This event has ended.
If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the high court.
The day is set to feature opening remarks by the chair and members of the committee, followed by remarks from Jackson.
In first remarks at her own hearing, Jackson vows to defend the Constitution, respect precedent
In a glowing tribute to her loving family and supportive mentors, including Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court justice she’s been nominated to replace, Jackson used her first remarks during her confirmation hearing to pledge to defend the Constitution.
“Members of this committee, if I am confirmed, I commit to you that I will work productively to support and defend the Constitution and the grand experiment of American democracy that has endured over these past 246 years,” she said.
Jackson said that she would defer to judicial precedence in her rulings.
“I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favor, consistent with my judicial oath,” Jackson said.
“I know that my role as a judge is a limited one, that the Constitution empowers me only to decide cases and controversies that are properly presented,” she continued.
“I know my judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent,” she said.
Jackson frequently spoke of her love for her country, saying earlier in her remarks that “the first of my many blessings is the fact that I was born in this great nation, a little over 50 years ago.”
Monday's hearing adjourned following her remarks.
Day 1 of hearings concludes
At 3:37 p.m. ET, the first day of Jackson's confirmation hearing concluded. The committee will return at 9 a.m. Tuesday to begin questions.
Jackson sworn in
Jackson was sworn in before she testified.
Lisa Fairfax lauds her friend, Jackson, with praise — 'destined to be a judge'
Lisa Fairfax, a decadeslong friend of Jackson, lauded her roommate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School as a “woman of deep faith in God,” “a friend you’re immediately drawn to,” a “role model” and a “coalition builder.”
Fairfax, a presidential professor and the co-director of the Institute for Law & Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, said Jackson was “destined to be a judge because of her ability to see all sides and render fair and level-headed decisions.”
Jackson’s husband, Patrick Jackson, seated behind his wife in the hearing room, wiped tears from his face as he listened to the loving description of his spouse.
“I know she is honored and humbled by the significance of this moment: not for what it means for her, but what it means for our amazing country,” Fairfax said.
Griffith endorses Brown as 'independent jurist'
Thomas Griffith, a former judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals appointed by President George W. Bush, offered an opening statement endorsing Brown whom he said he first met in 2013 after she was confirmed by the Senate to the federal district court as a trial judge.
Griffith said he respected her "diligent and careful approach" and "collegial manner," which he described as indispensable traits for her success if confirmed as a justice on the high court.
Griffith is an "independent jurist" who adjudicates based on law and not on partisanship, he said, "Her rule is simple, follow the law."
Griffith pushed back on criticism over how a Republican-appointed judge could back a Democratic president's nominee as "dangerous hyper-partisanship."
"There should be nothing unusual about my support for a highly qualified nominee who has demonstrated through her life's work her commitment to the rule of law and an impartial judiciary," he said.
Read Jackson's prepared opening remarks
After listening to each senator on the committee speak, Jackson was the final speaker to give an opening statement. Read her prepared remarks here.
Ossoff invokes Ahmaud Arbery, voting rights in discussing unfulfilled promises of Constitution
Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., spent his opening remarks talking about the gap between the promises made in the Constitution and how laws are enforced and rights are protected in reality, invoking the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and voting rights as examples.
“Our Constitution’s guarantees of individual rights and equal protection under the law remain too often and for too many unfulfilled,” he began. “For any colleagues who doubt this, I remind them of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Glynn County, Georgia, just two years ago. When a young Black man was shot dead in cold blood on camera in the street and the local authorities buried the case and looked the other way. Only a massive civil rights mobilization pressured state and eventually federal prosecutors to act.”
“For any colleagues who doubt that those promises remain unfulfilled to too many, I remind them that in my state you can predict how long someone must wait to vote by where they live and the color of their skin,” Ossoff continued.
He then took an unsubtle swipe at Republican textualists who say that Supreme Court judges should only interpret the Constitution according to exactly how it was written more than 200 years ago.
“In practice the promises made in the plaint text of our Constitution are still too often broken … and so the court remains essential to that national process of becoming in real life what America is in text.”
Tillis says no place on the Supreme Court for 'judicial activism'
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he doesn't want an "activist at either end of the spectrum" on the Supreme Court.
"Although, I think some folks are OK with one end of the spectrum, not the other," he said in his opening statement.
"If we are talking about preserving the integrity of the court, there is no place on the Supreme Court for judicial activism," he said. "The best thing we could do here is make sure we have justices that are going to be stewards of the Constitution."
