Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered the following opening statement at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination.
High-res video of the remarks is available here.
“I want to begin by congratulating you, Judge Jackson, on this appointment.
I’ve reviewed the records of a number of judicial nominees during my service on this committee. This is actually the tenth set of confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee that I’ve participated in during my time in the Senate.
And looking at your record, it is clear you have the qualifications and the experience and the knowledge needed to serve on the Supreme Court. And as a woman, it makes me very proud of that.
As we begin these hearings, we as senators, take seriously our constitutional duty to ‘advise’ the president on his appointment of a new Supreme Court justice.
In the current term alone, the Supreme Court is addressing cases on issues that are foundational to who we are as a country. Let me just give you three examples:
- The court is considering a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body and make her own health care decisions.
- It is considering the legal authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to fight climate change.
- And it is considering whether states have the power to enact commonsense gun-safety protections.
As a former mayor, I saw how these problems affect every day people on every day streets throughout my city and then subsequently the state of California.
This is not your first time at this. In fact, it’s your fourth time in front of this committee. The full Senate has already confirmed you – on a bipartisan basis – three times: to serve as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010, as a federal district court judge in 2013 and as a federal appellate judge in 2021. And you have done us proud.
Each of the three times the Senate has considered your record, your experience and your abilities, senators on both sides of the aisle have determined you have the qualifications and the temperament it takes to uphold the values of our judicial branch.
As I see it, those values are: knowledge, evenhandedness, impartiality, integrity, respect for the rule of law and fundamental fairness to all. And your record actually shows that you exemplify these values.
The Supreme Court is not a political institution. Rather, the court stands above politics and above partisanship. We look to federal judges to be independent and unbiased.
Judge Jackson, in reviewing your record, one thing in particular stands out to me and that’s your commitment to uphold justice under the law. That is one of the ultimate responsibilities of the Supreme Court and your record suggests to me that you understand the weight of that responsibility.
You’ve had several mentors early in your career who I understand were important in instilling these values in you as a young lawyer. One of those mentors was Justice Stephen Breyer, whom you served as a law clerk and to whose seat on the Supreme Court you have now been nominated. What a treat for you to see that happen and I know for him as well.
Justice Breyer has been a thoughtful and evenhanded judge throughout his career – so you have learned from the best. And you have brought those lessons and that dedication to equal justice with you throughout your career in the law.
You have strong credentials. You’re a graduate of both Harvard University and Harvard Law School, a former Supreme Court clerk and you have served as a federal judge for nine years, most recently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
These are impressive credentials, and they are also familiar to those of us who have reviewed numerous nominees to the court. But you also bring experiences that are less common, especially at the Supreme Court.
The first is your service as a federal public defender earlier in your career. If you are confirmed, you would be the first-ever federal public defender to sit on the court and the first justice since Thurgood Marshall with significant experience representing low-income defendants in criminal cases.
I believe this is very significant and important. Because as a former public defender, you understand the power of our constitutional rights, including the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the Fifth Amendment right to due process.
You also understand the effect of [the] law and the law enforcement system on the most vulnerable.
And, I believe your eight years of expertise as a trial judge on the D.C. District Court is very valuable. If confirmed, you would be one of only two former federal district court judges serving on the court – the other being Justice Sotomayor.
I believe your perspective as a former trial judge will serve you well on the court. You have been responsible for implementing the precedent set by higher courts. And because of that, you understand the need for clarity in legal opinions [and] for achieving consensus wherever consensus is possible. And that has been your record.
It is important to have justices with a broad set of views and experiences on the Supreme Court. I believe your background and experience will only serve to strengthen the Supreme Court.
I trust that my colleagues on this committee will recognize that you are unquestionably qualified for this position.
I wish you well and I look forward to learning more about you over the course of the coming days.”