[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered opening remarks on the first day of the Supreme Court nomination hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Key quotes from Blumenthal’s remarks are below:
“The appointment of a Black woman to the Court means that your service will make the Court look more like America. Hopefully too it will make the Court think more like America.”
“Representation matters for the legitimacy and credibility of our judicial system. Judges are the face and voice of justice. People walking into your courtroom or any other in this country look to the human being, not just to the robes. Too often, our courts are isolated, seemingly sterile marble halls lacking emotional intelligence for a sensitivity to the impact they have on people, a fact that you clearly and dramatically understand.”
“Importantly, your record as a jurist also reveals impartiality. You are a proven unifier and consensus builder, someone who can build bridges among colleagues, even adversaries. Not surprisingly, you have been confirmed on a bipartisan basis three times by the Senate. You have received glowing endorsements from former judges who are stalwarts of the conservative movement. The court needs a bridge builder now more than ever. It has become more polarized, more politicized, more divided than at any point in our history, and it faces a crisis of legitimacy as a result.”
Blumenthal’s full opening statement is available here and copied below:
Thanks Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon Judge, thank you for being here, thank you to your family, and thank you to President Biden for his vision and wisdom and courage in nominating you.
First on a personal note, for all of your extraordinary accomplishments and your immense distinction, you have shown two qualities that are rare among powerful, accomplished people – kindness and humor. And you’re obviously a good listener because you’re doing a lot of listening here today.
As you’ve seen, we’re likely to hear more than a few straw men today, worn talking points, imagined grievances, but this hearing really should be about you, not about us.
Historic is a word often overused in this place where a lot of history is made, but today seems truly to merit it. Certainly it is an inflection point, an inflection pinnacle for our nation. The appointment of a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court, let’s be very blunt, should have happened years ago. This day is a giant leap into the present for our country and for the court.
The appointment of a Black woman to the court means that your service will make the court look more like America. Hopefully too it will make the court think more like America. We will never know in detail all of the challenges and obstacles that you’ve overcome to be here today, but we know for sure that you will bring an important perspective, in fact a unique perspective to a court that deeply needs it.
Representation matters for the legitimacy and credibility of our judicial system. Judges are the face and voice of justice. People walking into your courtroom or any other in this country look to the human being, not just to the robes. Too often, our courts are isolated, seemingly sterile marble halls lacking emotional intelligence for a sensitivity to the impact they have on people, a fact that you clearly and dramatically understand.
What really knocked me over in our meeting was the fact that you discussed your job as a judge in terms of the people who are effected by your rulings, the people whose lives are touched by the justice system, whether it’s victims as criminal defendants or as people dealing with a personal or professional conflict.
You will be the first public defender on the court. You understand our justice system uniquely through the eyes of people who couldn’t afford a lawyer. They couldn’t afford their own lawyer, and you advocated for them.
You will also bring to the court extraordinary intellect and character as well as diverse personal and indeed professional experience. Your presence will ensure the court more fully and deeply understands the lives and experiences of every day Americans.
You grew up as the daughter of two public servants – public school teachers and administrators. You’re the niece of uncles who have impressive law enforcement careers, including one as Miami’s chief of police, and you also have family members who have struggled as do every American. And you’ve advocated for defendants standing accused of serious crimes as well as sentencing defendants who have been convicted of such crimes. You are an immensely devoted parent who has achieved eye popping professional distinction. You’ve had a long career already as a distinguished jurist, in fact, you would bring more experience as a trial judge than any current justice on the Supreme Court.
Now I’d like to address directly the importance of your work as a public defender. I was a prosecutor in law enforcement for a while, four years as U.S. attorney and twenty years as Connecticut’s attorney general, and as a prosecutor I know the system works best when there are good lawyers on both side. My worst nightmare as a prosecutor was a defendant representing himself. My second worst nightmare was an incompetent counsel representing a defendant, because I know effective representation on the others means more likely an error-free trial.
I would also like to address an issue that has been raised, first by Senator Durbin and then by Senator Graham. I am likely to be followed by one or more colleagues who have raised allegations about your record that are simply unfounded in fact and indeed irresponsible. They are unproven and unprovable. They’re simply false. One of the first lessons that you learn as a prosecutor is never to promise a jury evidence that you don't have. There is simply no evidence to support these unfounded attacks. In fact, commentary in the National Review, cited by Senator Durbin, says, about those allegations, “they are meritless to the point of demagoguery.”
Importantly, your record as a jurist also reveals impartiality. You are a proven unifier and consensus builder, someone who can build bridges among colleagues, even adversaries. Not surprisingly, you have been confirmed on a bipartisan basis three times by the Senate. You have received glowing endorsements from former judges who are stalwarts of the conservative movement. The court needs a bridge builder now more than ever. It has become more polarized, more politicized, more divided than at any point in our history, and it faces a crisis of legitimacy as a result.
Dark money, special interest groups have sought to radically reshape the court. Their recent selection of justices was to a remarkable degree outsourced to ideological groups with the express aim of remaking the court in the image of the far right, conservative movement. This court has signaled that it will continue to overthrow well-established precedents, after disingenuously promising us, members of this committee, that it would respect those precedents, and instead, it threatens to adopt preferred policy views.
I revere the United States Supreme Court. I clerked for a justice myself, Harry Blackmun. I have argued four times before the court. I am deeply concerned that this court is careening toward a precipice that will gravely threaten its role in our history, that it is out of step with America, and that it is losing the trust and respect of the American people that are essential to its authority. Trust in the United States Supreme Court is at a new low. The Supreme Court has no army, no police force to enforce its decisions. Its authority depends on its credibility and the respect and trust of the American people. My hope is that you will help to restore that trust, that you will re-inspire the confidence of the American people in the court.
I traveled, as did my colleague, Senator Klobuchar, to Poland just a week ago, and I saw people fleeing bombs and destruction, people, mostly women and children, who wanted nothing more than the kinds of freedoms that we have in this country. We have an obligation to preserve them, and my hope is that your nomination will help us do so. Thank you. I look forward to your testimony.