(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden remains committed to appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
The reiteration comes on the heels of word that Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire, although Psaki declined to speak further about the matter at a news briefing on Wednesday.
“(Biden) has nominated a historic number of judges who are people of color,” Psaki said. “(A) majority of the judges he has nominated are women. That speaks to his desire and his interest in having courts around the country that look like America and that represent the experiences of America including public defenders and others.”
During his presidential candidacy, Biden said that if he were given the chance to nominate someone to the court, he would make history by choosing a Black woman.
“As president, I’d be honored, honored to appoint the first African American woman. Because it should look like the country. It’s long past time,” Biden said in February 2020 shortly before South Carolina’s presidential primary.
Psaki didn’t say Wednesday who might be considered to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, but two names have seemingly topped any list of potential nominees:
Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, attended Harvard as an undergraduate and for law school. President Barack Obama nominated her to be a district court judge, and Biden elevated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Early in her career, she was also a law clerk for Breyer.
Leondra Kruger, 45, is a justice on the California Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard and Yale’s law school, she served as a law clerk on the high court before arguing a dozen cases before the court as a lawyer for the federal government. But Kruger, whose mother is Jamaican, has also been described as a moderate, which could be a tough sell for some liberal Democratic senators.
Two other Black women Biden appointed to federal appeals courts are also seen as contenders: Holly Thomas, a longtime civil rights lawyer he named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a former public defender he named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
J. Michelle Childs, who has been nominated but not yet confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is another option. Childs, currently a federal trial court judge in South Carolina, is a favorite of Clyburn, who made a crucial endorsement of Biden just before that state’s presidential primary.
Biden could also choose someone from outside the judiciary, though that seems less likely. One contender would be the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, 59. She has headed the fund since 2013 and has announced she is stepping down in the spring.
Almost all recent Supreme Court picks have been federal appeals judges. And since Biden took office in January 2021, he has worked to dramatically expand his options in that potential candidate pool by nominating five Black women who are currently sitting on federal appeals courts, with three more nominations pending before the Senate.
Selecting a Black woman for the lifetime post on the nation’s highest court would be historic. It would mark the first time four women would sit together on the court and the first time two of the court’s nine justices would be Black. Justice Clarence Thomas is the court’s only Black justice and only the second in history after the man he replaced on the court, Thurgood Marshall.