Facing questions during her confirmation hearing before the US Senate on March 22, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson caught what might be the strangest type of criticism I’ve seen in the one of those circuses.
“Do you support, then, the idea that the indefinite detention of an enemy combatant is illegal? asked U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), referring to Jackson’s portrayal of detainees held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During this performance, Jackson signed an amicus brief arguing – correctly – that the detainees had the right to challenge their indefinite detention without trial.
Before storming out of the audience like one of the Animal House kids – “you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you bashing the United States of America – Graham informed Jackson that according to the brief, the government “should release these people or try them and some of them, the evidence we cannot release because it is classified.”
US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) did not have to go as far as the amicus brief in question to issue an objection. His problem was that Jackson was representing those particular clients. After doing so as a public defender, he noted, she “volunteered to continue that representation in private practice, which I think is interesting and frankly, from my point of view. view, a little worrying”.
As lawyers themselves, it’s reasonable to expect Graham and Hawley to understand what lawyers do: represent clients. But apparently not.
As senators, one might also expect them to remember their oath to “uphold the Constitution of the United States.” No dice there either, regarding the Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury…to be informed of the nature and cause of the prosecution; to be confronted with prosecution witnesses; to have a compulsory procedure to obtain witnesses on his behalf, and to have the assistance of a lawyer for his defence. »
When Gitmo detainees received “trials,” those “trials” were not quick, public, or before an impartial jury (“trials” are secret cases conducted by military tribunals).
Graham strongly opposes this last element, “the assistance of a lawyer”: “When they say, ‘I want my lawyer’, you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t have a lawyer. Hawley seems to agree.
Their problem with Jackson is that she did her job – and beyond her job, she supports the Constitution while they oppose it.
This position should disqualify them from holding their Senate seats, not it from taking the SCOTUS bench.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.