March 24, 2022

Senator Hirono Statement on the Conclusion of Supreme Court Nomination Hearings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement upon conclusion of the Committee’s hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Throughout this hearing, Judge Jackson proved what we all knew to be true: she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Jackson showed us that she not only has the intellect and experience, but also the judicial temperament we need on the Court. It was also very clear that Judge Jackson is a fair and impartial judge, without an ideological axe to grind.

“Judge Jackson is so exceptionally qualified and well regarded across the political spectrum, that some of my Republican colleagues resorted to unfounded and misleading attacks in an unsuccessful attempt to smear her character. What Americans across the country saw was an incredibly impressive, highly-qualified individual stand up to thinly veiled attempts to undermine the nomination of the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

“Throughout the course of this week, we not only saw how qualified Judge Jackson is, but we also learned about her character—and that she has demonstrated the qualities of kindness, patience, compassion, and leadership since she was a young girl.

“This week, Judge Jackson told the Committee that as a freshman at Harvard, a Black woman said to her: persevere. That is something that a lot of us can relate to, including myself, who came to this country as a poor, immigrant kid. Judge Jackson being on the Supreme Court is going to send such a powerful message of perseverance to everyone in this country, but especially Black women and girls. I will be honored to vote to confirm Judge Jackson.”

Throughout the weeklong hearings, Senator Hirono highlighted Judge Jackson’s impressive career, her extensive qualifications to serve on the Court, and the historic nature of her nomination.  

  • In her opening statement, Senator Hirono spoke about the important contribution Judge Jackson will make if confirmed as the first Black woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. “Your experiences and your background as a trial court judge, a public defender, a mother, a Black woman, and so much more—provide you with a uniquely different perspective than any of the eight other Justices on the Court. Like your mentor Justice Breyer, I know you will engage with the other justices—both liberal and conservative to share these perspectives, challenge their views, and shape the Court’s direction for the better. With the personal and professional diversity you bring, you will expand the experience and knowledge of the Court and the decisions the Court makes will be better as a result.” Video of those remarks can be found here.
  • During the first round of questioning, Senator Hirono pushed back on Republicans’ baseless claims that Judge Jackson is “soft on crime” and highlighted her support from leading law enforcement organizations.
  • On the final day of questioning, Senator Hirono asked Judge Jackson about her experience attending public schools, and highlighted the fact that she would be one of only three Justices on the Court to have attended public schools.

 

A transcript of both of these exchanges is available below.

Transcript 1: Senator Hirono’s Question on Day One

Senator Hirono: Judge Jackson, My colleague from Missouri seems to think that it's inappropriate to sentence individuals below the sentencing guidelines in these kinds of cases horrific cases, and so I think it's important to offer a couple of clarifications for the record. Judge Jackson, when the U. S Sentencing Commission first addressed the issue of sentencing in the this area in 2012, do you remember that only 40% of convicted offenders in this category were receiving sentences within the guidelines?

Judge Jackson: Senator. I don't remember exactly the number but I do know that there was a great deal of variance from the guidelines’ 40%.

Senator Hirono: Would you be surprised to learn that the Department of Justice, which prosecutes these cases, sent a letter to the U. S Sentencing commission in 2013 stating that the existing sentencing guidelines for child pornography offenses do not accurately reflect the current landscape of child pornography offense conduct?

Judge Jackson: Um, I Don't remember that particular letter, but there was a lot of concern about this guideline from all sides.

Senator Hirono: And now the sentencing Commission issued another report just last year on this topic. And do you know that as of that report, an even lower percentage of convicted offenders were receiving sentences within the guidelines.

Judge Jackson: I didn't know, but I'm not surprised.

Senator Hirono: Did you know that as of last year, it was just 30% of non production offenders who were sentenced within the guidelines?

Judge Jackson: I did not know, but I'm not surprised.

Senator Hirono: My Republican colleagues made a big show yesterday of promising a fair process and to me that means ensuring that you are treated no differently than any other nominees that have come before us. See, there was an article recently that highlighted the fact that many of President Trump's Circuit court nominees who were previously District Court judges had also issued below guidelines sentencing to child pornography cases. Dutch Ralph Erickson, who was confirmed to the eighth Circuit in 2017 with support from every Republican member of this committee who were serving in the Senate at the time. There are at least 11 cases where he sentenced people to below guidelines sentences. Does that surprise you?

