On the Issues with Michele Goodwin

56. Road to Confirmation: Judge Jackson’s Walk Through Fire (with Syovata Edari, Steve Vladeck, Dean Danielle Holley-Walker and Zinelle October)


March 30, 2022

With Guests:

Syovata Edari is a criminal defense attorney, former state and federal public defender, and international award-winning chocolatier. Ms. Edari is recognized as a leading voice and advocate in the U.S. criminal justice system, both in the public and private sectors.

Danielle Holley-Walker is the dean and a professor of law of Howard Law School, and a former clerk for Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart on the 5th Circuit. Her research focuses on the governance of public schools, and diversity in the legal profession.

Zinelle October is the executive vice president of the American Constitution Society, the country’s foremost progressive legal organization.

Steve Vladeck is a nationally recognized expert on the federal courts, constitutional law, national security law and military justice and the Charles Alan Wright chair in federal courts at the University of Texas School of Law. Vladeck has argued multiple cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. He is also the co-host of the award-winning National Security Law Podcast.

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In this Episode:

In this episode, “On the Issues” continues its Road to Confirmation series, unpacking Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including her seeming walk through fire. We examine the hearings, including Judge Jackson’s judicial temperament, judicial and legal experience, as well as conduct of the Senate Judiciary Committee. How did a process meant to be rigorous, but respectful and fair turn into days of badgering, bullying, and a litmus test on religion? We also probe what happens next.

Have a topic you’d like us to delve into, a guest recommendationor just want to say hi? Drop us a line at ontheissues@msmagazine.com.

Background Reading:


00:00:05.6 Michele Goodwin:

Welcome to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine. We are a show that reports, rebels, and you know we tell it just like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. So, join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times. On our show, history matters. We examine the past as we think about the future. 

Now, on today’s show, we’re continuing our Road to Confirmation series, following the nomination and confirmation process of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She’s President Joe Biden’s nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the United States Supreme Court. “On the Issues” is taking you through each step of the confirmation process as it happens in real time, with commentary and analysis from some of the national’s leading experts.

We tuned into Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings, which notably marked the fourth time she has appeared before the United States Senate. Over the course of four arduous days, we watched as Judge Jackson brilliantly weathered nonstop questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yes, we all expected a robust process. What many observed, however, was the public derailment of what should’ve been a rigorous, but respectful, process.

Instead, Judge Jackson walked through fire. Simply put, the confirmation hearings were for the pioneering work of Judge Jackson, while also a shameful display by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They were inspirational and yet a chilling setback, reminiscent of an angry past in the United States where any advance by Black Americans’ progress was met by stereotyping, spurious attack, insecurity and backlash.

And so, to unpack much of it, in this episode, we’re bringing you a three-part show on the confirmation hearings, and I start with my guest Syovata Edari. She’s a criminal defense attorney, former federal defender, and also an internationally award winning chocolatier. Syovata Edari has been recognized as a leading voice and advocate in the United States for criminal justice, both in the public and private sectors.

Vata, thank you so much for joining us on the show and lending your expertise. So, tell us about what the public may have missed, given the way in which the Senate Judiciary Committee framed Judge Jackson’s prior work as a federal public defender, and why, exactly, does it matter that she has given this type of public service to our nation?

00:03:03.8 Syovata Edari:

Of course, and I’ve been following this in between chocolate production, and I’m just appalled that she’d even be, you know, questioned about her job. You know, I think there’s a lot of confusion with especially the general public of, you know, what will you do…and I’ve had people ask me, you know, for the past 20 years, how can you defend somebody that you know is guilty?

And so, you know, I think what’s important for people to understand, is that we don’t defend crime, you know? Nobody thinks that, like, you know, murdering people is good or downloading child pornography or child pornography production is good. You know, we’re not defending crimes. We’re defending the rights and liberties guaranteed under the Constitution, and you know, it’s our battles as criminal defense lawyers for our clients that strengthen the rights for everybody, even these people that are attacking Justice Jackson.

So, to watch this and to think about all of the Republicans who have needed good defense attorneys, it’s just, it’s a circus. You know, in my opinion, I think what we do as criminal defense attorneys is probably the most noble path for a lawyer. You know, there’s not a lot of people that want to do it. You know, not a lot of people want to do this work.

And there’s a crisis in this country in the public defender system right now because they can’t find, you know, qualified attorneys to take on especially these high-stakes cases, which tend to have, you know, some pretty gruesome facts, but this is what we do, and when you’re in a public defender office, you don’t get to pick and choose your cases, you know? So, I recall, when I was a new lawyer, when I was brand new, I worked in the appellate division of a public defender’s office.

That’s where I started, and I shadowed an attorney…you know, I had to shadow attorneys for a little bit before they allowed me to take cases, and I remember the first time I sat down with a client, with another attorney’s client, and it was a horrific child sexual assault case, and when I came back to my office, I just sat and cried, and another senior lawyer came to my office, and you know, we talked through it, and she said, you know, if you can’t defend that person, then you’re in the wrong industry, you know?

Your fight for that person is what makes all of our rights strong, and you know, she’s absolutely right. People have to understand this, and I’ll tell you, for all these people that think, you know, that we’re putting criminals on the street and blah, blah, blah. Everybody has a constitutional right. The rights guaranteed under the Constitution to protect their liberties and due process. We’re all entitled to due process when we’re charged with crimes, and I mean, it’s such a basic thing. I can’t believe anybody would be questioned about that.

So, I’ll tell you another quick story. One time, when I did my first couple years in the trial division of the Milwaukee Public Defender Office, I was sitting in Preliminary Hearing Court next to a police officer, and I was on this winning streak. I was winning all these motions to suppress, and it was, in part, due to a group of rogue cops who have since been indicted in federal court, and an officer looked at me, and he said, how do you feel about yourself?

And I said, what do you mean? He said, how do you felt about yourself letting all these criminals back on the street? And I just said…I thought about it. I’m like, the nerve. I said, how do you feel about yourself? And he said, what do you mean? I said, well, if you did your job the way you’re supposed to, you know, they’d be held accountable, you know?

So, people don’t understand the basics of what, you know, the Fourth Amendment is, and it’s my fight for my guilty, drug-dealing client that strengthens the rights of your neighbor, your innocent neighbor next door, from, you know, preventing them from getting their door kicked in in the middle of the night by the police, right, on accident.

00:07:04.6 Michele Goodwin:

Well, on that point, right, so, as a federal public defender, you did the exact same job within category as Judge Jackson did before she became a judge. What’s the importance of that role, because you’d think that, based on what we heard from some of the senators…and you are addressing this. That that’s a loathsome job to have. They criticized her, it seemed, for the briefs that she wrote, including her representation of individuals who were at Guantanamo, and I’d love to hear your perspective on that.

