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With President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), a growing number of Black women will preside over federal judicial cases. In fact, in his first full year in office, President Biden has already appointed 11 Black women as federal judges — more than nearly all other previous presidents.
President Biden lags behind Bill Clinton, who appointed 15 Black women as federal judges. He also lags behind Barack Obama, who appointed 26. Yet, Mr. Biden is on track to surpass both men to provide the most diverse judicial branch in history. If he continues in this vein, by the end of his first term, over 40 Black women will sit in federal judge positions.
Additionally, nearly a quarter of Biden’s federal judicial appointments have been Black women — more than any other president in history.
Black women underrepresented in Courts
Meanwhile, Black women still have much ground to make up in terms of judicial representation. While Black women make up over 7% of the United States, the rate of Black women in federal judicial positions is just 4%. The rate goes up to 8% when all women of Color are considered.
“You have a situation where our highest courts do not at all reflect our communities, the diversity of our communities, and particularly so when it comes to Black women,” said Juvaria Khan, the founder of the Appellate Project, which tracks Black appellate justices across the country. Black women make up just over 2% of federal appellate court justices.
The long-term effects of a lack of diversity in federal judicial positions can be felt across national policies. They often reflect the white supremacy inherent in the United States’ criminal injustice system.
“We as judges will always follow the law but … justice is informed by our perspectives,” said one of the few Black women in a federal judicial position, 6th Circuit Judge Bernice Donald.
Supreme Court nominee will be a qualified Black woman
Biden is said to be considering three Black women in particular: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Leonora Kruger, and J. Michelle Childs. Each will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the highly-coveted and lifelong appointment.
Judge Jackson, 51, attended Harvard for undergraduate and Law School. She served as an editor of the Law Review. Both her parents attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). She was initially nominated to fill current-Attorney General Merrick Garland’s seat on the Washington D.C. appellate court. A former public defender, Judge Jackson has the support of progressive democrats.
Judge Kruger, 45, is a California state Supreme Court Justice — the youngest judge ever to earn such a role. Prior to her spot in California’s highest court, she served as deputy solicitor general, the federal government’s second-ranking representative in arguments at the Supreme Court, and argued 12 cases in front of SCOTUS.
Judge Childs, 55, has spent over a decade as a United States circuit judge for the district of South Carolina. She was the first Black woman in South Carolina to earn a partnership at a major law firm. She enjoys bipartisan endorsements from South Carolina Congressman, majority whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).