(Left: Judge J. Michelle Childs, Charles Dharapak/AP/Shutterstockl Right: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Tom Williams/AP/Shutterstock)

In Supreme Court First, Retiring Justice Stephen Breyer To Be Replaced by a Black Woman

Holding true to his campaign promise, President Joe Biden has committed to nominating a Black woman to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. If he does, and that Judge is confirmed, she will become the first Black woman ever to hold a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

With Breyer’s retirement announcement now official, Washington, D.C., is now abuzz with predictions over who might fill the incredibly important role he will be vacating.

Colleen Long, Zeke Miller, Michael Balsamo and Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press reported that there are at least three leading candidates to fill that vacancy: U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.

According to AP, “since Biden took office in January 2021, he has focused on nominating a diverse group of judges to the federal bench, installing five Black women on federal appeals courts, with three more nominations pending before the Senate. Other possible candidates for the high court could come from among that group.”

In a statement, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said: “[Biden] has a strong pool to select a candidate from, in addition to other sources. This is a historic opportunity to appoint someone with a strong record on civil and human rights.”

Based on data from the White House, 40 judges nominated by President Biden were confirmed in his first year in office, with 80% of those being women and 53% being people of color. President Biden has the highest number of judges confirmed in his first year since Ronald Reagan achieved a similar feat in the early ‘80s.

As for those leading candidates to fill Breyer’s seat, here’s how the AP described them:

  • “Jackson, 51, was nominated by President Barack Obama to be a district court judge. Biden elevated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Early in her career, she was also a law clerk for Breyer.”
  • “Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, has been nominated but not yet confirmed to serve on the same circuit court. Her name has surfaced, partly because she is a favorite among some high-profile lawmakers, including Rep. James Clyburn.”
  • “Kruger, a graduate of Harvard and Yale’s law school, was previously a Supreme Court clerk and has argued a dozen cases before the justices as a lawyer for the federal government.”

Speaking on the campaign trail in February 2020, Biden first made his promise to seat a Black woman on the Supreme Court if elected, saying: “As president, I’d be honored, honored to appoint the first African American woman because it should look like the country. It’s long past time.”

Only two Black men have ever held a seat on the Supreme Court: Justice Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991, and Justice Thurgood Marshall, who made history with his appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967.

Promising a rapid review process for whoever Biden nominates, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Biden’s nominee “will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.”

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

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