And it also seems to be that what comes across nationally is this perception that people who need criminal defense attorneys are Black and brown and that these are the people who are overflowing in our jails, and there seems to be this kind of frustration and underlying implicit and explicit types of biases associated with that, but I think that your experience in Kansas and the state of Washington might paint a different picture.

00:08:15.4 Syovata Edari:

Right. So, when I worked in…I worked in Wichita, Kansas in the Federal Defender Office for the District of Kansas, and most of my clients were white, and you know, there’s a lot of child pornography, a lot of fraud, and there’s also some hate crimes, I’ve represented white supremacists. You know, I was actually asked about whether I would have represented Kyle Rittenhouse, and I said yes, I would have, you know? I mean…

00:08:53.2 Michele Goodwin:

And let’s just…for the audience who’s not able to see, you are a Black woman who grew up in a multiracial household, which included an Iranian stepfather, this kind of influences the chocolate you make with just such beautiful ingredients, but you’re saying that, as a Black woman who considers herself to be engaged socially and culturally on issues that uplift America, that you would have, and that you did, represent white supremacists. Not that you would have, but you did. Why, some might say?

00:09:28.0 Syovata Edari:

I did. I did. You know, you can’t say that one person is entitled to the Constitutional rights and somebody else is not, and is this what they’re suggesting? That not everybody in this country is entitled to the rights guaranteed under the Constitution? You know, why don’t we turn the question back on them, right? So, you know, we don’t pick and choose what we take all the time, and you know, some people can. When you’re in a public defender office, you generally can’t.

00:10:01.9 Michele Goodwin:

And so, this is also a point for you and then also Judge Jackson, that you really couldn’t pick and choose your clients, so that when you were working in the west in communities where there were white militias and white supremacist groups, you, as a Black woman, were called to represent them, and you couldn’t represent them non-zealously. Is that right?

00:10:23.2 Syovata Edari:

Exactly. That’s absolutely right, but even in private practice, I…

00:10:25.4 Michele Goodwin:

You have to give zealous representation to white supremacists?

00:10:29.6 Syovata Edari:

Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, this is…we take an oath, and if you don’t take that oath seriously, you shouldn’t be doing this work.

00:10:38.8 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and if you don’t take that oath seriously, you can be disbarred.

00:10:42.9 Syovata Edari:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

00:10:45.1 Michele Goodwin:

So, there are actually requirements which actually didn’t come out in the Congressional…in the confirmation hearings, right? So, it didn’t come out that you don’t really get to pick and choose. We heard a little bit about that, but that you are saddled with what you get, and actually, the requirements of the bar itself is that you must do a zealous job and zealous advocacy. Otherwise, you may not be able to practice law, not just for that particular cohort of people, which, it actually affects anybody else that you would want to represent.

00:11:16.1 Syovata Edari:

That’s right. That’s right. You do a good job for everybody, you know, without bringing in whatever bias you might have, you know, and that’s something that…you know what I love about watching Justice Jackson is just how unbothered she looks, you know, not kind of the others…

00:11:33.4 Michele Goodwin:

I love that you called her Justice Jackson. You’re, like, already predicting that this is about to happen. I love it.

00:11:38.1 Syovata Edari:

Absolutely. She’s…yeah, so, I think, you know, I just love watching her, and I see how…you know, it’s painful to watch, but at the same time, I know…you know, I’ve been there, and the other theme of this is not just, you know, about what we’re talking about with criminal defense work, but it’s also this story of Black women lawyers, you know? There are not a lot of Black women public defenders. There’s not a lot of us in this work, and I wish…I hope that that changes, but the attacks that she’s getting…I mean, when, like, you know, the majority of people doing this work are white men. Would they be questioned in the same way?

00:12:24.5 Michele Goodwin:

Probably not, right? It might be perceived that they were actually doing something noble and that they could’ve been working elsewhere, but they chose the calling of the constitution and the calling of the Supreme Court and state supreme courts to do this very important work.

00:12:41.6 Syovata Edari:

That’s right. Absolutely. So, that’s the very sad, you know, real theme here, is, you know, the bias involved in this line of questioning.

00:12:53.5 Michele Goodwin:

So, something else that I want to turn to before I let you go. I know you’ve got many people to satisfy and get both…because, right now, you’re actually handling a very big case, and at the same time, doing a significant rush to get your chocolates out because people order them from all over the world, and that is there was a lot of questioning about the pornography.

Now, clearly, they were selecting and cherry picking of a very broad record of more than 500 cases in which she has served as a judge. There was a very narrow set of them that some senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee were kind of picking apart, and those involved sentencing with regarding to individuals who possessed child pornography. Now, one thing that the senators didn’t seem to come to ask themselves was that they get to actually set some standards in terms of mandatory sentencing.

And it’s not something that they’ve done. So, they were putting a lot of pressure on her in relation to things that they could actually do, but these are areas that call for great concentrated engagement and understanding of some complexities, and I’m wondering if you might be able to give us some sense of what those complexities may be, when you are, as a defender, representing someone who’s in possession of child pornography and what…

Maybe if you can give us any intuitions about what a judge must weigh. And let me add one piece to that. It strikes me that one of the things come out in the hearing is the fact that so many young people are in possession of what would otherwise be called child pornographic images, and we’re talking about kids who are 11, 12, 13, 14, years old who are sharing this amongst themselves, and so how do we unpack this in a way that’s I guess more nuanced than what we got from the hearings?

00:15:09.6 Syovata Edari:

So, the federal sentencing guidelines, which used to be mandatory, they no longer are mandatory, are quite irrational, and you know, they’ve been challenged successfully, and most of the challenges come on a case-by-case basis. So, there’s something called a variance. There are various ways to get below the guidelines. A variance is…you know, you can ask for a variance when the circumstances in your case…say if you have somebody that’s got, like, severe porn addiction, you know?

We tell the stories. What we do is we tell stories about our clients, about how they got to a certain place. We also examine the evidence in light of, you know, the…the guidelines for the child pornography statutes are driven by the amount of images, and they really don’t make a lot of sense. You know, like, a video…and I haven’t done one in years, but I mean, you know, when I first started doing this work and saw that a video of child porn is worth this many points versus…

You know, it’s just not rational, and the problem with when you have irrational laws is it really puts us all at risk. You have to have some sort of a basis to…I’m talking about taking a human being’s liberties away and putting them in a cage. It should really be a very careful and carefully-thought-out process, and I’m sure that these folks questioning her about this, if they had their own children in possession of child porn, would want a lawyer like she was at one point or a lawyer like me. You know, you want somebody that’s going to fight zealously for your loved one’s rights and liberties.

