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In a 2015 speech about sentencing policy, Jackson did not say critical race theory should be considered by judges in making decisions on the bench. Jackson said that sentencing policy is interesting on an intellectual level because it “melds together myriad types of law,” as well as critical race theory, negotiations and contracts.
A Republican senator claimed that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said judges should use critical race theory in making their decisions. Jackson would be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court if confirmed by the Senate.
Critical race theory is a collection of ideas about systemic bias and privilege. Conservative elected officials have moved to bar critical race theory in public schools or state agencies, even when it isn’t being used.
The attack on Jackson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, came from Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn. In a Fox News interview during a break on the second day of Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearings, Blackburn said Tennessee residents have concerns about Jackson and parental rights.
"Whether you're in Virginia, whether you're in San Francisco, you want children to be taught facts in school, you don't want them indoctrinated. They're concerned about Judge Jackson," Blackburn said March 22.
In 2015, she continued, Jackson "gave a lecture talking about critical race theory as one of the components to consider when you are making decisions on the bench."
Blackburn is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will recommend whether Jackson’s nomination by President Joe Biden should be considered by the full Senate. Her claim was similar to a narrower remark she made on the first day of the hearings, when she told Jackson that "you believe judges must consider critical race theory when deciding criminal defendants."
In the text of the speech, which is part of a record on Jackson assembled by the committee, Jackson said:
"… no fewer than 97% of the cases in the federal criminal justice system are now resolved by guilty pleas, so in the vast majority of criminal cases, sentencing is really all there is. But even beyond that, learning about sentencing is important for all lawyers, even if criminal law is not your thing, because, at bottom, the sentencing of criminal offenders is the authorized exercise of the power of the government to subjugate the free will of individuals …
"I also try to convince my students that sentencing is just plain interesting on an intellectual level, in part because it melds together myriad types of law — criminal law, of course, but also administrative law, constitutional law, critical race theory, negotiations and, to some extent, even contracts. And if that’s not enough to prove to them that sentencing is a subject worth studying, I point out that sentencing policy implicates and intersects with various other intellectual disciplines as well, including philosophy, psychology, history, statistics, economics, and politics."
Republicans have questioned whether critical race theory influences Jackson’s views and work, including with a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Besides Jackson’s 2015 speech, the statement said that in a 2020 lecture, Jackson said a book on racism by Derrick Bell, who is seen as a leader of critical race theory, was an influential book to her.
Prior to her nomination to the D.C. Circuit judgeship, Jackson served for eight years as a federal district court judge, having been appointed by President Barack Obama. She has also served as vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Jackson, having worked as a federal public defender, would be the first Supreme Court justice with extensive criminal defense experience since the late Thurgood Marshall.
Blackburn claimed that Jackson in 2015 "gave a lecture talking about critical race theory as one of the components to consider when you are making decisions on the bench."
Jackson was speaking about sentencing policy, not how judges make decisions on the bench. She said sentencing policy is interesting on an intellectual level because it "melds together myriad types of law," as well as critical race theory, negotiations and contracts.
We rate Blackburn’s statement False.
Fox News, Marsha Blackburn interview, March 22, 2022
Email, Marsha Blackburn spokesperson Spencer Hurwitz, March 22, 2022
Senate Judiciary Committee, "Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees Attachments to Question 12(a), Ketanji Brown Jackson," (page 919), accessed March 22, 2022
New York Times, "Echoing Conservative Grievances, Blackburn Miscasts Jackson’s Views," published March 21, 2022; updated March 22, 2022
The Daily Wire, "Biden’s Supreme Court Pick Championed Advocates Of Critical Race Theory In Lectures, Speeches," March 17, 2022
PolitiFact, "What is critical race theory, and why are conservatives blocking it?", May 24, 2021
PolitiFact, "Joe Biden keeps promise to name first Black woman to Supreme Court," Feb. 25, 2022
Associated Press, "AP FACT CHECK: Republicans skew Jackson's record on crime," March 22, 2022
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