– Full court press. The decision by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at the end of this summer is giving U.S. President Joe Biden a chance to fulfill one of his chief campaign promises: to appoint the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court.
Biden is expected to formally announced Breyer’s retirement plans on Thursday, but the rumor mill is already churning as to who will replace the 83-year-old moderate liberal.
One of Breyer’s former SCOTUS clerks, U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is considered the front-runner. Former President Barack Obama nominated Jackson, 51, to be a district circuit judge, and Biden elevated her last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., which often funnels judges to the SCOTUS bench. The graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law is a favorite among Democrats’ liberal base, in part because she once served as a public defender, experience that’s rare among SCOTUS hopefuls. Her profile has ballooned in recent years as she’s ruled on cases involving former President Donald Trump. Jackson wrote a line you may remember, “Presidents are not kings,” when ruling that Trump’s former counsel, Donald McGahn II, had to obey a congressional subpoena in the Russia investigation. And a fun fact: she is related by marriage to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, who at a 2012 confirmation hearing said, “my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity [is] unequivocal.”
Leondra Kruger, a California Supreme Court justice, is another top contender and considered more moderate, perhaps making her a natural fit to replace Breyer. The 45-year-old graduated from Harvard, was the first Black female editor of the Yale Law Journal, clerked at the Supreme Court, and appeared before the justices numerous times as a lawyer for the government in the Obama administration. Former California Governor Jerry Brown nominated Kruger to the state’s supreme court in 2014, when she was just 38. In 2016, the mother of two became the first California Supreme Court justice to give birth while in office.
Another judge in the running is J. Michelle Childs, arguably the least known of the three women. Support from Rep. James Clyburn (D–S.C.) has helped land Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, on the shortlist. Clyburn is a close ally of Biden and helped revive the president’s flagging primary campaign. He has pushed Childs, 55, as a nominee who not only fulfills Biden’s goal of appointing a Black woman but one who represents blue collar America, a constituency Biden aligns himself with. Childs attended state schools, meaning she lacks the Ivy League pedigree that’s nearly universal among the current justices.
“When people talk to diversity they are always looking at race and ethnicity—I look beyond that to diversity of experience,” Clyburn told the New York Times last year.
Biden has already heeded Clyburn’s advice and nominated Childs to the federal appeals court in D.C. In fact, her confirmation hearing for that role is next Tuesday and may provide a preview for how Senators would weigh her Supreme Court candidacy and how she’d perform under tough questioning.
If there was any doubt Biden stood by his vow to select a Black woman for the high court, White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed put it to rest yesterday. She declined to confirm that Breyer was stepping down, but said, “The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that.”
Democrats expect nothing less.
“The court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “I want to change that.”
Fortune mag by Claire Zillman and AND EMMA HINCHLIFFE, January 27, 2022
January 27, 2022
Voices4America Post Script. There has never been a black woman even in consideration for SCOTUS. President Biden promised to change that and will. Meet the 3 amazing women on his shortlist. #DiversifySCOTUS #DiversifySCOTU