President Joe Biden made many promises to Americans on the campaign trail in 2020. One of which was to ensure that appointments he made would reflect the diverse nature of these united states. A more specific nod to diversify was his commitment to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court. With the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, President Biden is posed to stand by his word and make history while doing so.
“I (have) committed that, if I'm elected as president and have the opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, I'll appoint the first Black woman to the court. It's required that they have representation now — it's long overdue," Biden said almost two years ago.
Beyond his stance to reaffirm his commitment to nominate a Black woman to the high court, President Biden has stayed tight lip as to who that woman will be. But that has not stopped the chatter about the decision in the politico universe. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has commented that a Biden pick would be confirmed at an "all deliberate speed." Considering Amy Coney Barrett got confirmed in less than a month compared to the usual process taking two to three months, Biden’s pick should be appointed just as quickly.
A short list of nominees is already circulating; however, the White House has not distributed any official list. Usually, they don’t confirm anything until the president has conducted interviews and made his pick for the nomination. Once that is done, the nominee will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the most intense job interview ever when they review the nominee’s record and get their take on hot button issues that may come before the court. Top issues expect to go before the court include those on voting rights and abortion issues. All that is need for a confirmation to pass is a majority vote of the Senate. In the event of a tie, Vice President Kamala Harris will break it. How fitting it would be to have the first African American woman vice president usher in the first African American woman court justice. That would be a beautiful day for America.
Since the retiring 83-year-old Justice Breyer was seen as a liberal judge, his ideal replacement will need to represent that and be rather young. The average age of those on the bench at the start of their term is in their late 40’s and early 50’s. Breyer was 54 when President Bill Clinton nominated him. Justices are serving longer than in the past so President Biden’s pick could have significant influence over the court for up to 40 years based on the average time that justices are serving today.
The White House Counsel Office had been anticipated the retirement of Justice Breyer and got started early making a list of potential nominees. Some names that may be on their list is below.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson could be a Biden pick since she has already been interviewed by Biden and gone through the vetting process when he appointed her to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She could be easily pushed through Senate confirmations at a record pace. Jackson also once clerked for Justice Breyer, so her views are probably aligned with his.
Another potential pick with a history of Biden’s favor is Judge J. Michelle Childs. Biden nominated her to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but her nomination remains pending. Her nomination could help with the elitist imagery of the Democrat party. Judge Childs is the product of a public education with no Ivy League college education. With that foundation, she has successfully navigated the legal world to serve as a state court trial judge, deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and as a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission.
The names of Circuit Judges Eunice Lee and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi might also be on the list. Both ladies have caught Biden’s eye. He nominated Judge Lee to the Second Circuit and Judge Jackson-Akiwumi was appointed to the Seventh Circuit.
Sherrilyn Ifill name has been talked about with her recent announcement of stepping down as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
A confirmation of Anita Earls would take some work for the Democrats since she is 61 years old, and the party really wants to nominate someone having longevity on the court.
Whoever is picked will be walking in the shadows of the first African American to ever appear before the court, Samuel R. Lowery. In 1880, Lowery also was the fifth Black person and first Black Southerner to be admitted into the Supreme Court Bar.
The new justice will also be standing on the shoulders of the great Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. He is known for winning 29 of 32 cases he argued before the high court including Brown vs the Board of Education where he said racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional. Marshall served for twenty-four years. His successor would be the second African American on the bench, Justice Clarence Thomas. At the age of 73, he sits to be the most senior member upon the retirement of Breyer.
If Biden’s pick is not announced and confirmed quickly, the midterm elections may hold up the process if they tip in favor of Republicans. Many have said how they would block a Biden liberal pick for a more conservative thinking nominee. The right pick by Biden could make the court shift from a more conservative view to a liberal perspective. In his administration, Biden has already appointed eight African American women as federal appellate judges with five of them already confirmed. His pick for the Supreme Court will be another historic appointment for his administration.