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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: ketanji brown jackson

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Join Supreme Court Today (VIDEO)

Newly-minted Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will join the court — the first Black woman to do so — today when the new court term begins. And to say it plainly: I’m ecstatic about it.

Not because I anticipate Jackson leading her Republican colleagues out of their anti-American haze. I wouldn’t dare rest the error of their ways on Jackson’s shoulders, but I am hopeful that her voice will provide much-needed support to that of associate justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Together with retired peer Stephen Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan were left to defend Americans’ right to abortion by themselves on the court, and their Republican peers outvoted them 6-3 on June 24. Following that decision, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas immediately claimed that other cherished federal protections should be on the chopping block next as “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

Now, rights to protect same-sex couples, affirmative action, voting and free speech are all planned for this term. Holding on to hope is no small feat, though a necessary one, I am reminded by Jackson’s investiture ceremony on Friday.

During the ceremony in which new justices take constitutional and judicial oaths, Jackson promised to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” according to The New York Times.

Although the investiture proceedings were “purely ceremonial” and Jackson was sworn in on on June 30, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said Jackson's arrival will cause the other justices to “kind of up our game a little bit.”

“It’s almost like the new in-law at Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

Roberts added that because there will be a “new person” joining them “each of us will be a little more careful in explaining why we think what we think.”

Kagan said in remarks captured on C-SPAN that the press often refers back to former Justice Byron White's quote that whenever there is a new justice “it's a different court.” She said once doubted that but now realizes it in a sense is “deeply true.”

“It wasn’t the addition of the new justice,” she said. “It was actually the fact that the old justice was no longer there.”

Jackson is filling a seat vacated when Breyer retired.

Kagan said Breyer, who served for more than 27 years, would be difficult to replace. “He believed in the power of relationships, and he believed in the power of reason,” Kagan said.

I believe in the power of a Black mother driven by a sense of duty and dedication. In the words of President Joe Biden, who attended Jackson's investiture ceremony: “Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has already brought uncompromising integrity, a strong moral compass, and courage to the Supreme Court.”



Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Who Are The Real Sexual Predators? There's A List

Of all the big lies that Republican officials and media personalities have deployed for partisan advantage over the past several years, the most sickening by far is their current campaign to depict Democrats as “groomers” – meaning that they are sexual predators who recruit underage victims.

For years this sort of smear was weaponized against gays and lesbians. These dark insinuations have surfaced again and again in right-wing propaganda ever since the 2016 “Pizzagate” fabrication, accusing the most prominent Democrats of imprisoning children in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor to be kept as sex slaves. (There was, by the way, no basement.)

Most recently the perverse accusation has been raised to defame Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her successful Supreme Court confirmation hearings, when Republican Senators claimed that she is “sympathetic to pedophiles.” Ironically, it was Judge Jackson who sentenced a man who opened fire in the pizza parlor with an automatic rifle duped into believing that he was rescuing the non-existent child prisoners.

From this conspiracy sprouted the QAnon cult, founded online by a dubious figure with ties to child porn, now running for Congress in Arizona. In fact, more than 70 QAnon proponents are running as Republicans in this year’s midterm election.

The worst of the latest round of bizarre pedophilia slurs have been, promoted by Fox News and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This nonsense originated from an outfit known as “Libs of TikTok,” whose author was anonymous until the Washington Post exposed her identity and outraged her right-wing fans. Chaya Raichik, the disinformation spreader, is a Brooklyn real estate salesperson.

The “groomer” charges are of course lies, but they are not just ordinary falsehoods. When Republicans, from Internet crazies to Rupert Murdoch’s cable sewer to U.S. senators, claim that Democrats are guilty of sexual predation, they are engaging in a frame-up designed to deflect from a disturbing truth: the perverse and criminal conduct of literally scores of Republican officials, activists, and clergy -- factual, indisputable, and appalling.

Republican sexual hypocrisy is a longstanding cliché in American politics, from the hordes of closeted anti-gay gays and moralizing adulterers like Ken Starr to the former president whose debauched lifestyle has never troubled his evangelical worshippers. Yet now the Republicans’ “groomer” accusations have raised the ante – and inadvertently opened a Pandora’s box of newspaper and TV clips describing the criminal sexual misconduct of a long roster of Republicans.

