When you combine the reprehensible conduct of GOP senators, with the total deceit of the court Judge Jackson is striving to be on, one wonders, should SCOTUS stand for:
Shameful Court of the United States?
(Note: This is a longer than usual story. But it is also a more important than usual story. If you can, stay until the end; that’s where the shamefulness of the Court, as opposed to the shamefulness of the process, kicks in.)
We have just witnessed the ugliest, most despicable, disgraceful and frankly racist hearing for a Supreme Court nominee in our lifetime…or at least in our recent memory.
Yes, I know the Robert Bork hearings in 1987 gave birth to a new verb, “borked.” The 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas made the news because both the term “Long Dong Silver” and the words, “’Who put pubic hair on my Coke?” were entered into the Congressional Record for the first, and hopefully, the last time. And of course, Lindsey Graham went apoplectic in 2018 when his favorite “frat boy cum judge, Brett Kavanaugh, was questioned about credible accusations of his past instances of sexual harassment. (Of course, it doesn’t take much to induce Graham’s apoplexy. More on both the senior senator from South Carolina and the now longest serving associate justice Thomas later in this story.)
No, the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson top them all.
Because the opposition to her by the Republicans on the Judicial Committee had nothing to do with the Judge herself. It had nothing to do with her character. And, it had nothing to do with her judicial credentials, which judged by an independent, non-partisan report of an American Bar Association panel, are impeccable. (Just to show how venal, pig-headed and just plain rude and discourteous the GOP members of the Committee are, not one of them attended the testimony from witnesses attesting to Judge Jackson’s qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court). It only had to do with the fact that she was nominated by a Democratic president, Joe Biden.
Let me just call out a few of the attacks from these senators.
The Stanford/Yale educated junior senator from Missouri did his best to “show me” and just about everyone else, why he could be in the top 10 of the most dangerous people in America. As Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post wrote,
How desperate can you get? This desperate: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is pushing the argument that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is dangerously soft on sex offenders, child pornographers in particular. “I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Hawley tweeted. “I’m concerned that this [is] a record that endangers our children.”
Fact-checkers quickly dismantled Hawley’s nonsense. The Associated Press said the senator’s claims “don’t stand up to scrutiny.” Fact-check reports from the Washington Post and CNN came to the same conclusion. Vox’s Ian Millhiser described Hawley’s attempted smear “genuinely nauseating.” In the National Review, a leading conservative publication, Andrew McCarthy concluded that Hawley’s allegation “appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.” And the Wall Street Journal report added that the senator’s tweets on the subject :were criticized by people across the ideological spectrum who said Mr. Hawley’s commentary lacked context, misconstrued Judge Jackson’s conduct and writings, and created a false dichotomy between protecting children and adhering to outdated sentencing guidelines that were unduly harsh.”
I guess with both the National Review and the Wall Street Journal jumping on the Josh Hawley is full of “**it” bandwagon, he and his allies can’t claim it’s the “lame-stream, radical left-wing media” taking him to task.
The most hated man in the Senate (a view shared by both his Republican and Democratic ‘colleagues’)* Texas’ junior senator was equally vile.
*To substantiate the most hated man in the Senate claim, this from GOP Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska referring to his fellow Republican committee member: “I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities.”
As the commentator Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico,
…his performance at the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings was fully in character: a demagogic, bad-faith effort on Tuesday to imply that she would bring a racially focused agenda to the Supreme Court, coupled with a “soft on child pornographers” assault today.
Cruz repeatedly asked her to explain her sentencing of child porn offenders, interrupting Jackson multiple times while she was responding to his questions.
“Why did you sentence someone who had child pornography … to 28 months — 64% below what the prosecutors asked for?” Cruz asked.
Judge Jackson responded by saying, that Cruz had picked a few cases out of her entire sentencing record to pursue his argument.
The pushback on Cruz was quick. Fact-checkers have pointed out that at least two Federal appeals court judges, Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed.
And, Doug Berman, a leading expert on sentencing law and policy at the Ohio State University School of Law, opined, “If and when we properly contextualize Judge Jackson’s sentencing record in federal child porn cases, it looks pretty mainstream.”
Lest you were worried I forgot, let me report on Lindsey Graham, the very red, very angry, “rhubarb” on the top of the GOP upside down cake. As the New York Times reported,
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson got into the most heated exchange of Wednesday morning after the senator revived a line of attack on the judge’s sentencing record in cases involving images of child sexual abuse.
Frequently interrupting Judge Jackson’s attempts to answer questions, Graham ended his angry tirade with this.
We are trying to get people to stop this crap [child pornography]. All I can say is that your view on how to deter child pornography is not my view. I think you are doing it wrong, and every judge who does what you are doing is making it easier for the children to be exploited.
Which prompted this response from Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the Senate’s most senior member who called Graham’s performance “beyond the pale,” telling reporters, “I’m just distressed to see this kind of a complete breakdown of what’s normally the way the Senate’s handled.”
Closing out his potentially Oscar-worthy performance, which The Daily Beast, called a “festivus” of grievance, Graham stormed out of the hearing, melting down after a line of questioning over his desire for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to remain open indefinitely.
To this point, everything I’ve written is simply the bizarre, unbecoming “circus car” the Senate, “the world’s most deliberative body,” has become. Fortunately, with Joe Manchin indicating his support for Judge Jackson this morning, unless “wild card” Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona goes off the rails (not totally out of the question), Judge Jackson will be confirmed by at least 50-50 + Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
There is, however, one SCOTUS issue that needs to be addressed and addressed seriously and immediately.
One of Senator Cruz’s questions to Judge Jackson involved an upcoming case challenging the race-conscious admissions policy Harvard University uses to increase its number of Black and Hispanic students. Both Cruz and Jackson are Harvard Law School graduates and Jackson is also a current member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers.
“If you’re confirmed, do you intend to recuse from this lawsuit?” Cruz, who attended Harvard Law School at the same time as Jackson, asked
“That is my plan, senator,” Jackson responded.
Not an unreasonable question from Cruz; not an unreasonable response from Jackson.
Except for this.
The Washington Post reported this morning,
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.
The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.
Here’s a link to the article where you can read the details of Virginia Thomas’ advanced “nut-case” symptoms.
What she and Meadows did, as horrible as it is, is not at issue here. That they are both right-wing crazies is what it is.
But what’s at play here is the fact that Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff, and Ginni Thomas, THE WIFE OF A SITTING JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT were the players in this episode.
And, if that isn’t bad enough, In February 2021, when the Supreme Court rejected election challenges filed by Trump and his allies, Thomas not only didn’t recuse himself, he wrote in a dissent that it was “baffling” and “inexplicable” that the majority had decided against hearing the cases because he believed the Supreme Court should provide states with guidance for future elections. THE VOTE WAS 8-1 WITH THOMAS THE ONLY DISSENTING VOTE!
Unlike all other federal judges, the justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to a code of ethical conduct. Recusal from a case is determined by the individual justice and no explanation to recuse or not is required.
So, kudos to Judge Jackson for her honorable position. And a Bronx cheer to Justice Thomas for his refusal to recuse when he was in an obvious situation to do so.
With SCOTUS confirmation hearings more like a circus and the Justices themselves left to their own ethical standards, do you agree with me that from now on, SCOTUS should stand for, Shameful Court of the United States?