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Why GOP Criticism of Jackson on Child Porn Terms is Misleading


Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images


Facing senators’ questions for the first time, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson forcefully defended her record as a federal judge Tuesday, declaring she will rule “from a position of neutrality” if she is confirmed, the Associated Press reports.


Jackson responded to Republicans who have questioned whether she is too liberal in her judicial philosophy. She said she tries to “understand what the people who created this law intended,“ relying on the words of a statute but also looking to history and practice when the meaning may not be clear.


On the question of whether she has given light sentences to child pornographers, she was asked if her rulings have endangered children. “As a mother and a judge,” she said, “nothing could be further from the truth.”


Those are some of the toughest cases a judge has to deal with, she said. She described looking into the eyes of defendants and explaining the lifelong effects on victims.


Republican senators are misleadingly portraying Jackson as lenient on felons who possess images of child sexual abuse, reports the New York Times. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has said Jackson "has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes."


Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said Jackson has a "consistent pattern of giving child porn offenders lighter sentences." Hawley said Jackson wanted to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for child porn as a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In fact, the panel said penalty ranges “are too severe for some offenders and too lenient for other offenders.” Andrew McCarthy, a conservative writer and former federal prosecutor, called Hawley’s criticisms of Jackson a smear. “It is not soft on porn to call for sensible line-drawing,” he wrote in the National Review. “Plenty of hard-nosed prosecutors and Republican-appointed judges have long believed that this mandatory minimum is too draconian.”


Hawley and Blackburn both highlighted Jackson’s record for imposing lighter sentences than the federal guideline recommendation. This is not out of the ordinary for judges. Of the nine cases the lawmakers cited, prosecutors also sought shorter sentences than were recommended in five, said Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman.


The Sentencing Commission said only 30 percent of offenders who possess or share child porn received a sentence within the guideline range in the 2019 fiscal year, and 59 percent received a sentence below the guideline range.

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