In a remark before the US Senate opposing the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, Senator Tom Cotton said the judge “possibly” defended Nazis during the Nuremberg trials.
“The last Justice Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg to hear the case against the Nazis,” the Arkansas Senator said on April 5.
“That Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend her,” Senator Cotton added.
Republican officials have scrutinized Judge Jackson’s record as a federal public defender representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite the US Constitution’s right to counsel. She didn’t choose her customers either.
In confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she has repeatedly defended the nation’s “fundamental constitutional value” of providing legal counsel for even those accused of the most heinous crimes.
Senator Cotton’s remarks were widely condemned on social media.
“The fact that a brilliant black woman is going to be the Supreme Court justice offends him so much that he doesn’t even realize he’s just spoken out against due process,” said US Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
“What a joke,” she added.
The Anti-Defamation League called his comments “absolutely disgraceful behavior”.
“To use a Nazi analogy as a kind of twisted way to attack Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is reprehensible,” the group said. “We’ve said it a thousand times and we’ll say it again: stop trivializing the Holocaust for political gain.”
In his remarks, Senator Cotton claimed without evidence that Justice Jackson “will coddle criminals and terrorists and twist or ignore the law to achieve the desired outcome.”
“I understand … associating defenders of democracy and the rule of law with Nazis. An interesting propaganda point to push right now, where have I heard that recently? called Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor at New York University, a scholar of fascism and authoritarian regimes.
If confirmed as the nation’s 116th Supreme Court Justice, Justice Jackson — in addition to being the first black woman on trial — will become the first public defender and the first with significant criminal defense experience since Thurgood Marshall, who before more retired three decades ago.
Meanwhile, public defenders have repeatedly found themselves defending their position and the constitutionality of such a defense within the US legal system.
Last summer, more than 50 criminal justice and legal groups wrote to Congress claiming that public defenders nominated for judicial office had been unfairly criticized compared to former prosecutors or corporate attorneys.
According to the Center for American Progress, only 1 percent of federal appellate judges have spent their careers in public defense or as legal aid attorneys, and only 8 percent of all federal judges are former public defenders.
According to the Cato Institute, former President Donald Trump appointed 10 times as many prosecutors as criminal attorneys as public defenders in the federal judiciary.
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“Defense attorneys do a service, and our system sets an example in the world precisely because we ensure that those accused of a crime are treated fairly,” Justice Jackson said during the March 23 confirmation hearing.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee achieved a deadlocked vote on party lines to send their nomination to the Senate for a vote, at least three Republican senators are expected to join all 50 Democrats in the evenly divided chamber to win their seat on the Supreme Court to secure the nation.
Republican Senators Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have announced their support for Justice Jackson.
The Independent has reached out to Senator Cotton’s office for comment.