(Washington) Appointed by Joe Biden to the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson must convince, from Monday, the senators to validate this historic choice and make her the first black woman to sit within influential institution.
This brilliant 51-year-old lawyer will be heard by the Judiciary Committee of the Upper House of Congress until Thursday, before a vote in plenary probably in early April.
If she gets the green light from elected officials, she will sit from next school year on the most mixed Supreme Court in American history, with three other women and an African-American magistrate.
The latter, curator Clarence Thomas, 73, was hospitalized on Friday with an infection. He was given antibiotics intravenously and he is expected to be released from hospital shortly, the Supreme Court said in a brief statement.
Given the power of the nine High Court wise men, appointed for life, their health reports are always closely followed, as are their confirmation processes which have, in recent years, given rise to bitter political battles. .
Elected officials are combative because “the Court decides on a lot of crucial subjects, some of which are explosive”, such as the right to abortion or to carry a firearm, notes Larry Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia .
But the arrival of Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the progressive magistrate Stephen Breyer, who will retire in the summer, “will not change the balance: the conservatives will keep a majority of six judges out of nine”, recalls the analyst. “That should be enough to bring the temperature down and ensure a fairly smooth confirmation process. »
“Turn everything upside down”
The balance of power in the Senate gives a slight advantage to the magistrate: each party has 50 elected officials, but in the event of a tie it is up to the Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris to decide between them. A handful of moderate Republican senators had also supported his nomination to the federal appeals court in Washington, a year ago, and could revote in his favor.
The Republicans have no interest in “turning everything upside down for a battle they are sure to lose”, concludes Larry Sabato, while judging “inevitable that certain senators attack the judge to satisfy their electoral base”.
Before her name was made public, some elected Republicans had criticized the president for his promise to appoint an African-American. “Black women represent what? let’s say 6% of the American population”, choked Republican Senator Ted Cruz, accusing Joe Biden of “telling 94% of Americans: ‘I don’t give a damn about you’”.
Playing the racial card head-on against a woman whose qualifications are, in the general opinion, impeccable, will be more delicate. Republican Senator Susan Collins has also called on her colleagues to be careful to avoid their party “being portrayed as anti-Black”.
Seven months before the midterm elections, the attacks should above all serve as a sounding board for Republican campaign themes, starting with the rise in crime in the face of supposed Democratic laxity.
Ketanji Brown Jackson should be asked about her defense, as a lawyer, of Guantanamo detainees and other criminals, and then about her judgments in horrific criminal cases.
Senator Josh Hawley has previously accused her, in a long series of tweets, of withholding low sentences in child pornography cases. It is “a worrying constant,” he wrote, drawing a scathing denial from the White House.
“This toxic misinformation […] is based on a subjective selection of material taken out of context,” wrote Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the presidency, noting that Judge Jackson had the support of several police unions.
This did not prevent the leader of the Republican senators Mitch McConnell from keeping this angle of attack during a speech Thursday in the hemicycle.
Ketanji Brown Jackson says her experience in legal aid services in Washington, where she defended impoverished defendants from 2005 to 2007, “helped her develop empathy,” he said. “I imagine that means that prosecutors and victims of crimes do not come away with the advantage” in the trials over which she presides.
“In the midst of a resurgence of crime,” he continued, “that’s not an asset, it’s a problem.”