DemCast Joins 55 Organizations Denouncing Some Senators’ Insidious Behavior and Unfounded Attacks on Judge Jackson

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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, joined by 55 organizations, raised serious concerns about some senators’ baseless and harmful attacks on Judge Jackson’s record. The letter addresses this insidious behavior, counters the reckless attacks on public defenders and criminal defense attorneys, and corrects the record on Judge Jackson’s sentencing practices.

The groups’ letter reads, in part, “Attacks made on Judge Jackson’s service as a federal public defender and the clients she vigorously represented are spurious and undermine one of the central tenets of our democracy. The right to counsel is one of our nation’s most bedrock principles, helping to fulfill the constitutional promise of a fair trial and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. The Supreme Court has reinforced the right to counsel, considering it a ‘fundamental right essential to a fair trial.’ Thus, the work of public defenders and criminal defense lawyers is critical. Those who enter public service as public defenders and criminal defense lawyers — like Judge Jackson and so many others — should be commended, not maligned.” The letter continues, “The attacks on Judge Jackson’s record grossly mischaracterize her work and threaten the ideals of our democracy. Despite these inappropriate and knowingly misleading attacks, Judge Jackson showed a poised and patient judicial temperament, reminding senators that constitutional protections are not privileges reserved for a select few, but rights afforded to us all. This is a much-needed perspective on our highest court.”

The letter adds, “Attacks on Judge Jackson’s sentencing record in non-production child sexual abuse material cases are baseless. As those who have closely studied this issue explain, Judge Jackson’s sentences were well within the range of her peers. The 2021 U.S. Sentencing Commission report noted that less than 30 percent of people convicted of non-production child sexual abuse material offenses received a sentence within the guideline range. Such discrepancies were also described to Congress in a 2012 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In these reports, the commission recommended Congress change the guidelines, yet ‘[t]o date, Congress has not implemented the Commission’s statutory or guideline recommendations.’ It is within Congress’ authority, not the courts’, to update sentencing guidelines.”

Read the full letter:

Dear Senator:


On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 230
national organizations committed to promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 55 undersigned organizations, we write to the Senate Judiciary Committee
following the committee’s confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to express concern over
the treatment of Judge Jackson by certain members of the committee. As many of us expressed in our
strong support for the confirmation of Judge Jackson to serve as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme
Court, we had hoped the Senate would fulfill its constitutional role of advice and consent fairly and
honestly. While most members of the committee treated the process and this exceptional nominee with
seriousness and respect, we are compelled to address the insidious behavior and unfounded assertions
made by some senators throughout the hearing.


Given the significant constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on presidents’ nominees
to serve in lifetime positions on our federal courts, senators are expected to thoroughly review nominees’
backgrounds and records. For weeks, many senators on both sides of the aisle noted the need for a
thorough and fair process. Ranking Member Chuck Grassley said that he “continually emphasized the
need for a thorough respectful process by the committee,” promising not to turn Judge Jackson’s hearing
into a “spectacle.” He expressed a desire for the committee to “conduct a thorough, exhaustive
examination of Judge Jackson’s record and views.”1 Senator John Cornyn reiterated this before the
hearing, saying “I expect this process to be fair and dignified.”2 Unfortunately, instead of asking Judge
Jackson substantive and thoughtful questions, some senators used their time during the hearing to launch meritless attacks on her record and engage in demagoguery and pandering to fringe conspiracy theorists.


By any standard, Judge Jackson is exceptionally qualified to serve on our country’s highest court. She
served as a law clerk to judges at every level of our federal judicial system and continued her public
service at the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission, as an assistant public defender in the appeals
division of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia, and as a federal district
court and circuit court judge. Judge Jackson’s well-established dedication to public service and equal
justice speaks to her well-rounded experience as well as her character. Judge Jackson will be a
tremendous asset to the Supreme Court as the first public defender to serve on the Court and the first
justice with any significant criminal defense work since the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall more
than 30 years ago.

Attacks made on Judge Jackson’s service as a federal public defender and the clients she vigorously
represented are spurious and undermine one of the central tenets of our democracy. The right to counsel is one of our nation’s most bedrock principles, helping to fulfill the constitutional promise of a fair trial and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel. The Supreme Court has reinforced the right to counsel,
considering it a “fundamental right essential to a fair trial.” Thus, the work of public defenders and
criminal defense lawyers is critical. Those who enter public service as public defenders and criminal
defense lawyers — like Judge Jackson and so many others — should be commended, not maligned.

As Judge Jackson noted at the hearing, “federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients. They have
to represent whoever comes in and it’s a service. That’s what you do as a federal public defender: You are
standing up for the constitutional value of representation.” Senator Leahy, a former prosecutor,
reinforced the importance of criminal defense attorneys, stating, “for a criminal justice system to function
properly you have to have skilled, dedicated lawyers on both sides of the issue, both the prosecutor and
the defense attorney. It is equally essential for judges to have a nuanced and a balanced understanding of
our criminal justice system if we are going to have justice done.” Attacks on Judge Jackson for her
zealous defense of her clients, including her defense of clients detained at Guantanamo Bay, are
misguided attempts to score political points while undermining the fundamental right to counsel. As noted by esteemed national security lawyers, “[f]or its integrity, both internally and abroad, the American
system of justice depends upon strong advocacy on both sides of the courtroom. Capable advocates
willing to defend the most reviled in society, without endorsing the crime, is a pillar of our system that
distinguishes us from other notions of justice around the world.”6 The attacks on Judge Jackson’s record
grossly mischaracterize her work and threaten the ideals of our democracy. Despite these inappropriate
and knowingly misleading attacks, Judge Jackson showed a poised and patient judicial temperament,
reminding senators that constitutional protections are not privileges reserved for a select few, but rights
afforded to us all. This is a much-needed perspective on our highest court.