An astonishingly comprehensive Google document of these offenders, complete with more than 800 citations and links, can be found here under the rubric of #RepublicanSexualPredators. It has apparently been maintained and updated scrupulously for years—and undoubtedly will be added to for years to come.

This list includes more than a few already familiar names, from serial killers such as Dennis Rader and Ted Bundy (who—did you know?-- attended the 1968 GOP national convention) to serial child molester Dennis “Coach” Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker, sent to prison six years ago. It includes Kenneth Starr, the Clinton-era inquisitor booted out of Baylor University as chancellor for protecting rapists; Roger Ailes, the late Fox News chief and manic sexual harasser; several conservative bishops who notoriously covered up for pedophile priests; and many, others guilty of harassment and other offenses that fall well short of felonies.

Anyone who peruses the #RepublicanSexualPredators list will, however, also find an extensive and shocking aggregation of convicted pedophiles, child rapists, and child pornographers. Among the notables are a former staff researcher for Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, whose 2017 arrest sparked a brief scandal, and a couple of well-known Republican fundraisers from the nation’s capital. Others were county commissioners, party chairmen, city council members, state legislators, and so on down the list, covering almost every level of officialdom.

There was, for example, the former Cobb County, Georgia party chair, convicted of child molestation in 2016. There was the “Republican of the Year,” so named by the National Republican Congressional Committee, who died in prison while serving a 26-year sentence for sexually assaulting children. There was the “Faith and Family Alliance” leader who solicited sex from minors on the Internet. There was the Kentucky Republican leader arrested for having sex with a five year-old boy. There were the Republican fundraiser, the downstate Virginia mayor, and the upstate New York mayor, all convicted of child pornography charges, as were the Republican staffers, from Brooklyn to Minnesota to Florida, guilty of the same offenses.

Indeed, the list goes on and on with infuriating detail. (Not every single link is still fresh, although even on the dead links, names and locations will reveal the offenders if searched on Google.)

What does this troubling record of Republican predation mean? Obviously, it does not mean that no Democrat has ever committed a sexual offense, against an adult or a child, nor that all Republicans are somehow implicated in such offenses. What it clearly does mean, at the very least, is that Republican propagandists misusing such accusations for partisan gain need to look in the mirror. Like the violent insurrectionist creeps behind QAnon, they are not “protecting children” – and that was never their purpose. They are engaged in a slander campaign that has accused innocent people and served only to conceal real predators.

Meet your Republican Party today.

Poll: Americans Reject Senate Republican Assault On Judge Jackson

If you watched any of the Supreme Court hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson and found yourself repulsed by Republicans, you weren't alone. In a Quinnipiac University poll released late last week, 52 percent of Americans disapproved of the way GOP senators were handling the historic confirmation process for Judge Jackson's nomination, while just 27 percent approved of it (21 percent didn't offer an opinion).

In contrast, a 42 percent plurality of Americans approved of the way Democrats handled the process, while 34 percent disapproved (23 percent offered no opinion).

Americans also support confirming Jackson to the high court 51 percent to 30 percent, according to the poll.

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake pointed out, Republicans fared worse in their handling of Jackson's confirmation than Democrats did in their handling of the contentious hearings for Brett Kavanaugh—who faced a credible sexual assault allegation amid his confirmation.

Republicans received a 25-point net negative rating from the public (27 percent--52 percent) for the way they comported themselves during Jackson's process, while a CNN/SSRS poll in October 2018 found Democrats received a 20-point net negative rating from the public (36 percent--56 percent) during the Kavanaugh confirmation.

The public also opposed confirming Kavanaugh by 51 percent--41 percent. In fact, the place where Kavanaugh really excelled with the public was in the 33 percent who held a "very negative" view of him. For comparison, eight percent of Americans had a very negative view of Neil Gorsuch and seven percent held a very negative view of John Roberts in CNN polls during confirmation for the two eventual justices.

