First Black Woman Justice Coming to U.S. Supreme Court? Here Are Potential Names on Biden’s Shortlist

by Alana Seldon

January 28, 2022

After 27 years, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced this week plans to retire at the end of the court term.

Filling Breyer’s seat is President Joe Biden’s first and possibly only chance to recommend a justice to the nation’s highest court.

The president promised voters on the campaign trail that he would nominate a Black woman if a vacancy occurred while he was in office. He confirmed this week that he is remaining committed to that pledge, according to CNN.

While the process while be rigorous, the president said, his selection will be a nominee who is “worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency.”

He continued: “While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision except one: the person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”

The names of several judges have been circulating, as people try to determine who could be Biden’s pick. But, here’s a look at the potential nominees that CNN reports have been on observers’ short list.

DC Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

  • Age: 51
  • Education: Harvard and Harvard Law School
  • Elevated from US District Court for the District of Columbia to US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in June 2021
  • Worked at firms focusing on criminal and civil appellate litigation in both state and federal courts, white-collar criminal defense, and negotiating settlement of mass-tort claims
  • Served as a law clerk to three federal judges, including Justice Breyer
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 28: Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger

  • Age: 45
  • Education: Harvard and Yale Law
  • Appointed to the California Supreme Court in 2014
  • Served in the United States Department of Justice as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
  • Argued 12 cases in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government during her tenure in the Office of the Solicitor General
  • Served as a law clerk to late Justice John Paul Stevens
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger. (Photo by Judicial Council of California)

South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs

  • Age: 55
  • Education: University of South Carolina School of Law
  • Judge on South Carolina’s federal court
  • Nominated by Biden to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in December 2021
  • Served as deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and as South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commissioner
WASHINGTON – APRIL 16: Richard Gergel (R) and J. Michelle Childs (L) pose for photographs with House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) before their confirmation hearing to be U.S. District Judges for the District of South Carolina (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The names of more Black women who could be potential nominees have also been floated, as anticipation grows to see if the president will keep his promise. Some of them are:

Sherrilyn Ifill – President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Eunice Lee – Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, former New York public defender

Candace Jackson-Akiwumi – Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, former Chicago public defender

Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright – Federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

Biden is reportedly expected to make a decision on Breyer’s replacement by the end of February.

Are you excited to see the first Black woman be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court? Share your thoughts below.

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