Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said the senators need to review Judge Jackson’s time serving as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2010 to 2014, but Democrats did not join the GOP in pushing for documents related to her work there ahead of the confirmation hearings this week.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said at the opening of the panel’s confirmation hearing that the Obama White House withheld 48,000 pages of requested information, citing the Presidential Records Act.
“That’s a lot of hiding,” Mr. Grassley said. “The limited number of useful records we received from the Obama White House show exactly why Sentencing Commission documents would have been important. There are a number of dark money groups on the left that argue federal judges should make policy decisions based on the judges’ own values.”
Republican senators have complained in recent weeks of left-wing groups’ support of Judge Jackson, noting one group — Demand Justice — also pushed for expanding the court to counter its current conservative 6-3 majority.
The Iowa Republican said at Monday’s hearing that the co-founder of Demand Justice played a role in Judge Jackson’s nomination to the sentencing commission.
“The Demand Justice co-founder even interviewed Judge Jackson about a nomination to the Sentencing Commission. It would be helpful to know what the Demand Justice co-founder learned during that process and why they so strongly support Judge Jackson,” Mr. Grassley said.
“They’ve strongly supported the so-called ‘progressive’ prosecutors who are soft on violent crime in the face of a rising crime wave in cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles,” he added.
Republicans have suggested Judge Jackson’s record as a judge suggests she is weak on crime.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, recently accused her of going easy on defendants sentenced for child porn crimes during her time as a district court judge, sentencing them to less prison time than suggested by guidelines.
“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 said.
Sparring over document production is not rare. Democrats during the Trump administration complained during Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in 2018 that they did not have enough records to review from his time working in the George W. Bush White House.
A Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat aide pushed back on Mr. Grassley‘s allegations, saying Republican staff — alongside Democratic staff — met with the Sentencing Commission and were told nonpublic materials from Judge Jackson’s work on the commission “would add little value.”
The aide also said Judge Jackson shared more than 12,000 documents from her time on the Sentencing Commission, “including Commission reports and detailed meeting minutes — in addition to her nearly 600 written judicial opinions during her time on the bench.”
“Senate Judiciary Democrats are following the precedent set by Ranking Member Grassley during Justice Kavanaugh’s hearing. The same considerations that then-Chair Grassley cited in refusing to request any of now-Justice Kavanaugh’s White House Staff Secretary documents — the risk of exposing sensitive documents to public scrutiny and undermining the candor of future internal deliberations — apply here,” the aide said.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, also dismissed Mr. Hawley’s allegations about the judge’s sentencing record.
“He is wrong, he’s inaccurate and unfair in his analysis,” he said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “Judge Jackson has been scrutinized more than any person I can think of.”
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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