In this March 8, 2022, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Carolyn Kaster / AP

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Maine Sen. Susan Collins has announced that she will support the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. Other Republican senators should join her in this principled position.

Collins is the first Senate Republican to commit to voting for Jackson, pointing to the judge’s “experience, qualifications, and integrity” after reviewing her record, watching much of last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing and meeting with her twice.  

“Judge Jackson has sterling academic and professional credentials. She was a Supreme Court clerk, a public defender, a respected attorney, and a member of the Sentencing Commission.  She has served as a federal District Court judge for more than eight years and currently sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Collins said Wednesday. “Her stellar qualifications were confirmed by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which awarded her its highest rating of ‘unanimously well qualified.’”

Independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, announced his support for Jackson on Friday, saying he has been impressed by her “extensive qualifications, deep understanding of the law, and exemplary judicial temperament” and that he “can clearly see why she has received bipartisan support throughout her judicial career.”

“I’m especially pleased that she will bring a much-needed new perspective as both the first Black woman and the first former public defender to be appointed to the Supreme Court,” King said.

Though Collins is the only Republican to back Jackson so far, her announcement was not particularly surprising given recent comments and the consistent way she has evaluated Supreme Court nominees put forth by both Republican and Democratic presidents. During her time in office, Collins has supported every nominee to the country’s highest court with the exception of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the fall of 2020, due to the timing of that nomination and the way her fellow Republicans treated then-nominee (now Attorney General) Merrick Garland in 2016.

In her statement this week, Collins again noted that she does not agree with all of Jackson’s past decisions and does not expect to agree with all of her decisions should she be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“That alone, however, is not disqualifying,” Collins said. “Indeed, that statement applies to all six Justices, nominated by both Republican and Democratic presidents, whom I have voted to confirm.”

If only more senators could approach the process this way. While Collins’ decision to support Jackson is not surprising, it is heartening and should be emulated. Her assessment and treatment of Jackson’s nomination stands in stark contrast to the way some of her Republican colleagues treated this eminently qualified nominee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for example, lamented the way Republican Supreme Court nominees have been treated in the past only to turn around and repeatedly talk over Jackson when she tried to answer his questions. He diagnosed a problem and then compounded it.

Collins has provided a better approach, with an important focus on improving a damaged confirmation process.

“No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, anyone who has watched several of the last Supreme Court confirmation hearings would reach the conclusion that the process is broken. Part of the reason is that, in recent years, the process has increasingly moved away from what I believe to be appropriate for evaluating a Supreme Court nominee,” Collins said Wednesday. “In my view, the role the Constitution clearly assigns to the Senate is to examine the experience, qualifications, and integrity of the nominee. It is not to assess whether a nominee reflects the ideology of an individual senator or would rule exactly as an individual senator would want.”

She pointed to the confirmations of former Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who were confirmed by the Senate 96-3 and 98-0, respectively, in 1993 and 1986.

Has the quality of nominees really changed that drastically in several decades? Or has it been the Senate and its nomination process that has changed? As Collins pointed out, senators used to regularly give “considerable deference” to presidents of both parties in choosing a nominee.

“This approach served the Senate, the court, and the country well. It instilled confidence in the independence and the integrity of the judiciary and helped keep the court above the political fray,” Collins said. “And this is the approach that I plan to continue to use for Supreme Court nominations because it runs counter to the disturbing trend of politicizing the judicial nomination process.”

People may not agree with each of Collins’ Supreme Court nominee votes — and we haven’t — but she has been consistent in supporting nominees from both parties. The Senate, the Supreme Court and the country as a whole would be better off if other senators followed her approach.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...