Biden should appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court

Follow live coverage at Retirement of Stephen Breyer from the Supreme Court . WASHINGTON — President Biden and his legal team have spen...


Follow live coverage at Retirement of Stephen Breyer from the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON — President Biden and his legal team have spent a year preparing for this moment: the chance to fulfill his promise to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court at a time of continued racial reckoning for the country.

the Judge Stephen G. Breyer’s decision to retire will give Mr. Biden his most publicized opportunity since taking office to reshape the federal court system, having already appointed dozens of district and appellate court judges from diverse racial, ethnic and legal backgrounds.

Her pledge also underscores how difficult it has been for black women to make it into a very small cadre of elite judges in the nation’s top federal courts. On Wednesday, speculation centered on a rarefied group of well-accredited black women who have elite training and experience on the bench.

The short list included Ketanji Brown Jacksona 51-year-old judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a Harvard Law School graduate and clerk to Judge Breyer, and Leondra R. Krugera 45-year-old justice of the Supreme Court of California, a graduate of Yale Law School and clerk to former Justice John Paul Stevens.

J. Michelle Childs, 55, a little-known South Carolina Federal District Court judge who Mr. Biden recently nominated for an appeals court, is also considered a potential candidate. One of Mr. Biden’s main allies in Congress, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, told Mr. Biden during the presidential campaign that he thought she should be nominated, in part because she came from a working-class background, another underrepresented group among federal judges.

Judge Jackson and Judge Kruger attended Ivy League law schools, unlike Judge Childs, who attended the University of South Carolina. And while there are some differences in the backgrounds and experiences of the women, they are united as one of a relative handful of black women who have the kind of credentials normally considered Supreme Court qualifications.

The first black woman to serve as a federal appeals court judge — an experience that, in the modern age, is usually a key benchmark for becoming a judge — was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. At the time where Mr. Biden took office, more than 40 years later, only seven others had held such a position.

“If you just look at the raw numbers, it’s an eye-opening and sobering statistic,” said Leslie D. Davis, executive director of the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms. “It clearly shows that we have to do better.”

Mr. Biden said he hoped the diversity he brought to the top ranks of the federal government would be a centerpiece of his legacy. In addition to her record of judging, her decision to choose Kamala Harris as her running mate in the 2020 campaign led her to become the first black woman to serve as vice president.

Half of Mr. Biden’s first 16 nominees for federal appeals courts were black women — as many as all previous presidents combined had nominated. This focus has caught the attention of the entire ideological spectrum. For Ms. Davis, the important point of comparison is the few black women who had previously been appointed to the federal bench.

“It’s a story that the voices of black women have not been valued,” she said, “that their views have not been valued and their voices have not been heard” .

But conservatives like the National Review legal commentator Ed Whelan pointed out that the number of black women Mr. Biden has nominated is strikingly disproportionate to the available pool of black women with law degrees.

According to a 2021 Profile of the Lawyer Profession by the American Bar Association, only 4.7% of American lawyers are black and 37% of lawyers are women. The report did not identify black women specifically, but the implication is that about 2% of US lawyers are both black and women.

“By Biden’s stated standard for demographic diversity, his first year of judicial appointments has clearly been a remarkable success,” Mr. Whelan wrote this month, calling Mr. Biden’s record of nominating black women “extraordinary” while taking “some pleasure in noting” that liberal white men, with only two nominations on appeal so far , were “the big losers”.

Mr. Biden made his promise to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court during a debate in February 2020, just days before facing his Democratic rivals in the primary in South Carolina, where blacks make up a large part of the party’s voters. At the time, his campaign was struggling amid losses in two of the first presidential elections.

“I look forward to making sure there is a black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure everyone is effectively represented,” Mr Biden said that evening.

The pledge helped Mr. Biden secure the support from Mr. Clyburn days before the party contest in South Carolina.

“I have three daughters,” Mr. Clyburn told Bloomberg. “I think I’d be less than a good dad if I didn’t tell the future president, it’s a hot topic in the African-American community, that black women think they have just as much right to sit the Supreme Court like any other woman, and so far none had been considered.

Mr. Biden went on to win the South Carolina primary, proving the durability of his support among black voters and sparking a winning streak on Super Tuesday soon after.