So, the guidelines are extremely irrational. It’s one of the most frustrating things about the practice. I mean, they didn’t make any sense, and they still don’t, and that’s a lot of our fight in federal court, is fighting those guidelines and trying to take our clients outside of kind of that tunnel vision that these guidelines present and really show the whole picture of this human being, because, ultimately, folks going to prison are coming back out into the society, and it’s in everybody’s best interest, you know, if somebody moves in next door to you, that that person get some kind of help.

00:17:28.1 Michele Goodwin:

So, it seems that that was something that she was…

00:17:29.4 Syovata Edari:

Now, I want to mention one thing, also.

00:17:31.2 Michele Goodwin:


00:17:32.1 Syovata Edari:

That the demographic of the sentence facing child pornography, you know, under indictment for child pornography has changed. When I started practicing about 20 years ago, it was typically, like, older, middle-aged white men, and it’s getting younger and younger and more diverse, which, to me, is a testament of how prolific pornography is and how easy it is to get to this stuff, and so we all need to be concerned about this.

And I’m sure if somebody’s kid was found with, you know, a whole bunch of child pornography on their computer, that might trigger even a mandatory minimum. You know, they’d all be very concerned about that. So, when it hits home, that’s when people get concerned. So, this is not something that’s isolated to certain people. This affects anybody. I mean, it’s so easy for people to get access to this stuff in this day and age.

00:18:23.0 Michele Goodwin:

It’s actually something that middle school teachers have been articulating some serious concern about for the last decade, because middle schoolers get their hands on this, and as you’re a criminal defense lawyer, you know well and maybe could just tell us really quickly about the fact that there are some kids who are charged as adults. So, this is not…when we’re talking about this space, it’s one in which children don’t necessarily get a pass. So, when they’re saying, no, there should be 50 years for…which is what Senator Lindsay Graham said. You know, 50 years, toss the book, never get out, but if you’re talking about a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old, what do you do?

00:19:11.8 Syovata Edari:

That’s right, and let’s talk about, why is this happening? You know, why is it so easily accessible? And you know, talking about addiction, because people that are in that world, they’re addicted to it. It’s a very addictive material. So, you know, it’s an illness when you have an addiction and to not treat it like that. To not want people to be rehabilitated is not what our criminal justice system is supposed to be about. We’re supposed to…

00:19:43.0 Michele Goodwin:

And at the same…right, and at the same time, you’re not saying that it doesn’t matter what happens to sexual assault survivors and people whose images are circulated around, because that, too, is something that is damaging and pernicious and absolutely awful, but it did strike me, and I’m glad that, you know, you agreed to be with me today to just help us understand a bit more about what it means to be a criminal defense attorney, what it means to work in public defense as a state or federal public defender, and frankly, what it means for you, as a Black woman, to work as a federal defender and having to represent white supremacists. Now, one of the things, the white supremacists that you represented, was that based on their hate crimes in white supremacy, or was that based on other things?

00:20:34.0 Syovata Edari:

The cases that I had were other, you know, status offenses, like a felon in possession. So, I’ve not had a case where somebody actually committed a hate crime, what could be considered a hate crime, but in Kansas, I had…and in Washington, a number of people that were members of the Aryan Brotherhood who…you know, I remember going to see a client at the jail when I was assigned his case in Kansas, and he had, you know, swastikas tattooed all over his face and all over his arms.

And I go to see him at the jail, and he kind of looked starstruck or was kind of, you know, a little bit shocked. He says, are you my lawyer? I said, yes, and he was just apologizing. He’s like, oh, you know what? I have to tell you, all my girlfriends have been Black and Mexican, and I said, I’m your lawyer. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to defend you, and so, you know, it’s an interesting thing. But you know, I take that oath very seriously because I understand, you know, the bigger picture, and you know, I see…

I kind of see defense attorneys as the ultimate police of the system. We’re the ones that make sure that the system is working the way that it should. You know, our battles from each client to client make sure that…and our challenges make sure that the system stays true to what it’s supposed to be about for everybody. So, it’s a noble thing. I recently team taught a trial ed class in Milwaukee, and I asked the students to raise their hands if…I asked, who’s interested in being a public defender?

Nobody raised their hand. Who’s interested in being a prosecutor? Half the class raised their hand, and I…it just made me kind of sad. I thought, well, you know, we need more…we need to revive the interest in doing this side of the work, I think it’s extremely noble. The people that are attacking, you know, Justice Jackson for her career path themselves, I’m sure, have needed defense attorneys at some point for their children…

00:23:07.5 Michele Goodwin:

Some of them.

00:23:07.9 Syovata Edari:

Or maybe even themselves.

00:23:08.6 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Well, some of them were at the January 6 insurrection.

00:23:12.4 Syovata Edari:

Thank you. Exactly. Exactly. So, it’s just like…

00:23:16.0 Michele Goodwin:

At least one.

00:23:16.7 Syovata Edari:

I’d be shocked if they actually believe what they’re saying, and I think they’re just, you know…it’s really just kind of to break her and harass her, but it’s not going to work, because when you’re a Black woman criminal defense lawyer, you have a very thick skin. Very thick skin. There’s not much that can bother us, you know? So, I’m just really enjoying watching her just stay just unbothered, you know, and answering the questions calm and collected, and you know, it’s unfortunate she has to go through this circus, this weird exercise, but you know, I think she’s handling herself very well.

00:24:03.7 Michele Goodwin:

So, we wanted to dig deeper into what we learned from the confirmation hearings of Judge Jackson for the United States Supreme Court, and I turn to our repeat special guest, Professor Stephen Vladeck. He’s a nationally recognized expert on federal courts, constitutional law, national security, and military justice. For many reasons, he fit the bill to just come back on the show and help to level set. He’s the Charles Alan Wright Chair in federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law, and he’s argued multiple cases before the United States Supreme Court. So, right off the bat, I asked him what was his take on the confirmation hearings?

00:24:45.6 Stephen Vladeck:

Oh, man. I guess, Michele, it was really a tale of two hearings. It was, you know, the hearing that the Democrats tried to have about Judge Jackson’s record, and it was the hearing that the Republicans wanted to know about, you know, perceived grievances left over from the confirmations of Justice Brett Kavanagh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and I think that’s what we’ve seen, some pretty frustrating misrepresentations.

