Hopeful signs emerge that Supreme Court hearings for Brown Jackson may be more civil

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Ketanji Brown Jackson is President Joe Biden's nominee for the Supreme Court.
  • The federal appeals court judge was picked to replace Stephen Breyer.
  • There are signs that Brown Jackson's nomination hearings may be more civil than recent hearings.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley is not normally known as a friend to Democrats.

When it comes to major bipartisan legislation, his name is almost never included in the group of GOP members willing to work with the Democrats.

In fact, for most folks, the conservative Hawley is best known as the first senator to announce plans to object to Joe Biden’s certification as the United States president in 2020. The photo of Hawley’s raised fist on the day of the Capitol riots is one of the most visceral images from that horrific day. Many feel it helped to fuel the venom of the Stop the Steal supporters in their insurrection.

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Many called on him to resign or be expelled from the Senate.

Jaw-dropping comments: So, Hawley’s recent comments about Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, were practically jaw-dropping:

“She’s very well prepared" with a “very high degree” of legal acumen.

“I think her hearings will be very substantive,” he said.

Say what?

All smiles, Jackson tries for Senate reset on Supreme Court

Hawley’s typical default position is to attack anything, or anyone, that Biden supports.

It’s still unlikely that Hawley, or the vast majority of the Republican senators, will vote for Brown Jackson. Hawley, despite his respectful words, says he still has concerns about Brown Jackson’s record.

Nevertheless, there does appear hope that the Brown Jackson nomination hearings won’t devolve into a circus of political grandstanding and vitriol, as has been the case so often recently.

Reasons for hope: There are several reasons we can hope for a relatively sedate nomination process, which is slated to begin later this month.

First, Brown Jackson seems well prepared and appears to be doing an excellent job of networking with the senators, both Democrats and Republicans. She’s trying to promote a collegial atmosphere.

The federal appeals court judge also appears to have a solid track record on the bench.

Second, Brown Jackson is replacing another liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, so her approval is not expected to substantively change the makeup of the court. The conservatives will still hold a 6-3 edge.

Third, Brown Jackson will likely become the first Black woman to become a Supreme Court justice, and maybe some of the more moderate Republicans will want to be on the right side of a historic vote.

Finally, with the war in Ukraine and soaring inflation dominating the headlines, Brown Jackson’s nomination process has taken a backseat in the news cycle, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

From low key to high stakes: For decades, the Supreme Court nomination process was normally a bipartisan, nonpolitical and relatively low-key event.

Since the Roe vs. Wade decision in the 1970s, however, that’s all changed. The abortion question hangs over every Supreme Court nomination. As a result, the stakes and attention on the nomination process have just exploded.

These days, one reason that many people give when asked why they voted for a particular presidential candidate is because that person will likely nominate Supreme Court justices that agree with their political views.

The Supreme Court nomination process is no longer about selecting the best legal mind — it’s about selecting someone with the “correct” political views.

That’s unfortunate.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but the Brown Jackson nominating process is giving some hopeful indications that this time the hearings will be a little different — possibly a little more dignified and little more civil.

Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?