His Supreme Court selection will take place in a country still feeling the repercussions of the 2020 police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing mass protests against racial justice.

It would also come as the Tory-dominated court this week agreed to hear cases race-conscious college admissions programsraising the possibility that it would ban affirmative action policies aimed at maintaining racial diversity.

Political support for Mr. Biden has been particularly strong among black women. Data from The New York Times exit polls from the 2020 election showed that, despite making up just 8% of the electorate, they were Mr. Biden’s most lopsided supporters: 90% of black female voters voted for him.

And in Georgia, Mr. Biden’s victory was followed by Democrats sweeping a pair of crucial elections for Senate seats, giving the party wafer-thin control of the Senate — and with it the possibility to confirm the justices without needing Republican support.

Several factors went into these narrow victories that overthrew the blue state, but one was that a group of black organizers — most famously Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial candidate who founded a voter registration group called the New Georgia Project — had worked to register hundreds of thousands of new voters and encourage them to turn out.

For Democrats, maintaining enthusiastic support among black voters, and especially black women, may be critical in November’s midterm elections. Democratic activists on Wednesday urged Mr. Biden not to backtrack on his pledge.

“There would be little or no reason for President Biden to miss this opportunity,” Aimee Allison, president of She the People, a liberal advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is and could be a defining moment for his presidency.”

Polls show Democrats trailing in their efforts to keep control of the House and Senate, and Mr. Biden has had a rocky first year, in part because the Senate’s filibuster rule means that Republicans can block much of his agenda, such as passing a social spending program. bill and an extension of federal protections for the right to vote.

But since the Senate abolished the filibuster for justices — Democrats did it for lower and appellate court justices in 2013, and Republicans did it for Supreme Court justices in 2017 — A party that controls both the White House and the Senate by any margin can appoint life-long federal judges, including to fill vacancies among the 179 federal appellate seats.

In April, when Mr Biden announced his first three appeals court nominees, all three were Ivy League-educated black women, including Judge Jackson. Two others of the next 10 appellate judges he has appointed are also black women. And of its six appeal candidates still pending before the Senate, three are black women.

Mr. Biden’s decision to use his power to place many black women on the bench – as well as in the positions of judge of the district courts and senior positions within the executive branch — is transformative given the many decades in which they have rarely wielded power in the justice system.

The history of black female judges reflects the broader history of African Americans since the Civil War, according to a 2010 article in the Howard Law Journal by Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Justice of the District Court of Appeals of Columbia.

“Black women judges came to the ‘judicial’ table much later than black men (over 80) and also much later than white women (nearly 60),” she wrote in the ‘item, “Black Women Judges: The Historic Journey of Black Women to the Highest Courts in the Land.”

New York City did not have its first black female judge until 1939, when Jane Matilda Bolin was appointed to the Family Relations Court, Judge Blackburne-Rigsby wrote, adding that when city mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, named Ms. Bolin, he first consulted with her husband – a sign of the times and the limitations placed on black women in the justice system.

Judge Blackburne-Rigsby declined to comment on Wednesday. But in her article, she cautioned against viewing this demographic’s slow rise to the judiciary as simply a matter of numbers.

“Being both black and female brings an important additional voice to the deliberative process,” she wrote, “but that voice is varied because there is no singular ‘black female’ perspective.”

Even after the civil rights movement in the 1960s, which included President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice to the Supreme Court in 1967, black women’s access to the levers of the judiciary remained limit.

In 1966, Mr Johnson also appointed the first black female federal judge – Constance Baker Motley, whom he placed in the Southern District of New York.

And in the years since, Justice Motley has occasionally been mentioned as a potential future Supreme Court justice, said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a Harvard legal historian who published a biography of the judge this week“Civil Rights Queen”.

But Ms Brown-Nagin, who is also dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, said that while Justice Motley was “eminently qualified” for the elevation, her political window has closed: as a former human rights lawyer civics, she was considered a liberal, and from 1969 to 1993 there were no vacancies on the Supreme Court as long as a Democrat was president.

“This appointment has been a long time coming,” Ms. Brown-Nagin said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden should appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court
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