Not just of Judge Jackson’s record, but of things that happened in the past. I mean, just to take one example, the whole…you know, she called Bush and Rumsfeld, you know, war criminals talking point, and it seemed pretty clear that the, you know, Republican senators didn’t really much care about the confirmation hearing. They cared about the sound bites and getting on the new for their sound bites…

00:25:37.3 Michele Goodwin:

Even Senator Sasse seemed to imply that. More than imply, right?

00:25:43.8 Stephen Vladeck:

Yeah. Basically said it, and I think the Democrats…you know, frankly, from where I was sitting, I think didn’t do a good enough job of punching back, and of, you know, excoriating their colleagues for behaving like bullies and for, you know, behaving in the very ways that they both said they wouldn’t and criticized the Democrats for behaving in prior hearings. So, I don’t really think, at the end of the day, Michele, anyone covered themselves in glory, with the I think rather significant exception of the nominee.

00:26:11.4 Michele Goodwin:

Right. She was really quite exceptional. She really was.

00:26:14.7 Stephen Vladeck:

I just…I can’t imagine sitting through that. You know, I’ve…I’ve sat through Senate Judiciary Committee hearings where the members are all yelling at each other and where they weren’t directing their ire at me. Those are intense enough, but I just…you know, I don’t think that anyone’s going to look at what happened this week as a positive lesson about the state of our Supreme Court confirmation process, but I also I think, you know, more importantly, for short-term purposes, I suspect it isn’t going to affect the bottom line. I mean, I think the odds are still very, very good that, you know, within the next couple of weeks, Judge Jackson will be confirmed as the 116th justice.

00:26:53.7 Michele Goodwin:

Of the Supreme Court. So, what’s your sense? Is there a…was part of this effort to leave a lingering scar against Judge Jackson, soon-to-be Justice Jackson, or was it the kind of presidential hopefuls, the Ted Cruz running for office, and this gives some sound bites that secure a base for running for the presidency? It’s been rumored that Hawley is also thinking about presidential run. So, with some of this kind of burned earth type of action about that, what else should we be concerned about that was subtext, even beyond Judge Jackson?

00:27:39.5 Stephen Vladeck:

Yeah, I mean, Michele, I think that’s certainly that’s part of what’s going on here, but I think there was a strategic decision make by some of the Republicans involved that, you know, they didn’t really have a good chance of derailing Judge Jackson’s nomination, and so the best they could do is score political points for their own, you know, future presidential aspirations.

I guess what I find troubling is that…and I think some of this is the fault of Democratic Senators on the committee. I think some of this is the fault of the media coverage. Is that…you know, I think there’s sort of…there’s way too much, oh, well, this is just how the process is now, right? There’s way too much acceptance that this was actually appropriate behavior.

You know, barraging the witness, you know, the…you know, asking Judge Jackson over and over and over again the same question about the same, you know, misstated, misrepresentations of her approach to child pornography cases, and you know, I guess where I come from, and this might be a naïve perspective. These are supposed to be about principles and about, you know, what kind of judge you’re going to be, you know, what…who are your role models when it comes to judging?

You know, what…what kinds of things do you think are important and not important for Supreme Court Justices? Instead, it was just the battle of the talking points, and my real fear is that the Democrats, by basically playing the same game in reverse, I think we’re playing, like, a prevent defense, right? They just…you know, they knew, too, that the odds are that this goes through, and so, I think they gave way too much ground to the Republicans to turn this into, really, a demagoguery fest as opposed to…

00:29:22.9 Michele Goodwin:

And it certainly was. I mean, it was incredibly undignified, the ways in which she was attacked, and then, finally, with the reprieves that she got from Senators Booker and Padilla, notably, two people of color who are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, when others sat by and observed those attacks, and there are real distinctions to be made. So, even while Senators Lindsay Graham and Cotton and others were suggesting that, well, this is the way that Amy Coney Barrett was treated, and this was the way that Brett Kavanaugh was treated.

First of all, that’s not true. They were not subjected to these constant barrages of interruptions and then, secondly, if we’re to take sexual harassment seriously…so, here are people talking about pornography and sexual abuse associated with images, and when credible persons came forward about sexual abuse of someone alleging that against Brett Kavanaugh, wasn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee supposed to do due diligence with regard to that?

00:30:31.1 Stephen Vladeck:

I’m also trying to figure out which confirmation hearing of Justice Barrett these senators actually remember, because, you know, the hearing I remember from two years ago was heated, in the sense that Democrats had some pretty strenuous and frankly, fair, procedural objections to what the Republicans were doing. You know, I think the Democrats…

00:30:51.1 Michele Goodwin:

Especially in the wake, right, of Merrick Garland not getting a hearing, even months before…this was a quick turnaround, right in the space of the election.

00:31:00.8 Stephen Vladeck:

And on substance, you know, I…or one thing the Democrats overplayed, you know, sort of the point about Judge…then Judge Barrett’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act, right, but like, the notion that these two things were the same requires a very skewed perspective of the kinds of questions Democratic senators asked Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, and I mean, the children’s book episode with Ted Cruz?

00:31:27.1 Michele Goodwin:

Right. Oh my gosh.

00:31:29.5 Stephen Vladeck:

I mean, so, I just, you know, I…and I guess this, to me, is the troubling part. Like, I don’t think, at the end of the day, this is going to have any, you know…this is going to sort of create any problem for Judge Jackson’s confirmation. I mean, I think what this really portends is that we’re at a point now where people are incapable of treating as different, you know, heated, but substantive objections to a nominee, and just, you know, preposterous innuendo and insinuations about Judge Jackson based on nothing in her record.

00:32:05.9 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and these kind of false equivalencies that also concern me, as well, right, that it’s all equal when it’s not, and actually, a record of over 500 cases, where only a very thin slice as considered and not the broader, which is also very interesting, right, because, well, maybe there were other areas that were worth exploring.

But I think it exposes the way in which this really was a kind of cherry-picking and a kind of ogling for the cameras associated with that, which seems the most inflammatory, right? So, let’s get her on representing these defendants at Guantanamo, right? Let’s try to bring her down, right, because, as a judge, she heard cases involving child pornography, as if in either one, there’s a real choice one can make, when you’re a defense attorney you take the clients that are given to you.

But that also brings me to something else in terms of subtext, because you heard the hearings just as I did, and it seemed to me that there were implicit and nearly explicit attacks on trans families and kids. The whole line of questioning around what is a woman, nobody else has been asked questions about what is a woman.

00:33:25.1 Stephen Vladeck:

Right. I mean, how about Senator Graham asking her to rate her faith of a scale of 1 to 10?

