‘Don’t Get To Pick Their Clients’: Judge Jackson Defends Representing Guantanamo Bay Detainees


Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson defended representing Guantanamo Bay detainees at her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Tuesday.

Jackson was assigned to defend terror suspects held in Guantanamo Bay while serving as a federal public defender in 2005, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“September 11 [2001] was a tragic attack on this country,” Jackson said. “We all lived through it, we saw what happened and there were many defenses, important defenses, that Americans undertook. There were Americans whose service came in the form of military action.”

“After 9/11, there were also lawyers who recognized that our nation’s values were under attack, that we couldn’t let the terrorists win by changing who we were fundamentally,” she said. “And what that meant was that the people who were being accused by our government of having engaged in actions related to this, under our constitutional scheme, were entitled to representation, were entitled to be treated fairly. That’s what makes our system the best in the world. That’s what makes us exemplary.”

Jackson said the Supreme Court ruled that detainees could seek review of their imprisonment and had been assigned to legally represent them. (RELATED: ‘An Alarming Pattern’: Sen. Josh Hawley Questions Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Record On Child Porn Rulings) 

“Federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients,” she continued. “They have to represent whoever comes in, and it’s a service. That’s what you do as a federal public defender, you are standing up for the constitutional value of representation. And so I represented, as an appellate defender, some of those detainees.”

She emphasized a criminal defense lawyer’s role is to serve the Constitution and the court by arguing on behalf of their clients and that the Constitution “does not get suspended in times of emergency.”

One of Jackson’s clients, Khiali-Gul, was a Taliban intelligence officer and the suspected leader of a terror cell near the city of Khost, Afghanistan, the Free Beacon reported. Jackson filed a petition for Gul where she accused the U.S. government of initiating torture tactics on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. She also accused the U.S. government of violating detainees’ rights to privately communicate with their counsel, according to the outlet.

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley expressed concern over her representing the detainees after entering into a private practice at a press conference, according to The Kansas City Star.

“She volunteered to continue that representation in private practice, which I think is interesting,” Hawley said. “And frankly, from my point of view, a little concerning. This isn’t just the filing of amicus briefs.”