By Jake Kaplan

Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:

The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

  • In her opening statement to the committee, Jackson detailed how she approaches the cases before her as a judge. “All of my professional experiences, including my work as a public defender and a trial judge, have instilled in me the importance of having each litigant know that the judge in their case has heard them, whether or not their arguments prevail in court,” Jackson said.
  • Judge Jackson then faced questions from senators on the committee. Many of the questions focused on Jackson’s experiences as a lawyer and her judicial record, including her work as a public defender, her time as a federal judge, and her time serving on the United States Sentencing Commission.
  • Republican senators, including Sen. Josh Hawley, questioned Jackson about her handling of child pornography cases. Responding to Hawley’s criticism of the sentences Jackson imposed on a handful of defendants, Jackson said, “Congress has given the judges not only the discretion to make the decision but required judges to do so on an individualized basis taking into account not only the guidelines but also various factors including the age of the defendant, the circumstances of the defendant. If you were to look at the greater body of not only my more than 100 sentences but also the sentences of other judges in my district and nationwide you would see a very similar exercise of attempting to do what judges do.”
  • In response to questions from Sen. Ted Cruz about critical race theory, Jackson said, “My understanding is that critical race theory is an academic theory that is about the ways in which race interacts with various institutions. It doesn’t come up in my work as a judge. It’s never something that I’ve studied or relied on. And it wouldn’t be something that I would rely on if I was on the Supreme Court.”
  • Speaking about reproductive rights, Jackson said, “I do agree with both Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett on this issue. Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate [a] woman’s pregnancy.”

The Supreme Court issued an order from its shadow docket with implications for voting rights.

  • There has been an ongoing battle in Wisconsin over the state’s legislative maps. The case before the Supreme Court saw the Republican-led legislature challenging the map adopted by the state’s Supreme Court, which was drawn by Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Evers’s map contained seven assembly districts where Black voters made up the majority—an increase from the six in the current map.
  • In the Court’s unsigned opinion, the justices struck down Evers’s map and returned the case to the state court. The Court said, “The question that our [Voting Rights Act] precedents ask and the court failed to answer is whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.”
  • Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. In her dissent, Sotomayor called the Court’s decision “unprecedented,” and she said that “the court today faults the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best.”
  • In a separate order, the Court rejected to review a case concerning Wisconsin’s congressional districts.

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