Who will be the first Black woman on U.S. Supreme Court? Here are the leading contenders

Mildred Europa Taylor January 28, 2022
Ketanji Brown Jackson (The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE)

United States President Joe Biden on Thursday said he plans to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in history. The nominee will replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Biden appeared with Breyer at the White House after the 83-year-old formally announced his retirement in a letter to the president. Breyer said he plans to leave by the end of June.

During a press conference in Delaware in June 2020, Biden said that he hoped to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court if given the opportunity. Biden said on Thursday that he plans on fulfilling his promise, adding that he will announce his pick by the end of February.

“Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a nominee worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency,” said Biden, who has already nominated eight Black women to the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals, with five of them having been confirmed.

“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.

Here are the women considered top contenders for the seat:

Who will be the first Black woman on U.S. Supreme Court? Here are the leading contenders
Getty Images

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Jackson is a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The 51-year-old is believed to be the top contender to replace Breyer. She was born in Washington DC and raised in Miami by parents who are both graduates of historically black colleges.

Jackson has two degrees from Harvard University, which she attended as an undergraduate and as a law student, and once served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. While at Harvard, BBC reports that she led protests against a student who draped a Confederate flag from his dorm window.

Jackson was promoted to her current position just last year. Before this, she was district judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 2013 to 2021. In June, Biden nominated her to fill Merrick Garland’s seat on the D.C. Circuit after Garland was confirmed as attorney general. Jackson has also clerked for three federal judges in the past, including Breyer himself from 1999-2000.

During the House impeachment inquiry, Jackson presided over the attempt by the Trump Justice Department to prevent former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying to Congress. Jackson’s husband is a surgeon and she has two children.

Who will be the first Black woman on U.S. Supreme Court? Here are the leading contenders
Photo: California Supreme Court

Leondra Kruger

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger was born to a Jamaican immigrant mother and a Jewish father. She attended Harvard University and Yale Law School, where she was the first Black woman to serve as editor of the Yale Law Journal.

The Pasadena native became the youngest appointee to the California Supreme Court in 2014 at the age of 38, after being nominated by then-governor Jerry Brown. In 2016, she became the first California Supreme Court judge to give birth while serving on the bench. The 45-year-old previously worked at the Obama Department of Justice, arguing 12 cases before the Supreme Court for the government as deputy to the Solicitor General.

She clerked for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and for a judge on the U.S. Appeals Court in D.C. She is married to a lawyer and has two children.

Who will be the first Black woman on U.S. Supreme Court? Here are the leading contenders
Julianna Michelle Childs (left) and Jim Clyburn. Getty Images

Julianna Michelle Childs

The 55-year-old has served on the federal bench in South Carolina since 2010. She was also a circuit court judge in the state. Born in Detroit, Childs moved to South Carolina as a teen and later became the first Black female partner in a major law firm in the state. She did not attend an Ivy League school; she went to the University of South Carolina Law School.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, who has thrown his weight behind Childs, has said that she is the ideal candidate for Biden, as the president has often drummed home the need to bring more diverse backgrounds to the Supreme Court.

“Joe Biden has talked about the kind of experiences he’d bring into the presidency,” Clyburn said. “He was brought up in Scranton, in Delaware, educated in the public schools. That’s who Michelle Childs is.”

Childs served in state government on the Workers’ Compensation Commission and was deputy director of South Carolina’s Department of Labor. Last month, Biden nominated Childs to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last Edited by:Francis Akhalbey Updated: January 28, 2022


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