With no basis upon which to honestly question Judge Jackson’s impressive qualifications, some senators
made false statements about Judge Jackson’s sentencing practices in a sad and transparent attempt to
derail her path to confirmation. Notably, these concerns over sentencing were not raised in her previous
confirmation hearing nor in the consideration of numerous appellate nominees whose sentencing histories as district court judges align with Judge Jackson’s. It was particularly disturbing that these attacks continued after significant fact-checking ahead of the hearing, which disproved the attacks,8
and after Judge Jackson’s clear and direct answers throughout the hearing. This is a new low for this esteemed body, especially at a time when our nation is united in its strong bipartisan support for Judge Jackson.

Attacks on Judge Jackson’s sentencing record in non-production child sexual abuse material cases are
baseless. As those who have closely studied this issue explain, Judge Jackson’s sentences were well
within the range of her peers. The 2021 U.S. Sentencing Commission report noted that less than 30
percent of people convicted of non-production child sexual abuse material offenses received a sentence
within the guideline range. Such discrepancies were also described to Congress in a 2012 report by the
U.S. Sentencing Commission. In these reports, the commission recommended Congress change the
guidelines, yet “[t]o date, Congress has not implemented the Commission’s statutory or guideline
recommendations.” It is within Congress’ authority, not the courts’, to update sentencing guidelines.

Additionally, many sentencing experts have been outspoken in their support of Judge Jackson. Kenya
Davis, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who led many investigations and trials
involving child sexual abuse materials, noted that Judge Jackson “had a reputation for carefully
considering the circumstances of every case.” Davis stated that attempts to vilify Judge Jackson’s record
on these issues “lack[] any appreciation for the complexity of these cases or any factors that play a part in
final sentencing decisions beyond the guideline recommendations.” Additionally, nine retired federal
judges affirmed that Judge Jackson’s record is consistent with other judges as well as the U.S. Department
of Justice. Survivors of sexual violence and advocates for victims of these horrific crimes agree that
Judge Jackson is highly qualified for this position.

Further, the comprehensive review by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the
Federal Judiciary noted that in interviews, the standing committee affirmatively raised the issue of
whether Judge Jackson could be fair or was somehow biased, which they also did in their previous evaluations in 2012 and 2021, and “[a]ll rejected any concern that Judge Jackson was biased.” Indeed,
one former federal prosecutor who worked with Judge Jackson asserted that she lacked bias, was fair to
all sides regarding sentencing and other issues, and was of the highest integrity and competence. This is
the true record of Judge Jackson’s notable career as a fair-minded federal judge.

We thank Chair Dick Durbin for respecting survivors and keeping confidential information that could
otherwise be used to exacerbate the harms done to victims. Requests by some senators to review presentencing records in child sexual abuse material cases are a transparent attempt to score political points at the expense of inflicting ongoing harm on already traumatized survivors and their families. No senator had access to these records, and the Senate has never considered requests for this kind of information. Disclosing such information would violate the promises made to victims and their families and bring a new level of disturbing theatrics to the Senate’s confirmation process. Information contained in these records, such as the victim impact statements, were provided by survivors with the understanding that the information would be shared only with the judge. Breaching this confidentiality, even with redactions, can retraumatize survivors and would make it more difficult to hold offenders accountable. Such a request disregards the well-being of survivors and their families. This is nothing more than a dangerous and politically motivated attempt to malign Judge Jackson’s character.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an extraordinary nominee and belongs on our highest court. We are
celebrating this historic moment and Judge Jackson’s unique qualifications. But as we celebrate, we must
reiterate that it is unacceptable that some senators have embraced political pandering to extremists, which undermines our fragile democracy. Judge Jackson should not have to endure this differential treatment by senators who are willing to tear down a highly respected public servant in order to secure media attention for their own antics. This cannot be the way that the Senate Judiciary Committee considers nominees to sit on our federal courts for a lifetime. It will poison both the Senate and our federal judiciary if some senators on the committee continue this dangerous trajectory.

History will remember this moment. We urge all senators to bring fairness and honesty to this process —
for this nominee and for all nominees to come.


Sincerely,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
A Better Balance
Advocates for Youth
African American Ministers In Action
Alliance for Justice
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women
American Constitution Society

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Catholics For Choice
Center for American Progress
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Disability Rights
Common Cause
Demand Justice
DemCast USA
Democracy Initiative
End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund
Human Rights Campaign
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
Indivisible
League of Conservation Voters
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Muslim Advocates
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Immigration Law Center
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Open The Government
People For the American Way
People’s Parity Project
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Workers Circle
True North Research

United State of Women
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Women Lawyers On Guard Action Network, Inc.
Women’s March
Workplace Fairness


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DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks, but are sustained solely on donations from grassroots supporters. Because our revenue isn’t click-driven, we don’t take in any direct revenue from the creative contributions of grassroots activists who post on the site. This sets us apart from other media sites. And we’re proud of that.

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