00:33:30.2 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, who in the world has had to do that since…

00:33:35.1 Stephen Vladeck:

I mean, let’s be clear, right? Not Amy Coney Barrett. Again, like, this is…

00:33:37.8 Michele Goodwin:

Right. Not Amy…yeah, not Amy Coney Barrett or anybody else, right? This separation of church and state, you know, gone out the window, and it also strikes me, too, as this badgering about and even a flogging as someone is mentioned about her work at as public defender. You’d think that the constitution made no room for protecting the rights of individuals who must defend themselves against the state.

00:34:06.4 Stephen Vladeck:

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, this is…there’s the dispiriting part. There’s the frustrating part, and then there’s just the disheartening, you know, sort of takeaways from the hearing, and I just I guess…you know, I’d like to think that the Republicans would’ve behaved this badly no matter who the nominee was, but of course, it’s hard to separate the fact that they behaved this badly toward the first Black woman ever nominated to be on the Supreme Court.

And you know, I just think that the…I mean, it has all the hallmarks of white male grievance, right? You know, the we were aggrieved. Why are we aggrieved? Because Democrats objected to our prior Supreme Court nominees. Never mind, Michele, that they were confirmed. Never mind that the court has us 6-3 conservative majority at the moment. We are still going to make this all about the politics of grievance, and as a lecture from the white men Republican senators to the first Black woman nominee in the Supreme Court’s history, that’s a really discordant note, I think for them to strike, and I just think that the absence of a coordinated, emphatic pushback from the Democratic senators on the committee.

That it was left to, you know, Senators Booker and Padilla, who did yeoman work, but who are, in many respects, you know, among the sort of more junior members of the Democratic membership on that committee, I think is really a deeper reflection of a broader problem in Democratic politics right now, which is the inability of far too many of our elected officials on the Democratic side of the aisle to take seriously just how radicalized Republican politics have become, and I think we saw a lot of that radicalization in, you know, the not-so-subtle nods toward QAnon by Senator Hawley.

00:35:51.6 Michele Goodwin:

Well, January 6. I mean, there was at least one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was amongst the people who were in the crowd and doing a kind of power first or power pump first or whatever that was.

00:36:03.9 Stephen Vladeck:

An so I guess, I mean, Michele, to me, you know, the Democrats had a confirmation hearing. Like it was, you know, 2010, and it’s Elena Kagan all over again, right, and the Republicans had a confirmation hearing like it’s 2022, and you know, the Democrats are going to survive this one because they’ve got the votes, but from a messaging perspective, it’s just…you know, I really…I think it is an ominous sign of things to come that this how things went in what should’ve been a, you know, feisty and spirited intellectual conversation about Judge Jackson.

00:36:37.8 Michele Goodwin:

Yes, which is what didn’t happen, right? And you’re absolutely right, because I was thinking of that, too, Steve. That here is an opportunity for a person who’s whip smart, as Judge Jackson is, who’s very learned in the law, which was just so very clear. Here could’ve been the opportunity for a confirmation hearing that was similar to that of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, where it just seemed like she was having fun answering, you know, tough questions, enjoying it along the way…

Able to talk about what her life is, what the sort of…what’s important for her as a jurist. What was important for her as a lawyer, her thinking about things, whether you call it a methodology, a philosophy, or a bit of both, and this was anything but that, but that was what the nation deserved, something along at least those lines, and instead, what we got was something like Bloody Sunday prior to, you know, passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

00:37:36.4 Stephen Vladeck:

And then the Republicans surrounded you and say, well, we didn’t learn enough about her judicial philosophy. Well, maybe if you had asked her more questions about her judicial philosophy and fewer questions about, you know, children’s books and various other things that she has, you know, nothing to say based on her professional…I mean, I just…you know, it was all…it was a setup, and it was always going to be a setup.

And you know, I guess we’re past the point of being surprised by the behavior of the Republicans on this front. I just…you know, that’s why…I mean, there was a piece by Dahlia Lithwick that I thought hit the nail on the head, which is, you know, where were the Democrats in making more noise? Why did Senator Durbin, right, get walked over so easily by, you know, Graham and Cruz? And I guess that’s where I think the Democrats…

00:38:22.1 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah. I mean, some were saying this was a strategy to just, you know, let them be themselves, and then the country and the world will see this, but you know, at the same time, why make road kill along the way, and for Judge Jackson to have to to go through a process where she’s treated in such an undignified way to just show the world that this is how Senator Graham behaves or this is how Senator Hawley behaves or this is how Senator Cruz behaves. Why did she have to take that blow just to be able to show that those individuals can be unhinged?

00:38:59.1 Stephen Vladeck:

Yes, and I guess…and so, I mean, I don’t think anything happened this week that’s going to change the outcome here, but from the perspective of just deepening and further entrenching, I think, you know, an increasingly cynical view of the state of our political culture. I think this week, you know, was a smashing success.

00:39:48.5 Michele Goodwin:

So, what comes next? I turn to Dean Danielle Holley-Walker and Zinelle October to share their observations not only on Judge Jackson and how she responded to questions in the hearings, but also the subtext of many of the committee members’ questions and what they mean for the rule of law. After all, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee not only showed contempt for an immensely qualified woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

But they also showed remarkable disdain for the rule of law. So, helping us to think that through is Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, the Dean of Howard Law School and a former clerk to Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart on the 5th Circuit. And I was also joined in this conversation by Zinelle October, the Executive Vice President of the American Constitution Society, the country’s foremost progressive legal organization.

So, this week, we saw something that was historic in the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Historic, in that she’s the first Black woman in the United States to have a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and we heard all of the distinction that she would bring to the office. She has been…as you’ve said previously on this show, Dean Danielle Holly Walker, she’s clerked at every level, federal district court, appellate court, the Supreme Court.

She has served as a district court judge, federal, and also a federal appellate-level judge. She has more experience in that way than anybody else, actually, on the court, and yet we also saw what some have described as a flogging of Judge Jackson, and so I want to start with you, Dean Holley-Walker. What did you observe this week in the confirmation hearings?

00:41:54.0 Dean Danielle Holley-Walker:

It’s great to be back with you today to talk about Judge Jackson and her confirmation hearings. I think what we saw on display was really Judge Jackson’s just incredible legal knowledge. She is obviously brilliant, one of the brightest legal minds that we have in the United States. We saw a lot about her family. I was touched by seeing her husband sitting next to her, right behind her and her daughters on the first day.

