Today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) spoke on the Senate floor to oppose Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
A video the remarks may be found here. Text of the remarks is below.
The Senate will soon vote on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I will vote against her nomination. Judge Jackson may be a fine woman, but she is a dangerous judge. She built her career as a far-left activist—and it didn’t change when she put on a robe ten years ago. She personifies activism from the bench, she has crusaded to undermine criminal sentences, and she cannot be trusted to interpret the law or the Constitution as written.
Judge Jackson’s record makes clear that her brief stint as a criminal-defense attorney wasn’t motivated merely by a devotion to equal representation for all. It was part of a deep commitment to leniency towards criminals. Indeed, she has continued to act as a de facto lawyer for criminals from behind the bench as she did when she was in front of it. Judge Jackson’s average sentences for criminals are 34 percent lighter than the national average for criminal cases, and 25 percent lighter than her own court’s average, the D.C. District Court.
Disturbingly, some of the most sensational examples of her soft-on-crime attitude are cases involving child pornographers. She has given more lenient sentences than recommended by the sentencing guidelines in every single child pornography case where the law allowed it. Every single one. Every time. Individuals sentenced by Judge Jackson for child pornography possession receive, on average, 57 percent lighter sentences compared to the national average. For child pornography distribution, the sentence is 47 percent lighter than the national average.
These aren’t just numbers—these are predators. And they go on to commit more of the most heinous crimes imaginable, because Judge Jackson lets them off so easy.
In one such case, Judge Jackson gave child pornographer Wesley Hawkins just three months, three months in prison, when the sentencing guidelines recommended 8-10 years. Three months versus a recommended 8-10 years. Judge Jackson even gave him a sentence one-sixth as long as what her own probation office recommended.
And a few years later—when Hawkins should have still been in prison for his original offense—he did something else that got him six more months in custody. That’s twice as long as his original sentence. When all eleven Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter asking for the details of what happened to justify this new sentence, Judge Jackson refused to provide any further information. So much, I guess, for looking at her record as she urged us to do.
Her leniency isn’t limited to child pornographers, either. In 2017, Judge Jackson apologized, she apologized, to a fentanyl kingpin—his own words, “kingpin”—because she couldn’t find a way to sidestep the law to give him less than the mandatory minimum sentence. She was very sorry that she had to give him such a long sentence. But I guess where there’s a will, there’s a way. A few years ago, she found a way to resentence this self-described kingpin below the mandatory minimum sentence. Through completely made up reinterpretation, Judge Jackson made the First Step Act retroactive for this fentanyl kingpin—something Congress had explicitly sought to avoid when it passed the law. This was judicial activism, plain and simple.
In her testimony, Judge Jackson claimed that there were no victims in that case. She’s wrong. Fentanyl trafficking is not a victimless crime, and anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.
In another case, Judge Jackson granted compassionate release to a man who brutally murdered a Deputy U.S. Marshal on the steps of a church at a funeral. While in prison, this cop-killer threatened prison staff and was caught in possession of a dangerous weapon—not exactly a model inmate. He was repeatedly denied parole. Yet, Judge Jackson granted him compassionate release—because he had high blood pressure.
In yet another case, a career criminal assaulted a Deputy U.S. Marshal with a deadly weapon while resisting arrest. This was the third time that this criminal had assaulted law enforcement officers—the very officers who risk their lives to keep judges like Judge Jackson safe. Judge Jackson didn’t just sentence him below the government’s request or the sentencing guideline range—she gave the criminal less time than even the criminal himself had advocated. You can’t make this stuff up.
In 2013, a sex offender who had repeatedly raped his 13-year-old niece was arrested for falsifying sex-offender registration records to avoid telling the government where he was living, and that he was working at a daycare. The government sought a two-year prison sentence—but Judge Jackson gave him just one year instead. And during that second year, when he would have been in prison, he tried to rape again, and then bribed the victim with $2,500 to recant her testimony. This dangerous sex offender was convicted of obstructing justice, yet when presented with a do-over, Judge Jackson sentenced him to just 24 months in prison for those violations. Now, I wish I could say that was to her credit, because to be fair, 24 months was the sentence recommended by the government. But she ensured in her order that this sentence would run concurrently with his sentence in local D.C. jail so that he’d only end up serving one year instead of two.
