The United States’ political world has been plunged into a pit of anxiety after Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced he will be stepping down from his position after 27 years. As one of the three liberal justices on the court (along with Justice Kagan and Sotomayor), this decision threatens to skew the lineup of justices further towards a Republican-nominated majority.
While justices are supposed to be fully non-partisan and untouchable by public opinion, recently they’ve seemed anything but. The most recent successful nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, succeeded the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was not able to avoid partisan controversy – although upheld as a viable choice by most Republican policymakers, many Democratic voices were skeptical of her qualifications, as the New York Bar itself published some apprehensions about her bias, “maturity of judgment” (as she found herself unable to answer her opinions on the validity of climate change), and “unquestionable integrity and independence.” Further back, almost everyone can remember the massive publicity of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and the sexual assault allegations that were widely debated and ultimately dismissed.
The political upheaval in the Supreme Court, along with the widespread doubts about the qualifications and political independence from the previous two nominees, creates a context with extremely high stakes for President Biden in choosing the next justice. It also gives plenty of reason to pay attention to the news on the nomination in the coming weeks (if you need some extra information on the nomination process, check out this video on how it works).
On his successful campaign trail this past presidential election, Biden promised to nominate a Black woman to the Court, given Breyer’s retirement. Although nothing has been confirmed, news sources seem to agree that he will follow through on his promise, thankfully. Let me just say, after some research, he has plenty of incredibly professional, accomplished, intelligent, and overall impressive candidates – although he will have to hurry with his decision with the midterm elections looming this November.
The decision currently is in Biden’s hands, and not the public’s (although you should keep the importance of this nomination in mind when you’re deciding whether it’s worth it to vote this coming election – which it totally is), but I think we all should use this opportunity to learn a bit about some of his candidates. Even if they end up not being nominated, these women are an utter inspiration and deserve to be known.
DC Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Front runner of the nomination candidates, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has already been appointed by Biden as a DC circuit judge. She also served as a law clerk to Stephen Breyer himself, as well as serving as a Vice Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission, an Assistant Federal Public Defender in DC, and is on the Board of Overseers of Harvard University and the Council of the American Law Institute. She also has practiced law with a focus on criminal and civil appellate litigation in state, federal, and the Supreme courts. You get the picture, but if you want to know more about her impressive resumé, here is her full background.
Recently, she has ruled on some pretty high-profile cases, including the Don McGahn lawsuit, ordering the Trump White House counsel to comply with the House’s subpoena. She also signed on to the ordering of disclosure of White House documents sought after by the January 6 committee in the House of Representatives.
South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs
Judge Childs currently has a pending nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and was also nominated by President Biden. She’s spent a decade in private practice and has served as a state court trial judge in South Carolina, as well as deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. For a more extensive list of her accomplishments, check out her Ballotpedia page.
Surprisingly, Childs has received strong support from far-right Senator Lindsey Graham. He has called her highly qualified, which is impressive considering the controversy in reaching across the aisle in today’s political climate.
Childs herself has also spoken on the honor of being a judge, stating that, “[she] enjoys the intellectual stimulation of the challenging research and writing and oral presentations as [she] attempts to make well-reasoned decisions that affect the destiny of civil litigants, criminal defendants, corporations, government, and ultimately, society at large.”
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
Justice Leondra Kruger was the youngest person to be appointed to the California Supreme Court when nominated in 2014, and would thus enter the Supreme Court of the United States with a long term ahead of her. She worked as a clerk for late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and served as acting deputy solicitor general while Obama was in office.
Additionally, she has argued 12 cases in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, proved to be vigilant in the protection of Fourth Amendment rights in California, and herself has said she, “tries to do her job in a way that enhances the predictability and stability of the law and public confidence and trust in the work of the courts.” For an analysis of her accomplishments, see her profile on SCOTUSblog.
There are so many more accomplished Black women that could enter the running of Biden’s nomination, it would take more than an overview article to cover them all. However, it’s clear that President Biden will not have any issues with under-qualified candidates. While the nation waits with bated breath to see if Biden will succeed in his nomination and fulfill his campaign promise, we should consider ourselves incredibly lucky and grateful that such amazing women are willing to dedicate their lives to the protection of our rights and liberties.