Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on March 22 said that Guantánamo Bay detainees deserved fair representation under the U.S. Constitution. (The Washington Post)

Jackson said she defended Guantánamo Bay detainees because they deserved fair representation under the U.S. Constitution.

“After 9/11, there were also lawyers who recognized that our nation’s values were under attack, and we couldn’t let the terrorists win by changing who we were fundamentally,” she said. “What that meant was that, the people who were being accused by our government of having engaged in actions related to this under our Constitution’s scheme were entitled to representation.”

That, she said, “is what makes our system the best in the world.”

Jackson explained that she was in the federal public defender’s office when the Supreme Court said individuals detained at Guantánamo in connection to the attack could seek review of their detention.

“Federal public defenders don’t get to pick their clients,” Jackson said. “It’s a service. That’s what you do as a federal public defender. You are standing up for the constitutional value of representation.”

Jackson noted what she said was the uniqueness of the situation — not only the attack, but “also the use of executive authority to detain people in this way.”

The Supreme Court, she said, took some cases to understand what the limits of executive authority are.

“The Supreme Court [has] recently reaffirmed that the Constitution does not get suspended in times of emergency,” she said. “And so lawyers were trying to help the court to figure out what the executive’s power was in this circumstance.”