Judge Jackson: It does not, Senator.

Senator Hirono: I'm not sure if you know Judge Eriksen, but do you have any reason to believe he's a soft on child pornography based on these sentences?

Judge Jackson: I don't have any reason to believe that.

Senator Hirono: Do you think my Republican colleagues are soft on child pornography just because they voted for a judge Eriksen to become a federal appellate judge, even after he issued these 11 sentences.

Judge Jackson: Senator, I'm not in a position to evaluate whether your colleagues are soft on crime because of their votes. I have no reason to believe that.

Senator Hirono: They voted for this person but I think it would probably be quite unfair to characterize him as being soft on child pornography. I would also like to talk to you about John Judge Joseph Bianco, who has confirmed to the second Circuit in 2019 with support from every Republican member of this committee who was serving in the Senate at the time, including Senator Hawley. In the case United States v. Bowen, Judge Bianco sentenced the defendant to 60 months in prison when his guidelines range was 151 to 188 months. And here's what Judge Bianco said in the sentencing transcript for that case, quote “And the guidelines here just way disproportionate under the facts of this case, and I don't view them as particularly helpful in this case, I believe the probation department got it right in terms of the statutory mandatory minimum being sufficient, but not greater than necessary to achieve the factors of sentencing.” Quote. I'm not sure if you know Judge Bianco, but do you have any reason to believe that he's soft on child pornography? Based on that sentence and those comments?

Judge Jackson: I do not, senator.

Senator Hirono: Do you think my Republican colleagues including Senator Hawley are soft on child pornography because they voted to confirm Judge Bianco to the second circuit even after he issued below guideline sentences and made these comments?

Judge Jackson: I have no reason to believe that.

Senator Hirono: Here's some of the other circuit judges that all of my Republican colleagues voted to confirm despite the fact that they sentenced child pornography defendants to below guidelines sentences. Judge, Amul Thupar on the sixth Circuit, Judge Richard Sullivan on the second Circuit, Judge Andrew Brasher on the 11th circuit. Again, I'm not sure if you've ever met these judges before. But do you have any reason to believe they don't take child pornographers seriously?

Judge Jackson: I do not.

Senator Hirono: I would like to note that Senator Cruz referred to a chart that listed eight cases and the government recommendations and the sentencing guidelines and that you did not adhere to those sentencing guidelines. What was not included in the chart was what the probation recommendations were. And if you add those probation recommendations in five of the cases, you follow the probation recommendations. In one instance you are lower and one instance you were higher than the probation recommendations. Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce the complete chart for the record without objection.

 

Transcript 2: Senator Hirono’s Question on Day Two

Senator Hirono: During our courtesy meeting, I enjoyed learning more about your background and family, and of the ninth sitting justices of the Supreme Court only three - Justices Alito, Breyer and Kagan - were educated in our public school system. And you would, as far as I'm concerned, make a welcome addition to the court from that standpoint as a public school graduate myself. Public high schools educate people from all backgrounds, and most people go to public schools. Most people don't get to go to private schools, so your classmates probably came from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, income, social statuses, academic abilities, athletic abilities, among others. How, if at all, has your public school experience shaped the person you are and your approach to the law?

Judge Jackson: Thank you, Senator. I was of very fortunate to go to public school in Miami, Florida. I had a wide range of classmates, and it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know people who were different than me and to learn at the end of the day that they were not so different than I am, even if they came from different backgrounds. I've talked a lot about my debate team. That was one of the activities that I engaged in and spent a lot of time with my colleagues on the debate team and with my wonderful coach and you learn how to support each other, how to speak across difference, how to communicate with different kinds of people. And it was a wonderful experience and as I've mentioned in many ways different than the generation before who, in Florida, were segregated by law.

Senator Hirono: So I take it that not only did you have a I would say a broad experience of encountering people from all different walks of life and backgrounds, but there was still a commonality that you had.

Judge Jackson: Very much so.

Senator Hirono: And that is very much exemplified in your approach to your work.

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