The Black women in the running for SCOTUS


Judges Leondra Kruger, Ketanji Brown Jackson and J Michelle Childs (left to right) are all possible nominees to fill the spot on the Supreme Court. Images compiled by Molly Gregory.

Jayvon Rankin

Justice Stephen Breyer announced his intent to retire from the Supreme Court last Thursday, on Jan. 27, in a letter to President Biden. Breyer has sat on the Court for almost three decades now and is regarded as the most pragmatic justice. Him stepping down at the end of this year’s term will allow Biden to appoint a liberal successor. There’s been much speculation from regular citizens and political pundits alike about who will be selected.

President Biden clearly stated during his campaign trail that he would nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Last week, he reaffirmed that pledge. He’s given himself a preliminary deadline of the end of February to submit a nomination to the Senate for advice and consent.

So, who is in the running for the seat soon to be vacated by Justice Breyer? Who will potentially fill this spot and don history-making robes? There are three major names that are being seriously considered, reviewed and debated over.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson currently sits on the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals. The D.C. Circuit is often considered the second most important court besides the Supreme Court, primarily because they hear various high profile government cases. Jackson served as Vice Chair on the United States Sentencing Commission from 2010 until 2014 and was a District Court Judge for D.C. from 2013 until her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit in 2021.

Also very notable is that she was a law clerk for Justice Breyer for the 1999 Supreme Court term.

Jackson has been seen as a potential nominee for a Supreme Court seat since her D.C. Circuit Court confirmation. The Senate wouldn’t have to do much research into her record, as she just went through an extensive hearing last year.

Jackson has been seen as a solidly liberal judge and has a record of being more liberal than Breyer.

Justice Leondra Kruger

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger has also been a hot name for the soon to be vacant seat.

Kruger was nominated to the California Supreme Court in 2015 by then Governor Jerry Brown and has served there ever since. Before her spot on the California bench, she was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and had practiced law in D.C. Kruger was also a law clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens during the 2003 term. She then went on to become a Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel and was an assistant to the Solicitor General from 2007 to 2013.

Kruger was the first Black woman to hold both roles.

She argued many major cases, such as landmark NFIB v. Sebelius (preserving the Affordable Care Act) and United States v. Windsor (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act).

Kruger has depthful experience and credentials and is seen as a judicially moderate liberal, akin to the mold of Justice Breyer. There has been note of her being quite conservative on criminal law matters.

Judge J. Michelle Childs

The third and final potential that even the White House has confirmed is J. Michelle Childs.

Childs was nominated by former President Obama in 2010 to serve as District Court Judge for the District of South Carolina, having been there ever since.

Unlike the two previous names, Childs is not the offspring of an Ivy League education. She earned her law degree from the University of South Carolina law school. Soon after, Childs worked at Nexsen Pruet, a South Carolina private practice. Only nine years after working there, she became the firm’s first Black partner.

She then went on to serve in a number of South Carolina government jobs for six years after her departure from the firm. In 2007, she was confirmed to South Carolina’s Richard County Circuit Court as a judge. Not long after she rose in rank again to District Court Judge.

Childs has been known for her speciality in labor and employment law, where most of her practice has come from.

All three of these Black women are strong potentials for the final nomination. It will certainly be tough for President Biden to pick one of the many qualified black women for the Supreme Court. It is perhaps long overdue that there be a Black woman on the Supreme Court, but it’s becoming quite the reality that it will be done, finally