Former Washington AG: ‘A bit of kabuki theater’ highlights Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Mar 24, 2022, 3:59 PM | Updated: Mar 25, 2022, 6:16 am
Supreme Court...
Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens as she is asked a question from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has officially wrapped up her fourth and final day of taking questions from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee over her appointment to the Supreme Court.

Throughout that process, Republicans focused on her past rulings in child pornography cases, citing concerns that former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna says were largely overblown.

One case in particular that Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Tom Cotton honed in on involved then-18-year-old Wesley Hawkins, who Jackson sentenced to three months in prison in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to downloading and distributing child pornography depicting boys under the age of 13. Although that sentence was well short of the 24-month sentence recommended by prosecutors, McKenna notes that, ultimately, judges have the ability to exercise discretion based on the facts of the case and assigned sentencing guidelines.

Former Washington AG: Supreme Court is losing one of its last moderate justices

“It apparently is because Hawkins was young and was not engaged with child pornography for the length of time that many defendants are,” he told KIRO Newsradio’s Dave Ross. “We can all choose to disagree with her if we want, but it’s why we have judges who exercise their judgment.”

As McKenna further pointed out, concerns brought up by some in the Senate were also likely fueled by other outside factors.

“What’s happening here is you’ve got three future Republican candidates for president in Senators Hawley, Cruz, and Cotton, who are trying to make their points, and really zeroing in on the child porn cases, the soft on crime argument, which is what Republicans have successfully done versus Democrats for quite a while,” he described.

“Politically, we’re seeing a bit of kabuki theater here,” he added.

Overall, McKenna notes that Jackson’s judicial approach is actually relatively restrained in terms of her view on interpreting existing court precedents.

“She does have a somewhat conservative approach to her role as a judge, which is to, as Chief Justice Roberts famously said, ‘call balls and strikes,’ to interpret and apply the law as she finds it, not as she wishes it to be, and to rule without fear or favor,” he said.

Listen to Rob McKenna’s full discussion with Dave Ross: 

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Former Washington AG: ‘A bit of kabuki theater’ highlights Supreme Court confirmation hearings