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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has heard the noise and heeded the call. Now, he’s stepping down, making way for President Biden to follow through on one of many campaign promises.
It’s no secret Biden’s smoldering approval rating could use a historic spark and just like his struggling 2020 campaign, Black people are here to bail him out again.
In a statement on Thursday, Biden confirmed his plans.
“While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision except one: the person I 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. It’s long overdue, in my view,” Biden said, according to Reuters.
The Supreme Court was established by the U.S. Constitution during the Judiciary Act of 1789 and has existed since its first assembly in 1790. Yet only two African Americans, Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, have served on the nation’s top court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is Latina, is the only woman of color to serve to this point.
Supreme Court Needs Big Diversity
It’s no secret the courts have been lopsided for a while, but Biden has been quietly doing something about it.
Black women are blatantly underrepresented in the Supreme Court and on the federal bench. According to the Federal Judicial Center, only five of the nearly 300 sitting federal appellate judges were Black women before Biden took office.
And with Breyer’s retirement confirmed, history is on the horizon.
Even with members of his own party wanting to know, Biden has remained tight-lipped about whom will succeed Justice Breyer. In return for their vital votes in Biden’s 2020 victory, Black women now want someone who looks like them to take her rightful place.
According to a new poll from Higher Heights for America (HHA), 86% of Black women voters prioritize nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court at its next vacancy. Likewise, Commander in Chief Biden has been gifted the easiest lay-up of his sputtering Presidency thus far.
But who will potentially be the 1st Black woman S. C. Justice?
The early frontrunner for the sacred seat seems to be Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Jackson was chosen by the president to replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit, the nation’s second-highest court. She was later confirmed by the Senate in June 2021. Jackson was also interviewed for the Supreme Court vacancy by Pres. Obama when Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016.
While a student at Harvard, a classmate draped a Confederate flag outside his dorm window for all to see. In turn, Jackson, a member of the Black Students Association, helped plan rallies and circulate petitions. As part of her university protest, she also joined in calls to hire more faculty in the African American studies department.
Wanting all the smoke, Jackson told a local newspaper in 1990 that she wore black instead of the school’s crimson and white to an annual Harvard-Yale football game to “embarrass the university in front of the alumni.”
A ‘Good Problem’ to Have
Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson now, in her late 60s, was once the youngest Black woman presiding over the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit when Biden took office. After being well-prepared by her HBCU (NC A&T), the American Bar Association rated Rawlinson Unanimously Qualified and has served in her capacity for over 20 years.
Justice Leondra Kruger, 43, a former law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens, currently sits on the California Supreme Court as a contending nominee as well.
In a 2018 Los Angeles Times interview, Kruger explained the law in her own words, saying it “reflects the fact that we operate in a system of precedent.” She said that she aims “to perform my job in a way that enhances the predictability and stability of the law and public confidence and trust in the work of the courts.”
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