by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Kaelan Deese writes for the Washington Examiner about the earliest actions from the nation’s newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s “idiosyncratic” style of questioning contrasts greatly with his successor, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, according to legal experts who say she follows a line of more insistent and direct inquiry.
Breyer, a Clinton appointee who is well-known for his whimsical hypotheticals, “kind of keyed up these long questions that were idiosyncratic and didn’t really relate to what the other justices were talking about necessarily, or if they did, they kind of were so long — they were so wind[ing] — that they kind of lost their tie-ins to the other justices,” according to Adam Feldman, founder of the Supreme Court blog Empirical SCOTUS and principal for the data consulting firm Optimized Legal.
After Jackson’s first four oral argument hearings this week, Feldman told the Washington Examiner that Jackson differs from her predecessor in that she “was very tuned into the talking points of these cases, in a similar manner” as Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, the two other Democratic-appointed justices on the 6-3 court.
In other words, Jackson, whose presence on the court marks the first time four women justices have sat alongside each other, was more synchronized with the other two members of the liberal bloc and “wasn’t going out in necessarily her own direction,” Feldman said.
“[Breyer] went in his own direction. He would ask attorneys regularly, ‘What would you do if you were in my seat?’ to try to get them to talk about where their policy positions were and where they thought things were going to go,” Feldman added.
While their styles may differ from one another, Breyer and Jackson have many similarities as well. Jackson was appointed as a U.S. district court judge in 2011, and the last high court justice to have previously been on a U.S. district court was Breyer. Additionally, Jackson once clerked for Breyer, which made her eventual appointment to his vacant position a notable feat.