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Top One Magazine

Biden’s Supreme Court shortlist

Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement plans have quickly created an expectation that President Biden will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, as he promised during his campaign.

There are comparatively few Black women in the highest reaches of the federal judiciary, though Biden has been active in bolstering those numbers as part of a broader emphasis on diversifying the courts, both in terms of demographics and professional background.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president “certainly stands by” his campaign commitment.

Here are some of the people whose names have been discussed as prime candidates for an open Supreme Court seat.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, has been widely considered the early frontrunner for any Supreme Court vacancy under Biden.

That chatter gained volume last year when Biden tapped her to fill now-Attorney General Merrick Garland’s seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is regarded as the second-most influential federal court, behind only the Supreme Court.

Two sources close to the Congressional Black Caucus said that Jackson is viewed as a favorite and has long been on the group of influential lawmakers’ shortlist for future openings.

Prior to her confirmation last summer, Jackson served as a federal district court judge from 2013 through 2021.

She also previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission for several years as its vice chair. Before being appointed to the bench, Jackson worked as an attorney at the firm Morrison & Foerster with an emphasis on appellate litigation.

She is also a former assistant federal public defender in D.C. and clerked for several jurists — including Breyer.

Jackson received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University.

Leondra Kruger

Since 2015, Leondra Kruger has served as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court.

Prior to that Kruger, 45, held several high-ranking posts at the Department of Justice, including as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel — which provides legal guidance for the executive branch — and as an official in the solicitor general’s office.

During her tenure she argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government, according to her state supreme court bio.

She also has experience working at the Supreme Court as a clerk to former Justice John Paul Stevens.

Kruger graduated from Harvard and received her J.D. from Yale Law School.

J. Michelle Childs

Julianna Michelle Childs has spent the past decade as a district court judge in South Carolina who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

Prior to that she was a state court trial judge after previously serving as a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and a deputy director at the state Department of Labor.

In late December Biden nominated her for a spot on the D.C. Circuit that is due to open up in February when Judge David Tatel assumes senior status.

Childs is a favorite of top Black Caucus members including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), according to two senior Democratic aides.

She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and received both a business and law degree from the University of South Carolina.

Born in 1966, Childs is still relatively young for a top judge, though she is older than other top contenders at a time when advocates have placed a renewed emphasis on jurists who have the potential to serve for decades.

Leslie Abrams Gardner

A federal district court judge in Georgia, Leslie Abrams Gardner was appointed to the bench by Obama in 2014. Before that she worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta.

She also spent several years working in the private sector, mostly for the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and was a federal law clerk in Maryland early in her career.

Like other potential candidates, she has an Ivy League background. She graduated from Brown University before attending Yale Law School.

However her prospects are complicated by being the sister of Democratic voting rights activist and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Her familial relation has already been used against her by conservatives to criticize her rulings on cases she has overseen — a line of attack that would surely escalate if Biden selected her for the Supreme Court and could potentially drag out the confirmation process.

Sherrilyn Ifill is the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and another person who has support from some members of the CBC.

In November the organization announced that Ifill plans to step down in the spring after more than nine years in charge. Ifill, 59, came back to helm the LDF in 2013 after two decades teaching at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.

Ifill has also been a frequent presence on cable news and in op-ed pages, particularly on issues surrounding voting rights and the crimin system.

She studied at Vassar College and earned her law degree from New York University.

Laura Barrón-López contributed to this report.

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