With 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement, President Joe Biden now has the change to make history by nominating the first ever black, female Justice to the highest U.S. court. Here are the three contenders at the top of the president’s list:
D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Biden already elevated Jackson last year from her previous post as a judge on the federal district court in Washington, D.C., where she remained from 2013-2021. Jackson now serves as a circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – arguably the second most powerful federal court in the country.
Jackson, 51, earned her law degree from Harvard and, fittingly, clerked for Breyer. She is also married to the brother-in-law of former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. She has two daughters with her husband Patrick Jackson, whom she married in 1996.
During her time as a judge, Jackson has ruled on many high profile cases. She was part of the decision to order former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with the House of Representatives’ subpoena as part of its impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump.One line in the ruling impressed Democrats: ‘The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.’
Jackson also signed the recent opinion ordering Trump White House documents be disclosed to the January 6 select committee.
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
Kruger served under President Barack Obama as acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General from May 2010- June 2011 where she argued 12 cases in front of the Supreme Court. During her time at the Department of Justice, Kruger earned in both 2013 and 2014 the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, which is the agency’s highest employee award.
The 45-year-old judge clerked for late Justice John Paul Stevens who served on the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010 and died in 2019.
She was also the youngest person appointed to the California Supreme Court when then-Governor Jerry Brown nominated her in 2014, where she still sits as an associate judge. On this court, Kruger has authored a few notable opinions, including banning law enforcement from searching a woman’s purse without a warrant.
Kruger also upheld a California law requiring law enforcement to collect DNA samples and fingerprints from people arrested or convicted of felony offenses.
South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs
Childs, 55, reportedly has the backing of Biden-ally House Majority Whip James Clyburn to replace Breyer. The U.S. District Court of South Carolina judge was nominated last month by Biden to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, nut the nomination is still pending.
With a South Carolina School of Law degree, Child doesn’t have the Ivy League education that eight of the nine current justices hold – a breath of fresh air that advocates for her nomination tout as an advantage in making the Democratic party appear less elitist.
Child spent a decade in private practice and as a state court trial judge in the South Carolina Circuit. Also in her tenure she was deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Others under consideration:
Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, serves on Georgia’s district court and is the sister of the voting-rights advocate Stacey Abrams.
District Judge Wilhelmina ‘Mimi’ Wright, Judge on Minnesota’s federal district court.
Circuit Judge Eunice Lee, U.S. Circuit Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Circuit Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, U.S. Circuit Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Sherrilyn Ifill, the attorney recently announced plans to step down from her role as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Holly Aiyisha Thomas, judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
What about Kamala Harris?
Rumors have emerged over the last year amid turmoil in the White House that President Joe Biden could dump Kamala Harris as his vice president by nominating her to the Supreme Court should a vacancy emerge. With news of Breyer’s retirement this week, speculations that she could join the court have reemerged.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not rule out on Wednesday the possibility that Biden could consider Harris for the vacant Supreme Court position. She did, however, clarify that Biden intends to run for reelection in 2024 with Harris on the ticket as his No. 2.
Harris was the district attorney for San Francisco from 2004-2011 and was attorney general of California from 2011-2017. From there she became a senator for the Golden State but didn’t finish her first term before being inaugurated as the first female and black vice president in January 2021.