Sacramento Bee: ‘Audacity to be first’: California senators push for Judge Jackson to make Supreme Court history

By Gillian Brassil

California Sens. Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein have relied on different approaches to show their support of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court.

While Padilla focused on the qualifications which brought Jackson to this point, Feinstein looked toward what Jackson hopes to be as a Supreme Court justice.

If confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, Jackson would be the first Black woman, federal public defender and Floridian to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court — which Padilla and Feinstein both highlighted.

Over the course of about 23 hours of questioning Tuesday and Wednesday, Jackson faced tense questions from Republicans about her sentences in cases related to child pornography, legal representation of Guantánamo Bay detainees and philosophies on abortion, religion and critical race theory.

Democrats largely focused on her background — from her family’s upbringing and public-school education in Miami to her extensive career which includes being a Supreme Court clerk, federal public defender and federal judge, among other roles.

On Thursday, the final day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, senators questioned witnesses who were for and against Jackson’s confirmation; Jackson was not present. Feinstein and Padilla members of the 22-person committee.

The panel will start discussing Jackson’s confirmation hearings on Monday with a vote on recommending her to the full U.S. Senate likely sometime in the following week. Regardless of the outcome of that vote, the full Senate is expected to vote on her confirmation before leaving for its Easter break April 8.


In the first day of questioning on Tuesday, Padilla and Feinstein focused on laws related to abortion, tribal entities and voting rights.

On Wednesday, Feinstein, California’s first female U.S. senator, asked about some of the cases which have stuck with Jackson over her career. Toward the end of Jackson’s answer, Feinstein asked her to “stop for a minute.”

Then Feinstein, who was the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2017 until she stepped down in 2021, said that she wanted to get to the heart of what Jackson would be like as a Supreme Court justice.

“What I am trying to fathom out from the hearing is what kind of judge will she be? How will we look at her in five or six years?” Feinstein queried, adding that she had been waiting for this answer for about 15 hours.

In response, Jackson said that she “would hope to be the kind of judge that I have been during this past decade.”

“I think I’ve been the kind of judge who lives up to the oath in terms of being fair and impartial, ruling without fear or favor and ruling consistent with Article III,” Jackson concluded, referring to the article of the Constitution that sets out the judicial branch.


After highlighting Jackson’s extensive resume in a series of questions in his second round of questions, Padilla said: “People of color, especially those who have the audacity to be the first, often have to work twice as hard to get half the respect.”

Padilla, who studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talked about a childhood experience in which he was discouraged from applying to his alma mater because his teachers “didn’t want [him] to be disappointed.” California’s first Latino U.S. senator described this while discussing a trip he took to a school in South San Francisco last week where he talked about Jackson’s historic nomination.

He opened the floor for Jackson to address children who might also feel discouraged in the pursuit of similar achievements.

Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court said that “was very moving” and wiped away tears as she raised her own anecdote.

Jackson detailed an experience as a college freshman when she was feeling homesick and walking on Harvard’s campus. A Black woman approached her, Jackson said, and told her, “persevere.”

“I would tell them to persevere,” she said.


Padilla asked the final question of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Thursday, posing it to Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who came in support of Jackson’s nomination.

“For those who are concerned about the politicization of Supreme Court — towards one end of the spectrum or the other — what would it say to the country if even someone with Judge Jackson’s background, experiences and qualifications cannot earn bipartisan support from the Senate?” he asked.

“I think it would be a sad day in America,” said Beatty, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

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