10 state AGs sign open letter condemning Ketanji Brown Jackson for being ‘soft on crime’

Ten state attorneys general have signed a letter condemning President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, for being “soft on crime,” arguing her lenient sentences are proof she shouldn’t be on the high court.

The letter comes on the heels of a contentious set of confirmation hearings in which Jackson’s sentencing habits, in child pornography cases in particular, came under scrutiny by Senate Republicans.

According to Fox News, signatories to the letter, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued that her sentences were well below federal guidelines during her decade-long time on the bench.

The letter was sent to Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as well as ranking GOP member Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

“Judge Jackson hasn’t merely erred on the more forgiving end of a spectrum of available punishments, as many judges sometimes do,” the letter read.

“Rather, during her decade-long tenure as a federal district court judge, she repeatedly cast victims aside, elevated defendants above them, and sentenced the abusers well below the accepted federal guidelines.”

The attorneys general noted “[t]hree particular instances” which showed where Jackson’s leniency showed that she took the side of sexual predators.

In U.S. v. Hawkins, a defendant in a child pornography case was sentenced to three months in prison when guidelines called for 10 years. Meanwhile, in U.S. v. Stewart, a man convicted of having thousands of pornographic images of children and attempting to cross state lines to molest a 9-year-old girl, had been sentenced to only 57 month; guidelines put the sentencing in the range of 97 to 121 months.

In another case, an individual was sentenced to 28 months when the range was between 78 and 97 months.

“Her weakness toward the sexual exploitation of children is not new,” the attorneys general argued. “Indeed, it stretches back to her time as a law student.

“In a 1996 Harvard Law Review note, she argued that the registration and community-notification requirements for sex offenders were unfairly punitive toward criminals, while failing to recognize those requirements’ protective value for communities. Judge Jackson was determined not to ‘deprive[] the [sex] offender of his right to mobility or bodily integrity’ and warned of the risks that such ‘harsh’ punishments would have on a community’s ‘rejection, antipathy, and scorn’ toward him.’

“But this view undermines all the hard work that anti-abuse advocates have made in recent years to refocus the conversation on victims — here, our precious children, who are too often overlooked by people like Judge Jackson.”

The AGs said her soft-on-crime record is demonstrative of “disdain for the recommendation of prosecutors and the political process.”

“[I]t’s an insult to the victims of child exploitation, who are revictimized every time one of Judge Jackson’s prematurely released criminals views, copies, shares or talks about those images,” they said.

They also argued that replacing retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with Jackson “isn’t merely swapping out one liberal for another. Rather, it’s replacing an old-school progressive with a modern leftist who has demonstrated — in word and in deed — shocking leniency toward child pornographers.”

Jackson has defended the sentences on the basis that sentencing guidelines for child pornographers were written before the age of the internet and that computers have drastically changed how criminals operate.

“You can be doing this for 15 minutes, and all of a sudden you are looking at 30, 40, 50 years in prison,” the nominee said during testimony

She added that “every person in all of these chats and documents I sent to jail because I know how serious this crime is.”

It’s unclear whether the letter will have any effect on Jackson’s confirmation. She would be confirmed if all 50 Democrats in the Senate were to vote for her, and she appears to be on track for that. In addition, GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah have indicated their intent to vote for her, as well.