Former Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael Brennan, who is also President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, had a hard time answering New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s question about racial bias in the justice system.
“Do you think implicit racial bias exists in our criminal justice system?” Booker asked Brennan during his confirmation hearing.
Brennan was apparently not familiar with “the case.”
“I would indicate only that I would do my very best as a judge to ensure that no biases came in,” he replied.
Booker, one of the three African-American members to ever have served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, reminded Brennan of the records highlighting racial discrimination in the system.
“You’re aware that African-Americans are stopped more than whites for drug searches in this country?” he continued. “That there’s no difference between blacks and whites for using drugs or dealing drugs, but [blacks] are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for it? You’re aware of the data, I imagine, that says African Americans are more likely to get mandatory minimum sentences for the same crime. You’re probably aware of the data that African Americans are more likely to serve more time for similar crimes.”
The senator asked again, “Do you think implicit racial bias exists in the criminal justice system as you know it?”
Brennan didn’t seem to realize what he was asked. Meanwhile, Booker looked stunned at Brennan’s blank expressions.
“One of the things I can say, senator, is that I want to put my pro bono efforts into …,” Brennan began, going around the same circle before Booker cut in.
“I’m not asking about you specifically, sir,” Booker interrupted. “I’m asking, do you think racial bias exists in the criminal justice system?”
The Trump-nominee clearly had no idea how to proceed, when Booker interrupted him, again, and provided some much-needed statistics to prove his point.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, black drivers are more likely to be pulled over by police in a traffic stop than white drivers.
According to the War on Marijuana in Black and White, black people are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people — even though research studies show that the two groups use cannabis at roughly the same rates.
Brennan tried to pivot Booker’s questions and made a fool out of himself by instead talking about what he spent his time working on.
Upon being reminded again of what he was actually asked, Brennan suggested he might give an opinion if he could have a look at the data that Booker was referencing to, i.e. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“You haven’t? You’re a judge in the United States of America and you have not looked at issues of race in sentencing and the criminal justice system?” Booker asked, giving up. “I find this astonishing.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, Getty Images