And then her daughter on the third day, where now we’ve seen a picture of her looking at her mother so admiringly as she stood up to this. I think the other thing that we saw is, when everyone talks about this concept of judicial temperament, right, and what does it mean to have outstanding judicial temperament? Judge Jackson dealt with a barrage of, you know, people interrupting hear, being very disrespectful, accusing her of not telling the truth on various subjects, and she handled that for two days straight.

And mind you, on the first day, 12 hours with only three breaks. It was really remarkable to watch, and if you didn’t know anything about Ketanji Brown Jackson before these hearings, I can’t imagine anyone stepping away with anything other than incredible admiration for this woman. Her intellect, her professionalism, her commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law. I was blown away by her ability to withstand and elevate a process that was not particularly kind to her this week.

00:43:26.8 Michele Goodwin:

And Zinelle, on that note, just as Dean Holley-Walker noted, on that first day, 12 hours. She took more than 500 questions on that first day. It was pretty stunning. The first day or the first day and a half of it was, because these questions were being counted, and that’s just simply extraordinary, and she experienced something that prior nominees just simply haven’t in terms of the breadth of the questions, the depth of the questions, including questions about her religion, her religious commitments. There were questions about the rule of law in ways that went beyond whether a judge can answer it or not. They went simply beyond the scope of what is the norm within these processes. Can you speak to that?

00:44:22.5 Zinelle October:

Absolutely, Michele. Very happy to speak to it, and thanks for having me back. So, yeah, this was unusual the way that they really pounded her, smeared her, distorted what she was saying, but you know what, Michele? She didn’t let that faze her. She…we didn’t allow that to faze us in terms of not stealing the joy, as Senator Cory Booker really grounded us in. It was a tough time, and I would say, absolutely, for a position of this level that is lifetime, it should be tough.

It should be extensive, but that does not mean that it should be abusive, which this really was. Yet, under all of those circumstances, she really shone, in my opinion. She came through as someone who kept her poise, her grace, like you said, while walking under fire. I love the title that you used for today’s episode. It’s really remarkable, and not only that, but as Dean Holley-Walker mentioned, she has all the substance, all of the experience. What more could anyone want? There is no reason she shouldn’t walk away from this being confirmed 100 to 0.

00:45:36.5 Michele Goodwin:

So, let me go back to that, Zinelle. I’m so happy that you raised this issue about it should be tough, but you mentioned it should not be abusive. So, what’s that distinction and line?

00:45:51.1 Zinelle October:

Absolutely. So, that distinction is, one, being respectful would be nice, to start with, where several of the senators would talk over Judge Jackson, wouldn’t allow her to finish, really aggressive in their posture toward her. None of that is acceptable, and then I won’t even get in the substantive pieces of the smears, because they are simply worth not repeating here or anywhere.

But really assassinating her character, getting to the core of things that are just the opposite of what she believes or what her opinions have shown, honing in one 1 or 2 cases without all of the facts out there, the picture was terrible, and they knew what they were doing. It was very intentional, what several of these senators were doing, which is the nastiest part of it, and all under the guise, as they all started out saying, this will be respectful. Nothing like some other confirmation hearings we’ve heard, which made it even more disgusting, but again…

00:46:48.5 Michele Goodwin:

Well, it did, because even as Senator Grassley started with, oh, my wife was just enamored with you, and then there was Lindsay Graham, who, on the first day, for a brief period of time, also made it seem like this will be a respectful hearing that we will be having, and then let me turn that right back to you because, yes, that was how it seemed to start, certainly not what it became.

00:47:16.6 Zinelle October:

Absolutely, and you know, going back to the initial point that I made, Michele, yes, there’s no question that this was a really important job interview where you are on full screen with the world with this process. However, tough does not equate abusive. The exchanges and lectures that they gave her were distracting, appalling, and downright disrespectful, not becoming at all of what should be a real process to get at the issues at hand, and really, it was her time to shine.

And I’ll say, she did shine out of this despite all of that. She rose above it all and showed you could bring it on. I have seen everything in my lifetime. I’ve shared with you what I’ve seen. My parents are here with me. They’ve seen a lot. My daughter will see a lot. My husband. It was impressive to see how she just continued on, and I would say, Senator Cory Booker came at exactly the right time, when not only Judge Jackson needed, but all of us to calm things down, bring in the humanity.

00:48:20.9 Michele Goodwin:

Where our nation needed that. The world needed that. So, something else that you mentioned, and I want to turn to Dean Holley-Walker on this in terms of a rigorous process. When I think about the confirmation hearings of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg…and I’ve read and reread the transcripts. I’ve looked at the video more than 2 or 3 times. It was a rigorous process, but it was beautiful.

It was the opportunities that she was provided to be able to speak to her experience as a lawyer, as a law professor, as a judge. I mean, to really just even unpack her commitments to criminal jurisprudence. I mean, she was talking about how Justice Thurgood Marshall was a hero for her. Justice Brennan, as well, she was telling…informing the Senate Judiciary Committee about the way in which she understood and saw reproductive rights.

You talked about the case of Captain KathyStruck, who was denied the opportunity to actually carry her pregnancy to term in the US Military before Roe…because the US military, before Roe, demanded that women in its ranks must have abortions, and so she was able to talk about that. She was able to talk about how, every year, she visits the jails in Washington, DC and would take her clerks, and it was just wonderful to be able to hear her talk about that, uninterrupted, all of that.

And where one really got the chance to learn from her, and so, Zinelle, to your point…and I’m going to turn this to Dean Holley-Walker, this kind of opportunity to be rigorous and to learn. It seems to me that the Senate Judiciary Committee failed in that regard because there was a concentration on just a handful of cases, and we didn’t get the chance to learn about the breadth of what she has experienced then as a district court judge and appellate court judge. Can you speak to that?

00:50:18.8 Danielle Holley-Walker:

Yeah, I agree. I mean, the contrast that you just drew between Justice Ginsburg’s hearings and the hearings that we just saw for Judge Jackson, I think one of the key differences is that the Republican senators really use their time almost solely to deliver kind of political talking points for the midterms and also things that they knew would become really good kind of sound bites, that they could then use to book spots on Fox News for that evening.

And so, I’ll give an example of where…so, the difference between, for example, Senator Sasse, who asked her on the first day a lot about her judicial philosophy. That would’ve been very common for other confirmation hearings. A rigorous process. Who do you admire? Who do you model yourself after? Those are all questions, for example, that we would’ve seen in Justice Ginsburg’s hearing, that we’ve seen in many other hearings.

