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Democrats set confirmation hearings for Supreme Court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson smiles while sitting
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, began a series of meetings with senators on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings will begin March 21, a top Democrat announced Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee “will undertake a fair and timely process to consider Judge Jackson’s nomination,” Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), assistant majority leader, told colleagues in a letter.

The first day will include a statement by Jackson, he said, with committee members questioning her the next two days, and outside witnesses including representatives of the American Bar Assn. wrapping up the hearings on March 24.

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Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to succeed retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer, began a series of meetings with leading senators on Wednesday. She met with Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the morning, and with Durbin and Iowa’s Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the top Republican on the judiciary panel, on Wednesday afternoon.

Schumer said he had described Jackson as “brilliant and beloved” before they met due to her record as a jurist and because he and his staff couldn’t find anyone who spoke ill of her.

After they met privately Wednesday morning, he added another descriptor: “Belongs.”

“She belongs on the court,” Schumer said, noting her experience working at a law firm, as a public defender, on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a judge. “Very few nominees to the Supreme Court have that breadth of experience.”

A man and woman sitting with hands clasped in front of an ornate fireplace, with a round coffee table between them
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer meets with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Though the Senate Democratic Caucus’ 50 members could confirm Jackson with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote even if all of the chamber’s 50 Republicans oppose her, Schumer expressed optimism that the nominee will make a good impression when she meets with GOP senators.

“I think she deserves support from the other side of the aisle, and I am hopeful that a good number of Republicans will vote for her, given who she is,” he said. “And when they meet her, they will just be wowed, as I was.”

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Jackson returned a committee questionnaire earlier this week. In it, she disclosed that White House Counsel Dana Remus first contacted her about her potential nomination on Jan. 30.

Since then, she wrote, she had been in contact with Remus, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, and other officials from the presidential personnel and counsel’s offices.

She met virtually with Harris on Feb. 11, and with Biden and Remus at the White House on Feb. 14. She said Biden offered her the nomination on Feb. 24, and she accepted it. The next day, Biden announced his intent to nominate her.

Jackson will also meet this week with Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“That is one of the things that will be the highlight of the week for me, to have the opportunity to say to her, ‘Thank you thank you for being in the battle, thank you for years of service and thank you for not giving up and for working harder,’” Beatty said in an interview. “And also I will let her know that any way that we can support, we will be there for her.”

The Congressional Black Caucus set up a war room for the nomination even before Biden announced his choice Friday, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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“We have made very clear that we are a player in this nomination,” the aide said. “We intend to defend her vigorously.”

Only two of the caucus’ members will be able to vote on Jackson’s ascension to the high court — Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) — but Beatty said the group will be a factor throughout the confirmation process.

“I think our role is to dispute any misinformation or mis-fact about her,” she said. “I think our role is to speak to America, because while we don’t vote on her, we do vote on the senators who are voting on her. We will do everything it takes to highlight her qualifications, which are exemplary, her years of service as a jurist, her impeccable academic and work career.”

Democrats hope to confirm Jackson before the Senate’s Easter recess in mid-April.

Durbin said in his letter that he was looking forward to Jackson’s appearance before his committee and to “respectful and dignified hearings.”

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