominated for the post by President Joe Biden.

“I’m not importing my personal views or preferences,” she added in explaining her approach to cases in response to questions posed by Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jackson declined to weigh in on calls from some on the left to expand the number of seats on the court in order to wipe out the current 6-3 conservative majority. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in her 2020 confirmation hearing, also declined to weigh in on the issue.

After listening to Senate Judiciary Committee members deliver their statements on Monday, Jackson sought opening to emphasize faith and patriotism in her own statement, saying she has lived a life “blessed beyond measure.” She also highlighted her independence as a jurist and her duty to decide cases “without fear or favor.”

Jackson, who has served since last year as a federal appellate judge after eight years as a federal district court judge, noted that her parents grew up in the era of racial segregation in the South but taught her that “if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be.”

Biden as a candidate in 2020 pledged to appoint a Black woman to the court. He nominated Jackson, 51, last month for a lifetime job on America’s top judicial body to succeed retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, setting up a confirmation battle in the closely divided Senate.

The committee’s 22 members will have the opportunity to question Jackson on Tuesday and Wednesday, with outside experts testing on Thursday’s final day of the hearing.

Democrats on Monday hailed the historic nature of her selection and praised her record as a federal appellate and district court judge. While some Republicans promised respect and praised Jackson’s qualifications, others attacked her record, sought to link her to advocacy groups on the left and tried to paint her as “soft on crime.”

“I can only wonder: What’s your hidden agenda?” asked Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee. “Is it to let violent criminals, cop killers and child predators back to the streets?”

I’m acutely aware that as a judge in our system I have limited power and I try to stay in my lane.

—Ketanji Brown Jackson

If confirmed, Jackson would be the 116th justice to serve on the high court, the sixth woman and the third Black person. With Jackson on the bench, the court for the first time would have four women and two Black justices.

Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control the Senate, which has the authority under the US Constitution to confirm a president’s judicial appointments. A simple majority vote is needed for confirmation, meaning Jackson would get the job if all Democrats are united regardless of what Republicans do in a Senate divided 50-50 between the two parties.

The Senate previously confirmed Jackson to three posts including last year, when Biden nominated her to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson was raised in Miami and attended Harvard Law School, later serving as a Supreme Court clerk for Breyer and representing criminal defendants who could not afford a lawyer.

Her confirmation would not change the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, whose conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump. But it would let Biden freshen the court’s liberal bloc with a justice young enough to serve for decades.

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