GOP senators grill potential Biden Supreme Court pick

After a spate of Trump judiciary appointments, President Joe Biden's first candidates to the federal courts on Wednesday showed their remarkable diversity in Senate testimony, even as Republicans were the candidates on the role of race in the justice system, freedom of religion and enlargement of the US Supreme Court.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who nominated Biden to succeed Merrick Garland on the DC Circuit's High-profile Court of Appeals when he selected Garland as attorney general, was a major focus of GOP issues as she acted as the lead candidate if there was a vacancy in court gave .
Biden has said he would appoint the first African American woman to the Supreme Court on his first opportunity. Jackson is one of only 35 active black federal judges currently in office, according to the Federal Judicial Center. Only four are district court judges.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Jackson, a former federal defender and former vice chairman and commissioner of the US Criminal Commission, in the Federal District Court for DC in 2012. She previously worked for Justice Stephen Breyer, whom many liberals have called for retirement.
MORE: Biden taps 11 judicial candidates with historical diversity
Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who was nominated for the 7th Circuit in the US Court of Appeals, and Judge Zahid N. Quraishi, who was nominated in the District Court for New Jersey, were also candidates who testified before the Senate Judicial Committee on Wednesday. If this were confirmed, Quraishi would be the first Muslim-American federal judge.
PHOTO: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens to arguments as local students watch a re-enactment of a landmark Supreme Court case in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on December 18, 2019. (The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE)
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Partisan divisions could be seen as the republicans of the committee asked their questions.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked Jackson and Jackson-Akiwumi, both blacks, about their views on the role of race in the justice system.
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"When I get my cases, I look at the arguments, the facts, and the law. I methodically and deliberately set aside personal views and other inappropriate considerations," Jackson said. "I would think races are the kind of thing that would be inappropriate for making an assessment of a case."
However, she added, "I may have experienced life differently from some of my colleagues because I am. And that could be valuable. I hope it would be valuable if I was confirmed on Circuit Court." ”
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Asked Jackson-Akiwumi about a sentencing record she wrote as a defense attorney and whether she believed mandatory minimum requirements were racist.
"Theere has been investigated by the Criminal Police Commission and other agencies in our government to establish the racist effects of mandatory minimum sentences," she said. "It is an issue that this body has examined in this committee."
Several Republican senators brought up Demand Justice advocacy, which supported Jackson's nomination and called for the expansion of the Supreme Court.
"Demand Justice claims the Supreme Court has been broken," Cornyn said. "Do you think the Supreme Court is broken?"
PHOTO: Ketanji Brown Jackson, named U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on upcoming nominations on Capitol Hill April 28, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)
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"Senator, I never said anything about the Supreme Court being broken," Jackson replied. "Again, I'm not going to comment on the structure, size or functioning of the Supreme Court," she said.
Senator Thom Tillis, RN.C. also raised Demand Justice, calling the group a "dark money liberal group" and tying their support for them to their 2019 decision that former White House attorney Donald McGahn, must testify before the judiciary committee of the house.
In her response to Tillis, Jackson said that as a federal judge, she has a duty to be independent.
"I know very well what my obligations are, what my duties are," she said. "Not to govern with a party-political advantage. Not to tailor my decisions or to shape them in order to gain influence or to do anything like that."
Hawley asked Jackson about her time on the board of directors at Montrose Christian School, a Maryland school that closed in 2013, and asked if her time there meant she believed in freedom of religion. Hawley said the board's statement of faith included language against abortion and LGBTQ rights, noting that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been criticized for serving on the board of a school with similar beliefs.
Jackson said freedom of religion is a core principle of our government and that the Supreme Court has made it clear that the government cannot violate religious rights.
"These ideas, this concept, come from my duty to heed the Supreme Court's precedent, to follow its principles, not from personal views I might have, and from personal views about religion I would never serve as a judge," said you. "I will also say that I have served on many boards and that I don't necessarily agree with all of the statements about anything - all of the things those words might have in their materials," she added.
In a personal moment, Senator Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Asked Jackson what it meant to be nominated for Circuit Court judge.
"It is the beauty and majesty of this land that someone from a background like mine should be in this position," she replied. "And so I'm just tremendously grateful to have this opportunity to be part of the law in this way, and I'm really grateful that the President has given me the honor of this nomination."
ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.
GOP Senators Grilling Potential Biden Supreme Court Selections originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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