Ketanji Brown Jackson Hearings: Questions on CRT, Abortion, “Lenient” Sentencing

The second day of the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings featured sharp questioning from Republican Senators on her record and views.


Republican Senators questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s record of ordering “lenient” sentences for convicted criminals and her views on abortion and Critical Race Theory.

  • Judge Jackson, nominated to replace retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, pushed back on Republican criticism of the sentences she handed down to sex offenders and her defense work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
  • Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) sharply questioned Jackson’s record, and both accused her of being soft on crime for delivering sentences below federal sentencing guideline recommendations for child pornographers and sexual predators.
  • Judge Jackson “forcefully” defended her record under questioning and dodged Republican questions on court-packing and left-wing dark money groups’ support for her nomination.
  • Judge Jackson will face further questions from Senators later today on the hearing’s second day of questions and third day overall.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Politico focused on Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s line of attack on critical race theory, arguing Jackson’s position on the board of an elite Washington private school called her objectivity into question as the school’s curriculum is “overflowing with critical race theory.” Politico also emphasized several moments when Jackson broke with Stephen Breyer, her former boss.
  • The Daily podcast from The New York Times took a look at four key moments from Tuesday’s hearing, including questions on Jackson’s defense work on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees and her rulings in child pornography cases.
  • The Washington Post’s analysis highlighted several contentious moments, including when Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) went after what he called her “weak” record on sentencing child-porn predators. Several Republican Senators tried to pin her down on hot-button issues like funding the police, critical race theory and transgender issues.



  • Fox News covered the moment Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to define the word “woman.” She dodged the question, saying “I’m not a biologist.”
  • Dan McLaughlin at National Review argued Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearing “showed how [the late Justice Antonin] Scalia won the argument over the Constitution.” Jackson sounded “an awful lot like Scalia” during her testimony and she declined to say she’d emulate Justice Stephen Breyer, the Justice she clerked for and is set to replace. McLaughlin is skeptical of her sincerity, but it’s remarkable nonetheless she feels the need to sound like Scalia in this public forum.
  • Noah Rothman of Commentary highlighted Senate Republicans repeatedly invoking Democrats’ shameful smearing of Brett Kavanaugh. Senate Republicans are trying to establish a favorable contrast between their own respectful conduct towards KBJ. Rothman argued the left-wing media has taken the GOP’s bait and is busy “reminding the nation that they” committed a grave injustice in “pursuit of a political scalp.”

Author’s Take

So far, the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings are following an established pattern. Liberal nominees to the Supreme Court are treated respectfully by Republican senators while being sharply questioned on their views. The four most recent Democratic appointees – Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer – all had fairly unremarkable confirmations and were confirmed in overwhelming bipartisan votes. Jackson’s first day of questioning followed this pattern, and was entirely free of the nasty personal attacks that have become a hallmark of confirmation hearings for conservative nominees.

Sens. Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy smeared Robert Bork’s character, using fearmongering about segregation and “back alley abortions” to derail his 1987 nomination. In the early 2000’s circuit court nominees Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown were filibustered explicitly because Democrats feared Republicans could appoint the first Hispanic man or black woman to the Supreme Court.

More recently, Neil Gorsuch was subjected to the first partisan filibuster in American history. Amy Coney Barrett was cruelly attacked for adopting two black children by a leading Democratic public intellectual. All this paled in comparison to Democrats’ disgraceful smearing of Brett Kavanaugh as a gang rapist and a drunk during his 2018 confirmation hearings.

Jackson’s confirmation won’t swing the balance of the court. Republicans are wise to avoid the personal attacks and smears that have marred the confirmation process in recent years. The media’s gleeful resurrection of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh that still, after two FBI investigations and four years, are entirely lacking in evidence shows their true character.

The midterms are fast approaching. Republicans may want to use these hearings to remind voters of the differences in character between themselves and their Democratic counterparts. If Republicans emulate the Democrats by launching scurrilous, evidence-free assaults on Jackson’s reputation, they risk a voter backlash. Battleground state Democrats lost reelection in 2018 after voting against Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats have the votes to confirm Jackson regardless. Republicans shouldn’t forget the true fight in on November 8.


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© Dominic Moore, 2022