'It's not the same thing': Judge Jackson tears down Josh Hawley's accusations that she's soft on sex offenders
Ketanji Brown Jackson (AFP)

At Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) doubled down on his accusations of her being soft on child sex criminals — dwelling in particular on a case in which she departed from sentencing guidelines on an 18-year-old man who had photos of underage teenagers, and a law school article she wrote.

Jackson, however, was quick to push back on his spin and provide the context behind these examples.

"I want to understand here. Is it your view that society is too hard on sex offenders?" asked Hawley. "You say they are truly shunned in society. You wrote that many of these laws are products of a climate of fear, hatred and revenge. So is that still your view? Do you think that these laws are too tough, at a tough on sex offenders. Explain what you meant in this case, 2013, and it seemed to be the same thing you said many years ago."

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"Senator, it's not the same thing I said many years ago," said Jackson. "Many years ago, as a law school student, I was evaluating a new set of legislation, state laws about registration, and I was analyzing them as law students do. It wasn't about the sex crime. It was about the characterization of the law. Is it a punitive law? Is it a prescriptive law? How would a court go about determining that? That was the frame I used then. It could have been about anything. It was about the characterization of legislation—"

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt you ... I want to understand this," Hawley cut in. "I'm quoting from your conclusion now. This is on page 1728 of the Harvard Law Review. This is your conclusion. 'In the current climate of fear, hatred and revenge associated with the release of convicted sex criminals, courts need to be especially attentive.' You're saying there is a 'climate of fear, hatred and revenge' informing these laws. And you described them earlier. Megan's Law and others. I'm trying to understand what you men by that. You were saying something similar in the Hawkins case."

"Senator, with all due respect, my articles are now in the record," said Jackson. "People can read it and they can see that I was evaluating these laws, not to determine their constitutionality, not to say that they shouldn't be enacted, but to talk about the ways in which courts make determinations about the character of the law and all the consequences that follow from them. In law school, I had not had any experience in terms of the criminal justice system. And I was doing what law students do, which is seeking to analyze, in a creative way, new legislation."

"With respect to Mr. Hawkins, I was doing what judges do," said Jackson. "Which is look at the statute, 18 U.S.C. 13 533 a. Exercise discretion as Congress has required us to do. Take into account all the various aspects of a particular case and make a determination consistent with may authority, my judgment, and understanding fully the egregious nature of the crime. As you said, even the prosecutors in these cases are not recommending guideline sentences. The probation office, which is an independent authority, looking at these cases and the facts related to them, are not recommending guideline sentences."

Watch below:

Ketanji Brown Jackson pushes back on Josh Hawley's attacks www.youtube.com