In any case, the main differences between the Jackson and Kavanaugh confirmations is the fact Jackson is substantially more popular and that during consideration of Kavanaugh, neither party fared particularly well in the public's estimation of their handling of the confirmation process. In fact, Republicans also received a 20-point net negative rating from Americans—35 percent--55 percent—for the way they handled Kavanaugh's confirmation, whereas Democrats won plurality support for their handling of Jackson’s confirmation.

But Republicans clearly aren't concerned one bit that a majority of Americans disapprove of the way they conducted themselves during consideration of a nominee who will likely become the Supreme Court's first Black female justice. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently pressuring his caucus to vote against Judge Jackson’s confirmation.

The only audience Republicans ever really care about—particularly in a pre-midterm environment—is the 27 percent who said they approved of how the GOP has handled the Jackson hearings. It's always about juicing the base for Republicans, who continue to be out of step with the majority of Americans on most issues concerning voters. But it's who shows up at the polls that matters, and Republicans will continue to ignore American majorities as long as they don't face any real electoral consequences for their extreme positions.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As Prosecutor, Hawley Sentenced Violent Sex Abuser To Probation -- Not Prison

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has spent the past few weeks attacking Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her sentencing record, including falsely accusing her of showing leniency for sexual predators. But Hawley's own record as a prosecutor may not match his current rhetoric.

Last Wednesday, Hawley began his assault on President Joe Biden's nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with a lengthy Twitter thread. The Missouri Republican's widely debunked accusations falsely asserted that "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker" and showed an "alarming trend of lenient sentencing."

This week, Hawley used his time at Jackson's confirmation hearing to grill the nominee — the first Black woman nominated to the high court in U.S. history — over her handling of sex crime cases.

Noting one case, in which an 18-year-old offender received a three-month prison sentence for child pornography violations, he repeatedly demanded to know, "Do you regret it?"

Hawley then asked whether it would "surprise" Jackson to learn that another offender whom Jackson sentenced to 57 months in prison was "a recidivist," meaning that he had engaged in additional crimes later.

Jackson responded noting the totality of her record and observed that "there is data in the Sentencing Commission and elsewhere that indicates that there are recidivism — serious recidivism issues — and so, among the various people that I have sentenced, I am not surprised that there are people who re-offend and it is a terrible thing that happens in our system."

While Hawley has never served as a judge, he does have experience prosecuting sex crime cases as Missouri's attorney general from 2017 to 2019. Although that office has only a small prosecutorial role in the state's criminal justice system, Hawley's brief tenure was marred by criticism of his handling of sexual abuse claims by victims.

In January 2021, the Kansas City Star published a guest column by Pam Hamilton, a former Hawley appointee who questioned his handling of human trafficking cases. "I was on Josh Hawley’s human trafficking task force," the headline of Hamilton's story read. "He sought TV cameras, not justice."

One prosecution Hawley did handle as attorney general was a 2018 sexual abuse and domestic assault case against former Knox County Sheriff Robert Becker. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol's probable cause statement, Becker was charged with violent sexual encounters against his former partner, who alleged he "choked" her with a shirt in one instance.

Instead of bringing the case to trial, Hawley agreed to a plea deal in which Becker served no jail time and instead received two years of probation and resigned his office.

"There is no place for law enforcement officers who abuse their power," Hawley said at the time. "As a result of today's plea, Mr. Becker can no longer serve in any law enforcement capacity. The Knox County community is safer as a result of today's action."

Hawley stepped down as Missouri's top law enforcement official in January 2019 after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. His successor, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, eventually filed probation violations in court against Becker. In November 2020 a judge ruled that Becker had failed to complete the mandatory sexual offender counseling required under the plea bargain and sentenced him to 20 days of "shock incarceration" — jail time intended to "shock" an offender into avoiding future crimes.

A spokesperson for Hawley did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

After Twice Voting To Confirm Jackson, Graham Attacks Her On TV

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to make fireworks on Tuesday during the second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden's nominee to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, when he trashed Jackson's previous defense of detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and then stormed out of the room in a move the committee's chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), called a play for media attention.

According to CNN reporter Manu Raju, Durbin said, "Lindsey knows how to get on CNN."