Contrast that with Senator Cruz, who spent almost his entire time on the first day of questioning asking Judge Jackson whether she agreed with random Black academics’ thoughts on various things. He expected her…would Justice Amy Coney Barrett have been asked about Ibram Kendi or about Nikole Hannah Jones? It was just completely not serious. It was not a serious process.

00:51:41.3 Michele Goodwin:

Or would Justice Barrett have been asked about a law economist? Would she have been asked about Judge Posner? Would she have been asked about Richard Epstein, or take any other slice of any other piece of academia and people who have developed a certain type of scholarship, and in fact, on that note, what wasn’t asked is that, as we know, around the time in which she went to law school, it was the time in which I was in law school. I didn’t have, in my first year of law school, one Black law professor, and in the course of three years of law school, I didn’t have one Black law professor.

I did have a Black law professor who was at my law school, who was tenured and highly respected and became a great mentor and a friend, but even this kind of idea of taking something out of thin air from today and suggesting that, somehow, this has entered her thinking or her courtroom when, actually, if asked the question, when you were at law school, how many Black professors were there, even there, for you to learn from? The answer would have been 1 or 2, if my memory serves me correctly, about the number of tenured Black faculty on Harvard’s faculty. You know, Zinelle, can you speak to that?

00:53:16.5 Zinelle October:

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it’s simple, Michele. They’re not interested in those types of questions, right? This was a political agenda of many of these Republicans to get at, again, airing themselves, their past laundry for whatever issues that they held, their grievances, basically, also an opportunity for them to showcase, to show their…it was the presidential audition, if you will, and really to get at issues that they and their base are very passionate about and wanted to really show Judge Jackson in a light that just was not correct.

00:53:55.8 Michele Goodwin:

Well I mean, that way was just totally irrational, which is the point that I’m getting at, right? Like, this idea that she has these kind of longstanding, decades-old kind of commitments to certain kinds of theories that’ve been…right? When, in reality, I mean, the reality is that she was educated at a time in which…and it still is the case, right, that it’s a general matter across American law schools. Critical race theory is not taught at every law school or every year. I mean, it’s a fraction of a fraction of people who may even teach it. A student may go through three years of law school and never have seen it anywhere on the curriculum at an average American law school. Isn’t that right, you know, Dean?

00:54:35.6 Dean Danielle Holley-Walker:

Yeah, it was very irrational in the sense that they would…and again, I don’t think that Senator Cruz really believes that her being a Supreme Court justice has anything to do with critical race theory. I really think that they understand that what they’re doing is very calculated, but it was interesting to also see her have to kind of push off. Say I don’t know anything about critical race theory. I don’t…that was one of the few times in the hearing that was like, do I really think that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson doesn’t know anything about critical race theory?

I doubt it. I’m sure she knows plenty about critical race theory, but that kind of gamesmanship and trying to up each other on the ante, because I think even people like Senator Blackburn, when you ask about abortion rights, that is relevant, I think, to a rigorous process, as we talked about. That will be something that the Supreme Court will need to decide. There will be nothing related to critical race theory that will need to be decided at the Supreme Court level, and so it’s really not relevant at all.

00:55:41.8 Michele Goodwin:

Right. I mean, it would be just as if saying that the Supreme Court had to assess something about law and economics, behavioral economics said, oh, court, no. You must take into consideration law in economics, and how are you going to be evaluated? It just simply isn’t there. So, I’m really glad that you spoke to that, poking a hole in that. You know, it strikes me, as well, that the rule of law was under attack, as well, during the confirmation hearings, and we perhaps heard a little bit less about that.

For example, the questions about what is a woman? And I’m thinking about Bostock. I’m thinking about Obergefell. I’m thinking about, you know, Windsor. You know, all of this, those kinds of attacks, the attacks on criminal defense, when, in fact, the first Ten Amendments of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, are protecting individuals from the tyranny of the state, and so, I’m wondering, Dean, and then I’m going to turn to you, Zinelle October about this. You know, what were your observations in terms of just the attacks on the rule of law and the Constitution itself?

00:56:49.2 Dean Danielle Holley-Walker:

I mean, that was pretty jaw dropping in a number of areas, and you’re absolutely right that we saw it pop up in a few areas. So, number one, the idea that we should not have people who are engaged in public defender work, or that, somehow, public defender work makes you soft on crime, when we know that public defender work is necessary to the rule of law and to making sure that a number of our constitutional rights really come to life and have any meaning.

Without defenders, there would be no vindications of a certain set of constitutional rights. Then, in the other place, were the questions about substantive due process and the attempt to ask her to undermine certain critical precedence, such as Griswold and Roe. The idea that those precedents have always been overturned or that she should, in some way, agree that they should be overturned is to go against what the current rule of law is in our country.

And so, it was kind of astonishing, and I was trying to think if we had any other examples of Supreme Court confirmation hearings in which nominees actually ask to undermine what is current precedent, instead of what we typically see, is people asking, you know, do you agree that this is a super precedent? Instead, she was being asked the opposite. Are you willing to overturn, essentially, super precedent?

00:58:06.9 Michele Goodwin:

Yes, including on matters that relate, as you say, to fundamental liberties, really. Zinelle, what more did you see in that regard in terms of the rule of law or American constitutionalism, as we know it, actually under attack at the same time that Judge Jackson was getting these abusive kinds of questions, a word that I think is apropos, as you describe, beyond rigorous. Everybody expects rigor. There’s nothing that Black women encounter that isn’t at least very, very rigorous, but this, we all saw as going off the rails, but in terms of the kinds of questions that implicate the rule of law or the constitution, what did you observe?

00:58:54.5 Zinelle October:

Well, I saw a complete display for a lack of respect for rule of law in our Constitution. It was really disheartening to see and quite scary, if I do say so myself, and what we saw on display, Michele, is conservatives have made clear that Roe, Griswold, Obergefell, and even Loving are on the table.

They just don’t think the Supreme Court should’ve bestowed any of those rights or to continue to protect those rights and to expect this judge to come in and say, yeah, they should be overturned is ridiculous. It shouldn’t be asked of anybody. It shouldn’t be expected of anybody, but again, I feel like she’s totally held her own on each of these ridiculous questions.

Not sure how she maintained her composure in light of this, but she did, and what came across, Michele, was her real commitment to rule of law, to our Constitution, her love of this country, the service that she’s done, the most…the priority of her career, just incredible, and just a quick note on both the federal public defender time and on the sentencing commission, you know, it’s incredible to have a judge on the court who has this kind of experience.