A Harvard Law School alum celebrates her classmate in D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Njeri Mathis Rutledge would normally be celebrating her birthday today but something important came up: the Senate confirmation hearings of her former Harvard Law School classmate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
“I flew across country because I had to be here for this historic day,” Rutledge said at the Black Women’s Leadership Collective watch party. She joined the faculty of the South Texas College of Law Houston in 2005 where she teaches in the area of criminal procedure, forensic evidence, and legal research and writing.
Rutledge graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English from Spelman College and earned her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1996, where she served as technical editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. She said she remembers her classmate fondly. “We lived in the same dorm. She was not only brilliant, but hardworking and down to earth,” Rutledge said.
To wit, Rutledge remembers Jackson preparing a meal for her study group: “It was actually a seafood boil!” she chuckled.
And once before a major exam, Jackson kindly advised her classmate to bring extra pencils because it might take several hours. In such a competitive environment “that showed me she wasn’t just out for self. She’s good people.”
Blackburn suggests Jackson has a 'hidden agenda' on crime, race
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., suggested during her opening remarks that Jackson has a hidden agenda on crime policy and racial issues.
Blackburn said Jackson once wrote every judge has "personal, hidden agendas" that influence how they decide cases.
"I can only wonder what your hidden agenda is," Blackburn continued. "Is it to let child predators back to the streets? Is it to restrict parental rights and expand government into our schools and private family decisions? Is it to support the radical left's attempt to pack the Supreme Court?"
Blackburn also asserted Jackson has supported the 1619 Project, which is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times on the history of slavery, saying "and have made clear that you believe judges must consider critical race theory when deciding criminal defendants. Is it your personal agenda to incorporate critical race area into our legal systems?"
Padilla invokes his parents, Jackson's grandparents in discussing American dream
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., described Jackson’s nomination in his opening statement as evidence of the “American dream,” invoking the journey of his parents and her grandparents.
“I am here as a proud son of immigrants from Mexico, who came to this country with little formal education but with big dreams,” he said, saying their efforts allowed him to eventually become the first Latino U.S. senator from California.
“I’m blessed to live the American dream,” he added. “If you’re confirmed, we’ll take another step toward making our government better reflect the America it serves.
“You’re ready to blaze this trail — a trail that your grandparents may have found unfathomable, but one that your daughters and my sons and future generations will now see as natural part of the American story.”
Cotton says Senate will look at Jackson's past decisions on crime
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says he will look into Jackson's past experience and decisions on crime policy, citing a rise in crime across the country.
"We are witnessing a breakdown of society," he said in his opening statement. "There are many Americans who no longer feel safe today, parents are scared to walk down the streets that used to be free from crime."
The nation's crime rate has become a frequent Republican talking point.
Cotton pointed to the Biden administration's policies and "liberal judges who have more sympathy for victimizers than for the victims."
"If Judge Jackson is confirmed, her decisions will have a direct impact on the safety of the American people. So we're going to look at her past decisions and her statements because the best predictor of future performance is past performance," he said.
He added that he enjoyed meeting with Jackson last week and that they had a good conversation.
'Joyous' Booker celebrates historic nature of Jackson nomination
A self-described “joyous” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., spent his opening statement celebrating the “historical nature” of Jackson’s nomination, saying, "This is is not a normal day America."
“We have never had this day before," Booker added, referring to Jackson being the first Black woman to be nominated to the high court.
Recalling historic figures such as Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor and Barack Obama, Booker said, “The Senate is poised to break another barrier.”
“We are on the precipice of shattering another glass ceiling,” he said.
“I cannot tell you how happy I am,” Booker continued. “We should rejoice.”
At 2:07 p.m. ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee resumed the hearing.
Committee takes a lunch break
The Judiciary Committee recessed at 12:31 p.m. ET for a 30-minute lunch break.
Making good on vow, Hawley claims Jackson 'lenient' on child porn offenders
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made good during his opening remarks on his vows to highlight what he claims were lenient sentences handed down by Jackson to sex offenders who prey on children.
Hawley listed off seven examples of sentences handed down by Jackson for sex offenders convicted on cases related to the creation or distribution of child pornography he said were far below federal guidelines and far below what prosecutors in the cases had recommended.
“What concerns me is that in every case … she handed down a lenient sentence below what the federal guidelines recommended and below what prosecutors recommended,” Hawley said.
“I think there is a lot to talk about there, and I look forward to talking about it,” he said, adding that, “I’m not interested in trapping Judge Jackson.”
“I’m interested in her answers,” he said.