Jackson was a defense attorney for detainees at the Guantanamo prison both as a public defender and later in private practice. She has defended her role as a criminal defense attorney, including in an exchange at Tuesday's hearing.

Graham said: "I'm suggesting the system has failed miserably, and advocates to change the system — like she was advocating — would destroy our ability to protect this country. We're at war, not fighting a crime. This is not some passage-of-time event. As long as they are dangerous, I hope they all die in jail if they're gonna go back and kill Americans."

"Federal public defenders do not get to pick their clients," Jackson said during a round of questioning by Durbin. "Under our Constitution [they] are entitled to representation. They are entitled to be treated fairly. That's what makes our system the best in the world. ... That's what makes us exemplary."

It's unclear why all of a sudden Graham thinks Jackson's record is so concerning, given that he voted to confirm her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in July 2021.

Graham also did not object to Jackson's confirmation to sit on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013 or the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2010.

What's more, Jackson had defended Guantánamo Bay detainees as early as 2005, long before Graham voted to confirm her to the federal bench.

Civil rights groups have slammed the Guantanamo Bay military prison, which houses prisoners who have been detained for years without being charged with a crime or sitting for a trial. The ACLU said in January, "Around the world, Guantánamo is a symbol of racial and religious injustice, abuse, and disregard for the rule of law. ... The prisoners at Guantanamo — and indeed our nation — have lived with the legal and moral stain that the prison represents for far too long. We can't look away from what our country has done. We need to face it and shut it down."

The GOP, for its part, is putting up an attempt to block Jackson's nomination by painting her as soft on crime, in part based on her record of defending Guantánamo Bay prisoners.

But Jackson defended her record, noting in addition that she has family in law enforcement and the military.

And legal scholars have defended Jackson for representing those charged with crimes and pointed out that legal representation is a right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

"The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams's representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre. People come to the bench with a diverse array of prior private clients; that is one of the strengths of the American judiciary," Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a Lawfare blog post about Jackson published on March 20.

If no members of the Democratic majority vote against her nomination, Jackson is likely to be confirmed, as nominations to the Supreme Court now require only a simple majority vote of the Senate.

It's unclear whether any Republicans will vote for her.

Graham is one of just three GOP senators who voted to confirm Jackson to her position on the U.S. Court of Appeals. The other two were Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Josh Hawley’s Vile Attack On Judge Jackson Blasted From Left And Right

As the Senate prepares to hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has falsely claimed that she has argued that certain child pornography offenders are "less serious."

On Monday, writing for MSNBC, commentator Steve Benen observed how these attacks are quickly backfiring on him.

"The GOP senator’s line of attack did not go unnoticed, but fact-checkers quickly dismantled Hawley’s nonsense. The Associated Press said the senator’s claims 'don’t stand up to scrutiny.' Fact-check reports from the Washington Post and CNN came to the same conclusion," wrote Benen. "Others were even more direct in their denunciations. Vox’s Ian Millhiser described Hawley’s attempted smear 'genuinely nauseating.' In National Review, a leading conservative publication, Andrew McCarthy concluded that Hawley’s allegation 'appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.'"

All of this is beclowning not just Hawley but the entire Republican Party, Benen claimed, in light of GOP leadership's promise to be more high-minded than Democrats supposedly were with the sexual misconduct allegations against Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. "In reality, it’s rather easy to defend the ways in which Democratic senators handled the credible allegations surrounding Thomas and Kavanaugh. But putting that aside, the assurances about the GOP staying away from 'the gutter' and approaching Jackson’s nomination in a 'respectable' way look ridiculous in the wake of Sen. Josh Hawley’s attempted smear."

"But the fact remains that Senate GOP leaders have made no effort to follow Hawley’s lead; observers from the left, right, and center have been quick to shred his baseless smear; and by mainstream standards, Hawley’s attack backfired," concluded Benen. "The Missouri Republican meant to make Jackson look awful. He denigrated himself in the process."

