Who Will Be America’s Next Supreme Court Justice?

Following Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement after almost 30 years on the Supreme Court, President Joe Biden has been presented with an opportunity to nominate someone to fill his seat. Breyer officially made the announcement alongside the President at the White House some time ago. He is set to officially step down from the bench following the court’s current term, with Joe Biden expected to nominate the first Black woman to the Court to succeed him.

Joe Biden first pledged to nominate a Black woman while on the campaign trail and then again reiterated that promise while speaking at Breyer’s official retirement announcement at the White House.

According to The Hill, the President was quoted as saying, “I’ve made no decisions except one: The person I will 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.”

A shortlist of candidates, which initially included Vice President Kamala Harris, has emerged following Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement. Three Black women have emerged as serious contenders for Breyer’s seat.

The first of these contenders is Kentaji Brown Jackson, who is currently a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has historically served as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. She has earned both her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from Harvard University.
Following law school, she served as a clerk for three judges. The first was Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court of Appeals; the second was Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; and the third was for Justice Stephen Breyer.

Prior to being nominated to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the summer of 2021, she was the Vice Chair on the United States Sentencing Commission from 2010-2014. She was then nominated in 2013 by President Obama to be the judge of the District Court for the District of Columbia, to which she was confirmed.

In recent years, Jackson has become known for ruling against former White House Counsel Don McGhan by requiring him to testify to the House Judiciary Committee as part of the investigation into the 2016 Presidential Election.

The second contender to replace Breyer’s seat is Leondra Kruger, who has been a Justice of the California Supreme Court since 2015. Like Jackson, Kruger also received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. She then went on to Yale, where she received her juris doctor. Kruger clerked for two high profile judges following law school and a couple years in a private practice.

She first clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and then she went on to clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court. Prior to serving on the California Supreme Court, Kruger was the assistant to the United States Solicitor General and the acting principal deputy solicitor general.

The last of the potential nominees is Judge Julianna Michelle Childs. Currently, she serves as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, and she was nominated to that seat by President Obama in 2010. She currently has a pending nomination to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She received both her bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from University of South Carolina, and then went on to Duke University Law School, where she received her Master of Law degree.

Joe Biden has set forth a strong shortlist for potential nominees to replace Justice Breyer. All have strong backgrounds in the field of law and the necessary experience to sit on the Supreme Court. It is also a new frontier for America, as it is likely that the Court will see its first Black woman confirmed to its ranks, furthering America’s mission to be a land that represents all.