Judge Ketanji Jackson's public defender experience rare for Supreme Court nominee

On the second day of questioning, Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday why her experience as a defense attorney on the front lines of the justice system has helped make her a better judge.

"On the prosecution side or the defense side, having actual experience is an asset as a judge. You understand the way the system works," said Jackson.

If confirmed, Jackson would become the first Supreme Court justice with experience as a public defender.

SEE ALSO: Watch day 3 of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Several Republican committee members questioned whether Jackson was overly sympathetic to defendants and too lenient on sentencing in child pornography cases. Some also criticized her work as public defender for terrorism suspects who were held at Guantanamo Bay.

Jackson defended her role and said public defenders are essential to upholding the Constitution.

"It's important to have arguments from both sides to have competent counsel," said Jackson, "We have to have people being held accountable for committing crimes, but we have to do so fairly under our Constitution."

Some say that experience on the trial court level would add diversity to a court packed with former prosecutors and professors.

"We want to have a range of experiences. And if anything, our current court is too narrow," said U.C. Hastings law professor David Levine. 

Levine says the Supreme Court often takes on criminal matters where Judge Jackson's experience could add to the discussion.

"One area that's always very active is constitutional rights, like search and seizure, whether the police can make a particular search without a warrant for example," said Levine, "There's a fairly steady diet of interpreting federal statutes and in particular, federal criminal statutes."

If confirmed, Jackson's trial court experience also could bring a different perspective during discussions by the Supreme Court justices behind closed doors.

"In that room, and they're discussing cases I'm sure that her real-world experiences will come in," predicted Levine in the event Jackson becomes a Justice.

As for critics who worry about Jackson having bias in favor of defendants, Levine says there is an important question to answer.

"What did victims of crime think about how she treated them when they came into court? Did they get the respect?" said Levine.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.