You can read more here.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Behind Josh Hawley's Disgusting QAnon Slur Against Judge Jackson

Of all the Senate Republicans who regularly engage in gutter politics, none is more likely to scrape bottom than Josh Hawley. The junior senator from Missouri was best known, at least until now, for his pseudo-macho fist-pumping display outside the besieged Capitol on January 6, 2021 — and his seditious attempt to deny Electoral College certification to President Joe Biden on that same day.

But Hawley has found a new way to drag our politics into the partisan sewer with a false, grotesque, and inflammatory attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, just days before her Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin. Seizing upon a handful of cases and a comment she made in law school, he has smeared her as "soft on child pornographers."

At the outset of his Twitter thread, Hawley lied: "Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker. She's been advocating for it since law school. This goes beyond 'soft on crime.' I'm concerned that this (is) a record that endangers our children."

With that foul smear, Hawley joins an undeniably psychotic element of his party — the growing cohort affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy cult, which proclaims constantly that prominent Democrats and Hollywood stars are sexually exploiting and even murdering children. There is no evidence for these sick accusations, but that hasn't stopped the fascist-leaning wing of the GOP — including no less a figure than Trump's disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn — from endorsing them.

Before examining the real friends of kiddie porn in American politics, it is vital to unpack Hawley's fabricated assault on Jackson, a highly qualified and upright Black female jurist whose nomination has turned her into a target for the usual collection of racists and misogynists on the Right. What he accuses her of doing is what literally hundreds of judges of both parties have done regularly in sentencing child sex abuse and child pornography offenders. In law school and since, she has made the same observation as many of her fellow judges and even some prosecutors: Federal sentencing guidelines on those crimes require adjustment in the interest of justice.

According to Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman, an expert on federal sentencing policy, the guidelines on child porn are broadly "considered 'too severe' and poorly designed to 'measure offender culpability' in the digital age." Which is why, Berman writes, "federal judges nationwide rarely follow them." In fact, Berman reports that judges deliver sentences below the guidelines in two out of three child porn cases, with "typical sentences of 54 months below the calculated guideline minimum."

Among nine examples cited to support Hawley's smear, five were cases in which the prosecution advocated a sentence lower than the federal guidelines — and reiterated Jackson's point that the current guidelines cannot reflect mitigating factors or congressional intent. (That is why she suggested in law school that they should be revised.) In eight of the nine cases, Judge Jackson's sentence was less than two years lower than what prosecutors recommended.

In short, Hawley's smear shows either that he's too stupid to understand how federal sentencing works or he's deliberately distorting the facts to foster an ugly untruth. Anyone surprised by his behavior hasn't been paying attention.

By mimicking QAnon, Hawley invites an unflattering question: Which political party is actually preferred by child sex offenders? The conspiracist cult has always looked suspiciously like a perfect cover for such predators. The cult began on an internet channel that has long hosted child pornographers — and its apparent founder, Arizona GOP Congressional candidate Jim Watkins, profited from Web domains that were apparently used to promote child porn.

Beyond QAnon itself is a seemingly endless rogues gallery of child porn and sex abuse criminals associated with the Republican Party. Finding them on Google is a simple and revealing exercise. Last year, federal investigators busted an online kiddie porn ring that included Ruben Verastigui, a digital strategist for the Trump campaign, and Adam Hageman, a Trump Commerce Department official, while separate probes busted Republican consultant Anton Lazzaro, as well as Trump's Oklahoma campaign chair Ralph Shortey and Trump Kentucky delegate Timothy Nolan.

Those are only the most recent entries on the docket, which infamously includes right-wing "Christian" TV personality Josh Duggar — the Arkansas pal of the Huckabees who admitted to molesting young girls, including two of his sisters, and is facing child porn charges. (Not long before Duggar's indictment, Huckabee praised him for leading "a responsible and circumspect life.") And let's not forget Trump associate and influence peddler George Nader, who will spend a long time behind bars for trafficking a child into the United States for sex and distributing child porn.

As noted, it's a long and grimy list. And Republicans who try to suggest that their opponents are "soft" on pedophilia and child porn — currently a favorite theme in right-wing media —-should take a hard look at their own gamy milieu before repeating those disgusting slurs.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.