Hawley had in recent weeks repeatedly telegraphed his intention to highlight his claim that Jackson isn’t tough enough on sex offenders.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates has pointed to fact checks that debunk the claims as misleading or distortions of her record and has assailed Hawley’s “desperate conspiracy theory," saying they're based on “toxic and weakly-presented misinformation.”
White House response to Hawley's claims about Jackson and child porn offenders
The White House responded last week to Sen. Hawley's assertion that Jackson "has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”
Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Hawley "took a snippet of a transcript out of context" and that "attempts to smear or discredit her history and her work are not borne out in facts.”
"I'm not sure that someone who refused to tell people whether or not he would vote for Roy Moore is an effective and credible messenger on this," Psaki said, referring to a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was accused by several women of sexual misconduct when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2020.
The White House also said that in the vast majority of Jackson's cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences she imposed "were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. Probation recommended."
The transcript Psaki said Hawley took out of context stemmed from a 2012 Sentencing Commission hearing. He suggested Jackson was lenient with sentences for people charged with child sex crimes, but the White House said that during that portion of the hearing, "Judge Jackson was repeating something a witness said in order to ask a question about their testimony.
Sasse says nomination hearings often staging ground for 'nasty evidence free personal attacks'
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. adds to the list of Republican senators pointing to the handling of past Supreme Court nominees and how the process has been increasingly punctuated with personal attacks.
"That's not what this process is supposed to be. This process is supposed to be a careful thorough investigation of nominees record to help the Senate make an informed decision on a nominees fitness for a lifetime appointment," said Sasse.
Sasse added, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the most recent nominee was subject to repeated accusations "that were nothing more than unfiltered religious bigotry."
He also called the nomination process broken which is a product of a "broader brokenness in the erosion of our constitutional structure."
Coons says Jackson's role on Sentencing Commission will make her a 'positive force'
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in his opening statement that Jackson's experience on the U.S. Sentencing Commission would make her a "positive force" for consensus on the Supreme Court.
"On the U.S. Sentencing Commission, you partnered with colleagues whose perspectives on the law span the ideological spectrum, and together you enacted meaningful reforms designed to reduce unjust disparities and increase fairness in sentencing," Coons said.
Coons noted that nearly all the decisions Jackson was a part of on the commission were unanimous and in one case, she joined two conservative commissioners to oppose an amendment "because you thought the law required a different result and you followed the law."
President Barack Obama nominated Jackson to be the vice chair of the Sentencing Commission in 2010. She was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate. She then became a federal judge in 2013.
Coons said Jackson is making a historic mark and compared her to Ruby Bridges, a civil rights activist who became the first Black child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana in 1960.
"Today, you're beginning a process of walking through this door because of courage, humility, determination, and a commitment to excellence, just as another person in American history, Ruby Bridges, walked through a critical door in our history, with her chin held high, her back held straight and a fierce determination to make a difference. So you too, today, begin the process of walking through this next open door with the sort of sparkling wit, brilliant mind and commitment to excellence that will make its mark in American history."
Mood inside hearing room is serious and quiet
Inside the hearing room, the mood is serious and quiet. Jackson’s friends and family are listening intently.
Jackson’s Harvard classmates appeared slightly nervous and excited as they entered the hearing room Monday morning to support their friend on the first day of her confirmation process.
Asked by NBC News if they spoke to Jackson prior to the hearing, Antoinette Coakley, one of the self-described “ladies,” winked and smiled.
The back of the hearing room itself is sparse: more than half of the guest seating is empty. All senators have been present from the start, but as the opening statements carried on, more bare chairs became visible, particularly on the Republican side.
Cruz points to past Supreme Court nominee hearings and Democrats' conduct
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spent his opening statement looking back on Democrats' handling of past Supreme Court nominees, including Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts.
"Judge Jackson, I can assure you that your hearing will feature none of that disgraceful behavior," he continued. "No one is going to inquire into your teenage dating habits. No one is going to ask you with mock severity, 'Do you like beer?'"
Cruz added, it is no longer the case that Supreme Court confirmation hearings are "merely about qualifications."
"There are some who say, 'Well, if the justice is qualified, the Senate should confirm,' there was a time that was the case. Our Democratic colleagues have abandoned that standard long ago."
Klobuchar presses direct impact of Supreme Court on Americans, invokes Ukraine
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., delivered opening remarks that focused on the direct effect Supreme Court rulings can have on the lives of people.
Klobuchar mentioned specific issues the high court has ruled on in recent years — or issues it is expected to rule on this summer — such as insurance coverage, health care, abortion rights and the status of "Dreamers."
