Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson told the Senate on Wednesday she believes all Supreme Court precedents deserve equal respect, including the Court’s landmark gun-rights ruling.
During an exchange with Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) Jackson said she believes all precedents should be honored. She reiterated that she recognizes the Supreme Court established the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms in 2008’s Heller v. D.C. decision. She said she doesn’t believe that percent should be viewed any differently from other precedents, including the one set in Roe v. Wade.
“All precedents of the Supreme Court have to be respected,” Jackson said when asked if she would respect the ruling in Heller.
“Is it equivalent in terms of its precedence to Roe v. Wade or would you evaluate it differently?” Cornyn followed up.
“I’m not aware of any ranking or grading of precedents,” Jackson said. “All precedents of the Supreme Court are entitled to respect on an equal basis.”
The response comes after Jackson reiterated her view that the Supreme Court had established “the individual right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right” during the previous day’s hearing. It provides further insight into how she might decide Second Amendment cases once appointed to the Court. How she approaches gun rights will significantly impact how the Court rules in gun cases during the 51-year-old’s potential lifetime appointment.
Senator Cornyn said he agreed with Jackson’s view on the nature of Supreme Court precedents, and attacked the view of other Senators who have argued Roe v. Wade, which dealt with the legality of abortion, is one a higher level than rulings in other cases.
“It blows my mind when people talk about ‘super precedents’ as if somehow one precedent was different in terms of its significance or priority under the Constitution than others,” he said.
Jackson’s comments are unlikely to sway gun groups on either side of the issue though. As with her other comments on the issue to this point, Jackson’s view on the equal respect demanded by the Heller precedent does not necessarily provide insight into how she may judge future Second Amendment cases. The National Rifle Association has expressed skepticism of her commitment to upholding protections for individual gun rights because she hasn’t given her personal view on the Second Amendment beyond what precedent sets.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has never affirmed that the Second Amendment protects the individual, fundamental right of all Americans to keep and bear arms for the defense of themselves or others,” the gun-rights group said after her nomination was announced.
The Firearms Policy Coalition has also compared her comments to those Justice Sonia Sotomayor eventually went back on after being confirmed.
“I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller,” Sotomayor said during her confirmation hearing.
However, Sotomayer joined dissenting justices in 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago by concluding “the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense.”
The gun-rights groups also pointed to the man who nominated her as a source of concern.
“The NRA is concerned with President Biden’s decision to nominate her to the Supreme Court of the United States at a crucial time when there are vital cases that will determine the scope and future of the Second Amendment and self-defense rights in our country,” the NRA said.
Gun-control groups, on the other hand, have steadfastly backed Jackson’s nomination by relying largely on President Biden’s record of gun-control advocacy.
“President Biden has governed as the strongest gun safety president in history, and we have every confidence that Judge Jackson will employ a mainstream, commonsense reading of the Second Amendment,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement after her nomination.
Jackson’s confirmation hearing will continue through Thursday.