March 21, 2022

Whitehouse Delivers Opening Statement for SCOTUS Hearing

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Courts Subcommittee, delivered his opening statement for the nomination hearing of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Video of Whitehouse’s remarks is available here; the hearing is livestreamed here.

Full text of Whitehouse’s as-delivered statement is below.

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Opening Statement ***AS-DELIVERED***

Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

March 21, 2022

Thank you very much, Chairman. Welcome, Judge Jackson. I could not be more delighted to have you here.

This is a refreshing moment. We are holding a hearing for an accomplished, experienced, highly-qualified nominee to the Supreme Court – who came to us not through a dark-money-funded turnstile, but through a fair and honest selection process.

Judge Jackson has unparalleled breadth of experience both on and off the bench. She has already been confirmed by the Senate three times.

She serves on what is often called the second highest court in the land. The D.C. Circuit handles some of the most difficult and consequential cases in the nation, often taking up questions that later come before the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson, that will enable you to jump right in once confirmed.

Before the D.C. Circuit, Judge Jackson was a trial judge in the District Court in the District of Columbia, ruling on hundreds of cases and presiding over trials, including many jury trials. Judge Jackson, you have presided over virtually every kind of case a federal trial judge can hear, across criminal and civil law. You have more experience actually trying cases in your courtroom than any other member of the Court.

As a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, you helped establish the policies and practices for federal courts when deciding criminal punishments. With Commissioners from both parties, you helped implement our bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act — complicated and consequential work, and we thank you.

It matters to me, Mr. Chairman, that Judge Jackson was also a civil litigator and public defender. She wasn’t groomed in partisan petri dishes, she learned practical courtroom experience in both civil and criminal law—how the judicial system works, and how it serves (or doesn’t serve) different litigants.

And I must say, that in Rhode Island, we love that before you clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, you clerked for Rhode Islander Bruce Selya on the First Circuit. Judge Selya was nominated by Ronald Reagan. He is well regarded by bench and bar, and he thinks the world of Judge Jackson. “She is absolutely everything you would want in a Supreme Court justice,” he told the Boston Globe in February. “She has all the tickets . . . in terms of her intelligence, her education, her work experience, and her demonstrated judicial temperament.” He actually said that waiting for the Supreme Court selection process to take place made him feel like a father waiting to hear his daughter’s college admissions results. We very much appreciate that Rhode Island touch to this nomination.

Judge Jackson is steadfastly committed to the Constitution and the rule of law—and her record reflects the type of evenhandedness and independence that will make her such a good Supreme Court justice. Her guiding principle, she has said, is to “consistently appl[y]” the “same level of analytical rigor” to a case “no matter who or what is involved in the legal action.” She says this means you can “be consistent in a way you are analyzing the issues, and you can set aside any thoughts about who is making the arguments, [and] what advantages any side might take away from your opinions. If you have fidelity to the rule of law that is grounded in looking at only those inputs,” she said, “then I think you can rule without fear or favor.”

Mr. Chairman, Judge Jackson will be an exemplary justice both because of the qualities that she possesses, and because she did not undergo a secret pre-selection process to get here. 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.

The unpleasant fact is that the present Court is The Court That Dark Money Built. Anonymous donations funded the Federalist Society while it housed the selection turnstile run by the dark-money donors. Anonymous money funded the dark-money group down the same hallway as the Federalist Society that ran the dark-money political campaigns for the selected Justices. And because of all that secrecy, Americans are denied any real understanding of the overlap of all that dark money with the political dark money funding the Republican Party — which could well explain the wreckage of Senate norms, rules and procedures that accompanied the confirmation process of recent nominees.

Judge Jackson’s nomination and the process by which she was selected stand in sharp contrast. President Biden undertook a thorough and independent review of her record, and she will proceed through a thorough and fair process here in the Senate. We will abide by the new precedents set by Republicans in recent years, but we will not be fabricating new ones.

We have already seen dark-money groups use dark money to run ads charging that dark money swayed this selection, we are hearing that again today, ironic when hundreds of millions of dollars in right-wing dark money built the current Court majority and still signals its wishes through flotillas of dark-money front groups posing as amici curiae.

I welcome the debate on these points, and I look forward to hearing more from the excellent nominee before us. Judge Selya counted the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg an old friend. “I see some of the same qualities in Ketanji that I saw in Ruth”, he said, “humility, the ability to inspire others in a quiet way, not at the top of her voice”. “Some people”, he said, “have the capacity to inspire by example and the force of their reason.” Judge Jackson, I’m certain your capacity to inspire through force of reason will be on display here this week.

Thank you, Chairman Durbin, for your leadership of the hearing, and thank you Judge Jackson for being with us today.

Rich Davidson (202) 228-6291 (press office)

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