The Supreme Court, she said, “decides cases with life-changing consequences.”
Later, she attempted to tie the hearing to the war in Ukraine, seeming to say that the confirmation process is a reminder of U.S. democracy, and that such freedom is at risk in Ukraine.
"Your confirmation hearing comes at a moment in our history when the people of this country are once again seeing, this time in Ukraine, that democracy can never be taken for granted,” she said.
Jackson nomination hearing draws crowds of supporters, protesters
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Black women and their allies held a rally outside the Supreme Court ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The goal, organizers said, was to celebrate and support Jackson who, if confirmed would be the first Black woman associate justice on the highest court in the land.
The National Women’s Law Center Action Fund, She Will Rise and the Black Women’s Roundtable hosted the event, in tandem with nearly two dozen organizations including the NAACP, Higher Heights, and the National Council of Negro Women.
Wearing colorful T-shirts with the judge’s image, and toting posters that read “Confirm Judge Jackson,” the exuberant rally drew a multigenerational and multiracial crowd.
Over the course of several hours, the mood was upbeat as step teams, gospel choirs and students from historically Black colleges and universities from across the country chanted and showed support for the nominee. Clergy members prayed. There was a small group of protesters, among them anti-abortion activists.
“It’s a great day,” said Barbara Arnwine, an attorney and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition. “We are celebrating history.”
Lee speaks about his opposition to expanding the Supreme Court
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said toward the end of his opening statement that packing the Supreme Court with more than its nine justices would "delegitimize" the court.
Lee said that it was attempted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, adding that it did "lasting damage" to the court even though it didn't succeed as a legislative matter.
"But it's arguable that it left a mark, and not a pretty one," he said. "There is nothing in the Constitution that requires us to have nine and only nine justices. That is under the Constitution left to Congress' determination. But nine is a number that works."
Lee said having nine justices on the high court has worked for 152 years, and it's not an issue to revisit. The GOP senator added that Jackson's former boss, Justice Stephen Breyer whose seat she would be taking on the Supreme Court if confirmed, is against adding more justices. He said Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opposed the idea, too.
Progressive Democrats have pushed for packing the court and President Joe Biden had formed a commission that was tasked with exploring changes to the Supreme Court. In December, NBC News reported that the commission didn't plan to make a recommendation about whether to expand it.
Cornyn 'a bit troubled' by some of Jackson's past cases
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, flagged concerns over some of the positions Jackson has taken "representing people who have committed terrorist acts against the United States and other dangerous criminals."
"You've had some cases reversed like all judges do, but some of them were particularly high profile when you ruled against a Republican administration," said Cornyn.
Cornyn added, Jackson will have every opportunity to address his and other members' concerns "as a committee evaluates your ability to fairly and impartially deliver justice, should you be confirmed."
Whitehouse hits Republicans for influence 'dark money' had on their Supreme Court nominees
The hearing has quickly become a back and forth about dark money.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., used his opening remarks to repeat claims that prior Republican court nominees were the result of “dark money" influence, arguing that Jackson’s nomination was not.
“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 dark-money political campaigns for the selected Justices. And because of secrecy, Americans are denied any real understanding of the overlap of all that dark money with the political dark money funding the Republican Party," Whitehouse said.
"Judge Jackson’s nomination and the process by which she was selected stands 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,” he added.
Whitehouse used the term “dark money” — a term that refers to funds raised to influence elections by organizations that aren’t required to disclose the identifies of their donors — 12 times during his statement, according to the prepared remarks.
Graham suggests Jackson only nominated because of funding from liberal groups
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in opening remarks, questioned why liberal groups backed Jackson and not U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs.
"So you say, Judge Jackson, you don't have any judicial philosophy, per se," said Graham. "Well, somebody on the left thinks you do or they wouldn't have spent the money they spent to have you in this chair."
Graham referred to Arabella, a liberal dark money group, working to stop Childs and get Jackson nominated instead.
"What is it about your nomination that the most liberal people under the umbrella of Arabella threw in their money, their time, their time, their sport and threatened Joe Biden if he picked Judge Childs. I want to know more about that," said Graham.
Chuck Grassley uses Jackson hearing to settle scores over Barrett
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, used his opening remarks at the hearing Monday to settle some scores about Justice Amy Coney Barrett's hearing in October 2020.
Specifically, he noted that Democrats made "confident predictions" that she would vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act in a case that was headed for the Supreme Court, a claim they made by citing her past remarks criticizing the justices for upholding the health care law in a separate case decided in 2012.
