- The Washington Times
Sunday, March 20, 2022

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was blindsided by accusations that she is soft on crime, particularly in cases involving child pornography and sexual abuse, as she prepared for Senate confirmation hearings that kick off Monday.

During four days of hearings before the SenateJudiciary Committee, Judge Jackson is expected to encounter tough questions from Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Mike Lee of Utah and others about her record of sentencing numerous defendants in child porn cases to prison terms far shorter than federal guidelines recommended.


Mr. Hawley said Judge Jackson “has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and policymaker.”

She’s been touted as someone whose record on the bench is what qualifies for the court, so she’s going to have to answer these questions,” Mr. Hawley told reporters.

Mr. Lee said of Judge Jackson’s track record in such cases, “We need real answers.”

The issue feeds into a broader accusation by Republicans that Judge Jackson, and President Biden’s judicial nominees in general, are soft on crime at a time when many U.S. cities are reeling from waves of violence.


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SenateJudiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Sunday that Mr. Hawley is pushing erroneous attacks against Judge Jackson.

He is wrong, he’s inaccurate and unfair in his analysis,” Mr. Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Judge Jackson has been scrutinized more than any person I can think of.”

Mr. Durbin said independent fact-checkers have debunked Mr. Hawley’s claims.

“There is no truth to what he says, and he is part of a fringe within the Republican Party,” Mr. Durbin said. “This is the man that was fist-pumping the murderous mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 of last year. He doesn’t have the credibility he thinks he does.”

Judge Jackson, who would become the first Black woman to sit on the high court, is also expected to face questioning about her representation as a public defender and private attorney of four terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Her supporters cite comments in 2009 by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a member of the SenateJudiciary Committee, who said in reference to Gitmo detainees that the U.S. legal system “requires the unpopular to have an advocate.”

“Every time a defense lawyer fights to make the government do their job, that defense lawyer has made us all safer,” Mr. Graham said at the time.

The White House said conservative senators are making a desperate, last-minute bid to derail Judge Jackson’s nomination after failing to torpedo it as an affirmative action choice and a product of liberal “dark” money networks.

Appointed in June to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Jackson, 51, is on track to win confirmation from the Democratic-majority Senate before Easter, barring any eleventh-hour surprises in her background screening. Along with all 50 Senate Democrats, several Republicans have indicated their likely support.

Confirmation of Judge Jackson would not change the Supreme Court’s ideological balance, which had a 6-3 conservative majority before liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced his retirement.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he is open to backing Judge Jackson’s confirmation but was taken aback by her refusal to say whether she opposed court-packing when he met with her in his office.

“I asked her to defend the court,” Mr. McConnell said. “That would have been an easy thing for her to do: to defend the integrity of the court. She wouldn’t do that.”

The calls from the far left to expand the Supreme Court picked up after President Trump, who appointed three justices, gave the court its conservative majority.

The American Bar Association said Friday that Judge Jackson is “well qualified” — its highest rating — to serve on the Supreme Court.

Still, the questions about Judge Jackson’s handling of child pornography cases are the most serious threat yet to her confirmation. Mr. Hawley plans to question the nominee this week about her decisions in cases such as U.S. v. Cooper, in which Judge Jackson sentenced Ryan Cooper to the lowest sentence allowed, 60 months, for distribution of child pornography.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for Cooper to be imprisoned for 151 to 188 months. He had posted nude photos of boys on his Tumblr accounts, including images of three boys performing oral sex. He also had about 600 images of child pornography on a laptop.

Cooper told Judge Jackson in a letter in February 2021, before his sentencing, that he was a sexual abuse survivor and that he changed his life around from his “darker” period involving child pornography. After his arrest, he said, he volunteered at a soup kitchen in the District of Columbia and got a job as a software salesman and then found work with an intelligence consultant.

“I am not a predator and I do not have a predilection for minors, which has been corroborated by three mental healthcare professionals,” Cooper told Judge Jackson. “I am certainly no career criminal. This will not happen again, ever.”

His is not the only case under scrutiny. In U.S. v. Stewart, Mr. Hawley said, Judge Jackson sentenced a man to 57 months in prison for possessing thousands of images of child porn and attempting to travel across state lines to abuse a 9-year-old girl. The guidelines called for a sentence of 97 to 121 months.

In U.S. v. Sears, where the guidelines called for 97 to 121 months for a man convicted of distributing 102 child porn videos and photos of his 10-year-old daughter, Judge Jackson gave him 60 months.

Mr. Hawley said he came away from his meeting with Judge Jackson believing she is “a good person,” but he added that she must explain her “troubling views” on criminal cases.

“I’d like to hear her [say] why she sentenced the way that she did,” Mr. Hawley said. “And what her philosophy is when it comes to child sex offenders and crime more generally. But, you know, let’s start with child sex offenders.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa on Saturday called for records related to Judge Jackson’s time on the U.S. Sentencing Commission ahead of her confirmation hearing.

“Judge Jackson’s history of sentencing below guidelines, particularly in cases involving child exploitation, raises legitimate questions about her views on penalties for these crimes,” Mr. Grassley, the top Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee, said in a statement.

“This is exactly why I asked for her Sentencing Commission records — the same types of records the committee traditionally reviews when vetting a Supreme Court nominee,” he said.

Mr. Grassley said the commission’s records were being withheld, including a report on mandatory minimum sentences for those engaged in child pornography.

The White House noted that the Sentencing Commission’s recommendations were bipartisan and that Senate Republicans confirmed a Republican judicial nominee of Mr. Trump who also had served on the commission and approved the report.

White House officials said the majority of federal judges have expressed concern that the mandatory minimum for receiving child pornography images is too severe.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the Republican criticism as a desperate, last-minute effort to derail the nominee.

“After weeks of trying hard to find some way to attack Judge Jackson, first saying that she was an affirmative action pick, then saying she was the product of dark money, then saying she should be suspect because she was a public defender, a group of far-right Republican senators … launched a last-ditch, eve-of-hearing desperation attack on her record on sentencing in sexual offense cases,” Ms. Psaki said. “The facts are that in the vast majority of cases involving child sex crimes broadly, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. probation recommended. This attack that we’ve seen over the last couple of days relies on factual inaccuracies and taking Judge Jackson’s record wildly out of context.”

The White House noted that Judge Jackson has been endorsed by police organizations and dozens of police chiefs around the country. Her family has a law enforcement background, with a police chief in Miami and a sex crimes detective in Baltimore.

As the judge revealed at her nomination announcement, another uncle was convicted of drug crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment under a “three strikes” law. President Obama commuted his sentence after Judge Jackson, a lawyer at the time, helped get another firm to bring his case before the White House.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, said Sunday that Judge Jackson’s reported leniency on crime covers a broad range of shortcomings.

“She would have let 1,500 prisoners go during COVID,” Mrs. Blackburn said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Among the ones that she let go were a murderer, a bank robber — these are hardened criminals — back on the street. She also has been soft on child pornography. She doesn’t seem to have a judicial philosophy. She will not be clear about where she is on court-packing.

“I have talked to a lot of women who are quite concerned about her record when it comes to how she’s dealt with crime,” Mrs. Blackburn said.

• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.


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