Jessica Schulberg, Igor Bobic, and Jennifer Bendery . . . In a thinly sourced Twitter thread on Thursday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) made a series of inflammatory attacks against Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court and currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The tweets dealt with some of Jackson’s past statements on sex offender registries and civil commitment, as well as her views on mandatory minimums. He claimed, without evidence, that Jackson “has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”
It was a preview of a tactic Republicans will likely deploy next week when Jackson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Hawley is a member. But despite his claim that she is soft on sex offenses, nothing is particularly unusual about her judgments in such cases.
“I’m concerned that this is a record that endangers our children,” Hawley tweeted Thursday, in a thread that contained out-of-context screenshots of Jackson’s past statements and no links to the underlying material he was criticizing.
Among the things he took issue with was an unsigned note that Jackson wrote about sex offender registries in the Harvard Law Review when she was a student. He tweeted a screenshot of the last paragraph of Jackson’s note in which she wrote that a “principled approach” to sex offender statutes involves assessing whether “they operate to deprive sex criminals of a legal right in a manner that primarily has retributive or general-deterrent effects.”
Hawley glossed over what Jackson was actually arguing here, which is that sex offender registry laws, which severely restrict the physical spaces that people can inhabit, should be evaluated based on whether they work in reducing recidivism. There is an abundance of research [NARSOL link] showing that sex offender registries do not make children safer, but do prevent nearly 1 million Americans from securing housing and employment. This is largely because most child sex abuse cases involve parents, other kids, and authority figures that victims trust — not anonymous serial predators lurking in bushes near elementary schools.
Hawley went on to say that Jackson “has also questioned sending dangerous sex offenders to civil commitment,” which again appears to be a reference to Jackson’s law school writings. Hawley notably does not define civil commitment, a little-known practice that continues incarcerating people who have completed their prison sentences, because of a psychological finding that they are likely to commit sex offenses again if released. The result is indefinite detention without charge. The American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly stated its opposition to the civil commitment of sex offenders.