"They were wrong in their strong declarations how Justice Barrett would rule," Grassley said.
Barrett voted with the majority in the 7-2 ruling against the ACA challenge.
Leahy refutes GOP criticisms of Jackson, says she would be an 'asset' to the Supreme Court
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in his opening statement that Jackson's background would be an "asset" to the Supreme Court.
Leahy, who's retiring from Congress at the end of the year, said Jackson's nomination brings the U.S. "one step closer to having a Supreme Court that is more reflective of our nation." He said it's "one of diversity of race and gender, background education, and experience" that will "allow all Americans to look to their court and see in its justices a reflection of the American people."
"You are writing a new page in history of America," Leahy said to Jackson.
Leahy then refuted criticisms made by his GOP colleagues in recent days about the nominee.
"Judge Jackson is not anti-law enforcement. She hails from a law enforcement family," he said. "And no, she's not soft on crime. Her background as a federal public defender would bring an informed perspective, our criminal justice system to the Supreme Court."
He continued, "So I would say Judge Jackson's background is not a liability to the court, it's a much needed asset to the court."
Leahy brought up the Russian invasion of Ukraine toward the end of his statement.
"One need look no further than the chaos, the devastation and the humanity, inhumanity halfway around the world in Ukraine to know how precious our democracy is, to know how precious the legacy we have in our independent federal judiciary," he said.
Grassley criticizes judges who impose policy preferences from the bench
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the committee, said in his opening statement that Jackson's hearings are off to a positive start unlike the 2018 confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.
"Unlike the start to the Kavanaugh hearings, we didn't have repeated choreographed interruptions of Chairman Durbin during his opening statements, like Democrats interrupted me for more than an hour during my opening statement" in the Kavanaugh hearings, he said.
Grassley said lawmakers will ask Jackson questions about her "judicial philosophy" and won't turn the process into a "spectacle."
"We all know there's a difference of opinion about the role judges should play," he said. "Some of us believe the judges are supposed to interpret the law as it was understood when written, not make new law."
The GOP senator criticized the philosophy of "living constitutionalism" and said, "We depend on judges to interpret laws as we write them. If judges impose their own policy preferences from the bench, and essentially revise the laws we pass, it makes it harder for us to write good laws."
Judiciary Chair Durbin touts Jackson as an 'independent minded' judge
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., opened the first day of confirmation hearings for Jackson by praising her as an “independent minded” judge and a “champion for the rule of law.”
Durbin, in his opening statement, noted there were nearly 700,000 slaves when the Supreme Court first met in 1790.
“There was no equal justice under the law for the majority of people living in America," he said.
"Your presence here today to brave this process will give inspiration to millions of Americans who see themselves in you," he continued.
Durbin predicted anticipated criticism, including that Jackson would be a "rubber stamp" for Biden.
"There may be some who claim, without a shred of evidence, that you’ll be a rubber stamp for this president," he said. "For these would-be critics, I have four words — look at the record."
Hearing has begun
The hearing has begun. Day 1 is expected to last about five hours or so.
Jackson has been prepping for hearings with White House
Jackson had been preparing for her confirmation hearing for weeks, two sources close to the process told NBC News. With the guidance of the White House counsel’s office, she studied core issues and rulings and participated in mock hearings. She went to Capitol Hill on Saturday for a walkthrough of the hearing room.
Senators on the Judiciary Committee and Jackson are expected to deliver opening statements Monday. The nominee will then face questions from those lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday.
White House officials have not said where, or how, President Joe Biden will watch her confirmation hearings, but the administration remains “confident that she will be confirmed.”
The two people introducing Jackson
Jackson will be introduced before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday by a retired Bush-appointed federal judge and a professor who is the nominee's longtime friend from college.
Thomas B. Griffith served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2005 to 2020. A conservative legal mind, Griffith was nominated to the court in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush and previously endorsed Jackson's nomination.
Lisa M. Fairfax will also introduce Jackson. She is a presidential professor and co-director of the Institute for Law & Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. Fairfax was one of Jackson’s roommates as undergraduate students at Harvard University and later at the Harvard Law School.
Day 1 of Jackson's confirmation hearings begins at 11 a.m. ET
The first day of confirmation hearings for Jackson begins Monday on Capitol Hill at 11 a.m. ET.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's 22 members are expected to deliver their opening statements Monday, with Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, scheduled to go first.
Each member is allowed 10 minutes to speak and then Jackson will go last, with 10 minutes allotted for her statement, as well.