Judge Jackson habitually sympathizes with criminals over victims. These are just a few of the many outrageous cases in Judge Jackson’s record. The takeaway is crystal clear: If you are a criminal, you would be lucky if your case is assigned to Judge Jackson. If you are the victim, or anyone else seeking justice, you should hope that your case is assigned to literally any other judge. As a trial judge, though, Judge Jackson could only help one criminal at a time. As a Supreme Court justice, she would be able to benefit criminals nationwide, in all cases.
Judge Jackson’s far-left activism extends beyond crime as well. Not only did she engage in what the Sixth Circuit called an “end run around Congress” to retroactively reduce the sentence of that fentanyl kingpin I mentioned earlier, she also worked hard to strike down a Trump administration order expediting the removal of illegal aliens on equally specious legal grounds.
The law passed by Congress granted the Department of Homeland Security “sole and unreviewable” discretion to decide which illegal aliens should be subject to expedited removal. Nonetheless, Judge Jackson inserted herself to strike down what she called “a terrible policy” by the Department of Homeland Security. Well, I regret to inform Judge Jackson it is not her role in our system to decide whether immigration policy is good, bad, “terrible,” or any other adjective she wants to use—only whether it is lawful and authorized by law. And of course, the D.C. Circuit Court, which is not exactly a hotbed of conservative jurists, agreed and reversed Judge Jackson’s decision, noting that there “could hardly be a more definitive expression of congressional intent” than the language in that law that she disregarded. But Judge Jackson didn’t care—she had an anti-Trump op-ed that she wanted to write in the form of a judicial opinion.
Judge Jackson has also shown a real interest in helping terrorists. Now, it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a lawyer for being willing to take on an unpopular case. But you can certainly learn something about a lawyer from the cases they seek out. And for Judge Jackson, and her friends in the liberal legal profession, these cases were not unpopular at all.
Judge Jackson represented four terrorists as a public defender—one of whom she continued to represent in private practice voluntarily—and she voluntarily filed multiple “friend of the court” briefs on behalf of terrorists while in private practice.
To make matters worse, she apparently didn’t even bother, when representing these terrorists, she didn’t bother to establish a reasonable belief that what she filed with the court was factually true. Three of her four case filings were identical—word-for-word, comma-for-comma. She alleged identical facts and legal arguments in each case. The only differences between the briefs were the names and case numbers. In every one of those cases, she claimed the terrorist had never had any affiliation with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. And in every one of those cases, she accused the Bush administration and the American soldiers of war crimes.
And who were these supposed innocent victims of Americans war crimes, who according to Judge Jackson had nothing to do with terrorism? No siree, nothing at all. Well, one of her clients designed the prototype shoe bomb that was used in an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a passenger airplane. Another planned and executed a rocket attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. And a third was arrested in a raid on an al-Qaeda explosives training camp. Yet in every case, she claimed that none of them had anything to do with terrorism. Not a thing. Totally innocent, just goat herders who were picked up by marauding American troops.
You know the last Justice Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the case against the Nazis. This Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend them.
Judge Jackson also refused to answer one common-sense question after another. For example, when Senator Blackburn asked her what a “woman” is, she pretended not to know.
I asked her who has more of a right to be in the United States: new citizens who followed the rules or illegal aliens whose very first act in the United States was to break our laws. Judge Jackson refused to answer.
And when I asked several questions of Judge Jackson whether releasing Guantanamo Bay terrorists would make us more safe or less safe, she again pretended not to know the answer, even though it’s published by the Biden administration.
I also asked Judge Jackson if criminals were more or less likely to commit a crime if they knew that they would be caught, convicted, and sentenced. I asked this pretty basic question at least three times. It was not a hard question, and yet again she refused to answer it.
Judge Jackson refused to say whether packing the Supreme Court would be a bad idea, even though the Judge for whom she clerked and seeks to replace Justice Breyer and the late, sainted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—neither of whom are known for their conservative views—were both willing to publicly denounce such court-packing schemes by the Democrats.
Judge Jackson may feign ignorance, not because she doesn’t know these answers, but because liberal judicial philosophy is all too often based on denying reality. As a judge, Judge Jackson has denied reality again and again.
Judge Jackson will coddle criminals and terrorists, and she will twist or ignore the law to reach the result that she wants. That’s not what we need in a Supreme Court justice, and that’s why I will be voting against her confirmation.