Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s 1992 Harvard University thesis argued that court officials, including judges, have “personal hidden agendas,” which may raise questions about her alleged tendency to be soft on criminals as a federal district court judge.

Jackson’s thesis, “‘The Hand of Oppression”: Plea Bargaining Processes and the Coercion of Criminal Defendants,” argued that defendants sometimes are “being coerced into relinquishing their constitutional rights as a prerequisite for sentencing consideration” through the use of plea bargains.


Jackson wrote:

There is a chance that the very institution which is designed to dispense justice and to protect individual rights could be the most guilty of creating injustices in its effort to make criminal adjudication economical and efficient. This thesis will examine guilty plea negotiations in modern criminal courts in the United States, and will argue that, as they currently operate, plea bargaining processes are both coercive and unacceptable.

In her thesis, Jackson argues that it is necessary to examine the motivations, or “hidden agendas,” that underlie the attempts to “get the accused to waive their constitutional rights” through plea bargains.

Jackson wrote, “We must endeavor to identify the ‘motivation of individual decision makers exercising delegating authority’ both as support for the assertion that the process is pressure-laden (Chapter Two), and as a premise for the argument that the pressures themselves are unacceptably coercive (Chapters Five and Six).”

She then claims that court actors, including judges, have “personal motives” for wanting to resolve cases by plea bargaining and for acting upon that desire.” She claims that court officials, including judges, have “personal hidden agendas:”

It is possible that “[t]he people who run the criminal justice process and the decisions that they make are more likely to serve their interest rather than the system’s clients.” Within a social institution of such tremendous power and influence, statutorial and ideological concepts have the potential to be manipulated by individuals for personal gain. And though “people can justify their [actions] in the name of the collective good,” they may actually be attempting to “disguis[e] a vested interest. ” Before we can effectively analyze plea bargaining, we must attempt to identify the personal hidden agendas of various court professionals. [Emphasis added]

Jackson’s argument that court officials have “personal hidden agendas” regarding plea bargains raises questions about her time as a federal district court judge, as many Republicans have accused her of being soft on criminals.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said Jackson was very lenient on crime during the coronavirus pandemic. She alleged that Jackson was partial towards criminals and terrorists:

At the start of the pandemic, you advocated, and again I wrote, for “each and every criminal defendant in the D.C. Department of Corrections custody should be released.” That would have been 1500 criminals back on the street if you had had your way. And you used the COVID-19 pandemic as justification to release a fentanyl drug dealer, a bank robber addicted to heroin, and a convict who murdered a U.S. Marshal into our communities. But your efforts to protect convicts began before the pandemic. You used your time and talent, not to serve our nation’s veterans or other vulnerable groups, but to provide free legal services to help terrorists get out of Gitmo and go back to the fight.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) noted during the hearing that Jackson has documented past support of Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter. He said that would raise the question regarding left-wing prosecutors who are backed by left-wing donor George Soros.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said on Monday that Jackon has been “lenient” on child sex predators and is “soft on crime.”

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