Hawley says he wants answers on SCOTUS nominee Jackson’s below-guidelines sentences
Sen. Josh Hawley expressed concern about Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s sentences in seven child pornography cases during his statement on the first day of her nomination hearing.
The Republican senator from Missouri emphasized that he has named the cases in advance because he wants Jackson to explain why she imposed sentences that were below recommendations in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and by prosecutors.
“I’m not interested in trapping Judge Jackson,” said Hawley. “I’m not interested in trying to play gotcha. I’m interested in her answers.”
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, earlier cited an expert who has argued that federal sentencing guidelines for child pornography are too harsh, Hawley said. “I’ll just be honest. I can’t say I agree with that.”
In two of the cases cited by Hawley, prosecutors had recommended sentences below the guidelines, CNN has reported. In several others, prosecutors recommended the minimum guidelines sentence.
In five of the cases, Jackson imposed sentences that were the same as or greater than recommendations by the U.S. Probation Office, according to the White House.
CNN’s review of the cases found that Jackson had mostly followed common sentencing practices. The network and the Kansas City Star point out that in cases not involving the production of child pornography, 59% of all sentences imposed by judges are below the federal guidelines.
When judges have handed down sentences in child pornography cases that are below the federally recommended guidelines, the average downward variance was 50 months, according to data from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers cited by CNN.
Hawley named these cases, which were previously mentioned in his Twitter feed:
- United States v. Hawkins. Jackson sentenced the defendant to three months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 97 to 121 months in prison.
- United States v. Stewart. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 57 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 97 to 121 months in prison.
- United States v. Cooper. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 60 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 151 to 188 months in prison.
- United States v. Chazin. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 28 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 78 to 97 months in prison.
- United States v. Downs. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 60 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 70 to 87 months in prison.
- United States v. Sears. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 71 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 97 to 121 months in prison.
- United States v. Savage. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 37 months in prison, while the guidelines recommended 46 to 57 months in prison.
Jackson did not have the opportunity to respond immediately, though she could be seen taking notes during Hawley’s statement.
In their statements, other Republican senators asked Jackson whether she is an “activist judge” and why she has support from the “radical left.”
“I can only wonder: What is your hidden agenda?” asked Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. She went on to express fears that Jackson supports greater freedoms for “hardened criminals,” restrictions on parental rights and efforts to pack the U.S. Supreme Court.
Others focused on judicial philosophy. Republicans said they favor judges who are committed to the Constitution as originally written and judges who simply call “balls and strikes.”
Updated at 4:54 p.m. to add additional remarks from the afternoon session.
Read our coverage of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearing here.