Josh Hawley appears as both star and villain in Supreme Court hearings

Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley deserves praise on the right and contempt on the left, after playing a key role in Republican efforts to block confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

From her perch on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hawley has used President Joe Biden’s high court election confirmation hearings to raise questions about her suitability – digging into the sentences she handed down in child pornography convictions in as a U.S. District Judge. Democrats charged Hawley with defamation, arguing that he was essentially accusing Jackson of coddling pedophiles in an overtly political attempt to block confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee with a stellar resume.

Republicans counter that Hawley Jackson’s questioning during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings was warranted, and they’re pretty happy with how the episode aired publicly. Democrats, they say, are running in circles because they realize the senator effectively raised doubts about Jackson, 51, who, if confirmed, would be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court .

“It’s important that these issues have been raised,” said Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that focuses on judicial appointments, on Thursday, praising Hawley for successfully drawing attention to the flaws of Jackson. Severino opposes Jackson’s confirmation, citing philosophical differences.

The White House, as expected, pilloried Hawley for his treatment of Jackson. In a series of tweets, spokesman Andrew Bates highlighted what Democrats and some media fact-checkers believe are inconsistent standards to confirm Jackson over his support for judges appointed by former President Donald Trump.

“Josh Hawley (R-QAnon) managed to make himself even more of a discredited hypocrite, trying to move the goal posts for his debunked smear from prosecutorial guidelines to recommendations – when he voted for Trump judges who convicted of the same way as Jackson in both respects,” Bates wrote in a Twitter post.


Hawley, 42, has had a particular interest in judicial issues since entering the Senate in 2019, which suits his background.

The former Missouri attorney general worked for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and later worked as an attorney in private practice. The Yale Law School graduate regularly contributes amicus briefs in Supreme Court cases and signs others. Although Hawley is considered a potential 2024 nominee, Republicans close to him say his activities on the Senate Judiciary Committee are irrelevant to political ambitions – which they point out do not include running for office. to the presidency.

Instead, say Republicans familiar with Hawley, his tough questions for Jackson were framed by his constitutional philosophy and his belief that life appointees to the most powerful court in the land should not be approved in the absence of a a thorough examination. As with all Supreme Court nominations, Hawley spent weeks before Jackson’s hearing voraciously reading whatever he could get his hands on his criminal record, working with his staff to mine his background for all relevant information.

“He often finds details not found by others when vetting judicial candidates,” a Republican operative said. “That’s why he was so effective in the contests for the nomination.” Hawley’s office declined to comment for this story.

Biden nominated Jackson to replace Associate Justice Stephen Breyer after the liberal jurist announced he would retire this year, fulfilling his promise to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court. Since last year, Brown has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, the most influential federal court below the Supreme Court and a top feeder to the High Court.

Brown’s nomination has been cheered by congressional Democrats and liberal activists who, based on her rulings as a U.S. district judge and later on the appeals court, view the judge as a fellow traveler. But Brown, who is committed to being a neutral arbiter of constitutional law, also enjoys bipartisan support within the legal community and has received the coveted “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

Voters seem to agree with the ABA. In a Gallup follow-up survey conducted this month, 58% supported confirming Jackson, with 30% opposing it and 12% expressing no opinion. Indeed, Jackson is likely to get confirmation when the full Senate votes on his nomination in April.

But conservatives opposed to Jackson credit Hawley with reducing the number of Republicans originally expected to back her, though some who otherwise oppose her nomination have expressed discomfort with his tactics. The senator opened his line of attack against Jackson ahead of his confirmation hearing with a lengthy Twitter thread questioning his “alarming model of leniency in sentencing for child porn offenders.” In Hawley’s opening statement at the hearing, he highlighted seven such cases that she presided over.


In an exchange after the interrogation began, Hawley asked Jackson if she regretted giving a three-month “snap the fingers” sentence to an 18-year-old man convicted of possession and distribution of hundreds of child pornography images featuring children 10 and under. As Jackson attempted to explain her approach to sentencing, Hawley interrupted her twice, urging her to explain. “Judge, you gave him three months,” he said. “My question is: do you regret it?

The exchange can be viewed below.