Casting a shadow over President Biden's historic Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, tense debate broke out at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on the nomination of a former public defender to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Guardian reports. Republicans seized on Arianna Freeman's 12-year career representing indigent clients, saying such a history would jeopardize the ability to serve as an impartial judge. Freeman would be the first Black woman and first woman of color to serve on the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court. She has worked at the Federal Community Defender Office in Pennsylvania since 2009.
At the first stop of her confirmation process, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) cited Freeman's representation of convicted murderer Terrance Williams, who won a Supreme Court appeal in 2016 based on the failure of a state supreme court justice to recuse himself from proceedings on Williams' death sentence despite having worked for the office that prosecuted Williams. Hawley described Williams' crimes in detail and claimed that Freeman's arguments were indicative of her overall view of the criminal justice system, accusing Freeman of being opposed to capital punishment. Republicans' fiery criticisms of Freeman for her role as a public defender, a background rarely seen on the federal bench, come as Supreme Court choice Jackson meets with senators in advance of her hearing that starts Mar. 21.