Overwhelmingly, we have folks who don’t understand what the average person is going through, don’t see that part of the equation. It would be such a benefit to this court to have that perspective. Yet, they really were not celebrating it. They were bringing it down as if she’s some person who’s going to give some set of people more rights than others instead of this is our Constitution, and it’s amazing to have people who really care and are dedicated to it, who want to hold these positions. So, it should’ve been lifted up, and it just wasn’t.

And her time on the Sentencing Commission to understand what goes behind that and really understand the policy behind it and even with her decisions, as they were sentencing decisions as they attacked, again, just 1 or 2 of those decisions. You know, it’s wonderful to see a judge who takes the whole picture into account, and it’s not unusual what she’d been doing in any of these sentencing decisions, either, and the fact that they, you know, distorted that is pretty disgusting.

01:01:15.1 Michele Goodwin:

Well, it’s also interesting, too, the responsibilities that they would have if they, in fact, want to change and impose certain mandates in these areas, and it’s them. So, it’s interesting, as well, the attacks on Judge Jackson for things that, actually, the Senate’s actually responsible for, right? If you want new rules in this regard, then, Senate, take up the effort to create new rules in this area. Dean, were you going to speak to that?

01:01:39.3 Dean Danielle Holley-Walker:

And I think she did a great job of continuing to emphasize the importance of separation of powers, and really, it was a kind of master class…I said I’m going to cut and put together some of those things for when I teach legislation regulation, because she was explaining back to the senators, no, this is your role, and this is my role.

And some of them, she had to really explain and talk very slowly to them about that. Senator Hawley was one of them who she said, no, let me explain again how this works, and I admire her for that, but I wanted to follow up on what Zinelle was saying, in the sense that what really struck me is that she may be one of the few people we have seen in the public who did not back down about what it means to be a public defender, and the fact that she compared it to public service, similar to what her brother had performed in the military and as a police officer.

I don’t think I had ever seen anything in public life on a stage like that say lawyers who defend the rights of criminal defendants are similar to the people that we think of as when we all congratulate people and thank them for their service. You never hear that done for public defenders, and I thought she did that this week in a way that I’ve never seen before, so that people can walk up to a public defender and say thank you for your service, because that’s what they deserve, and that’s what she really committed to and showed this week.

01:03:07.5 Michele Goodwin:

That’s right, and how important that is to the healthy functioning of our legal system and our judiciary, and it was very interesting, the sense of deference. Why not absolute deference to whatever the state would recommend, which was interesting, given the backdrop of what we’ve all seen and what we’ve known in terms of the history of the state acting in ways that undermine, or can undermine, individual civil liberties and civil rights, whether we’re talking about abuse and incarceration of women petitioning to vote, you know, whether we’re talking about individuals who happen to be on death row exonerated by DNA evidence when there have been patterns of prosecutorial misconduct, I mean, and the list goes on, and so this idea that judges, their only role is to listen to the state is absurdist.

And history shows us that, in fact, that is absurd, and in fact, we want judges to be able to do more. We expect them to be able to do more. We expect them to be able to hold multiple thoughts and complex ideas in mind and then be able to render a decision, and I agree with the both of you that she demonstrated the type of temperament, the type of nimble mind to be able to do that fairly and under circumstances where I think she also educated the public, and that when you are a criminal defense attorney, at least serving for the public and the state, you don’t get to pick your clients.

You don’t, and we even know by the legal rules of ethics, if you are a private defense attorney, you don’t either. Someone runs into our office and they blurt out things, you don’t get to say, well, you’re not my client. Now let me go and tell the police and prosecutor you don’t buy the rules of legal ethics, and it seems to me that that was also something that those senators who are lawyers, they know that because they, too, have had to sit for the ethics bar.

So, I want to talk about what comes next. What’s your sense of what the process will be that we can look forward to prior…I mean, I guess there’s going to be the…Senate’s going to continue to confer, and eventually, there’s going to be a vote in the committee and so forth, but let me start with you, Dean. What’s next?

01:05:35.1 Dean Danielle Holley-Walker:

So, we know we’re now in a process where, typically, senators come out and announce whether they’re going to vote for the nominee. Her hearing…her vote in the Judiciary Committee will be April 4, is what it’s scheduled for, but today, we just heard that Senator Joe Manchin has announced that he will support her, which means once we get probably one more announcement, we know that she will be confirmed. The question is will it be bipartisan?

She got three Republican votes when she was confirmed to the DC Circuit: Collins, Murkowski, and Graham. Highly doubtful that Graham will vote for her, but we will see if she gets any more than two Republican votes, but it is remarkable, as Zinelle said. This is a nominee who should get a full vote of the Senate. There should not be a single person who would vote against her. She’s highly qualified. She has incredible judicial experience and experience at every level, but the truth is, she probably will get no more than three Republican votes, but I think there is almost no way, after seeing Senator Manchin’s announcement today, that her confirmation will be derailed.

01:06:41.0 Michele Goodwin:

And Zinelle, what’s your sense? Yes, please go ahead.

01:06:43.1 Zinelle October:

So, everything Dean Holley-Walker said, but just a couple of other things to note. Prior to the hearings beginning, she…Judge Jackson met with 45 senators, which was, in and of itself, incredible and believe it or not, after that grueling process, the next day, she continued to those visits.

The goal is to visit each Senate office, which is certainly not required, but it speaks a lot to her and the team walking through this process, and so, after the Senate Judiciary Committee votes April 4, they’re hoping to have a full vote of the Senate shortly after that, certainly before the Senate recesses in April, which, that recess starts April 9, I believe.

So, just a few days after the vote in the committee, and totally agree with Dean Holley-Walker. We should be 100-0, but that’s not the reality in which we find ourselves, so that probably will not happen. I will note, it’s been incredible, as we’re talking about all of this and seeing this, that there will not be one Black female in the Senate who could vote for her or vote on her just period, and that’s a whole other topic for another show, Michele.

01:08:27.0 Michele Goodwin:

Each episode, we ask our guests about a silver lining. This week, I reserved it for myself. For me, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the silver lining. She exemplifies the best of America, its potential, and by gosh, what it shall be. 

Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin.” I want to thank my guests, Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, Professor Stephen Vladeck, Zinelle October, and Syovata Edari for joining us and being part of this critical and insightful conversation, and to you, our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story. We hope you’ll join us again for our next episode, where we will be reporting, rebelling, and telling it just like it is, as usual. It will be an episode you will not want to miss.

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This has been your host Michele Goodwin reporting, rebelling and telling it just like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Roxy Szal, Oliver Haug, and Nassim Alisobhani. Our social media intern is Lillian LaSalle. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Kyle Goode, music by Chris J. Lee, and social media assistance by Lillian LaSalle.