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Biden poised to nominate first Black woman on Supreme Court

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US President Joe Biden has said he will reveal his choice for Supreme Court nominee by the end of February 2022./AFP
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Feb 24, 2022 - 08:01 AM

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden prepares to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, several leading candidates for the coveted seat on the nation’s highest court have emerged.

The Democratic president has said he will reveal his choice by the end of February, and has interviewed three potential nominees so far according to US media.

The White House has been tight-lipped about the search for a justice to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, a liberal stalwart who plans to retire in June at the end of the court’s current term.

“The president has not made a decision about who he is going to nominate,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’m not — still not — going to get into details about the internal process,” Psaki said.

The selection of a Supreme Court justice involves extensive background checks to prevent unwelcome surprises during Senate nomination hearings.

There have been two African-American Supreme Court justices: Thurgood Marshall, who served from 1967 to 1991, and Clarence Thomas, a conservative who succeeded Marshall and remains on the bench.

The following are reported to be at the top of the list for the seat on the nation’s highest court:

Ketanji Brown Jackson 

Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, a judge on the US Circuit Court of Appeals, does not have a background typical of other nominees.

While many judges have made their mark as prosecutors, Jackson spent two years as a federal public defender representing indigent defendants.

She has also served on the US Sentencing Commission, an independent agency created by Congress to address sentencing disparities.

And Jackson has personal experience with the harsh sentences meted out for drug crimes in the United States — an uncle was sentenced to life in prison in 1989 for cocaine possession.

After graduation, she worked for a series of elite law firms in Boston and Washington, and as a law clerk for Breyer.

Jackson was nominated to be a US District Court judge by former president Barack Obama in 2013 and to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit by Biden in March 2021.

Her most notable ruling came in 2019 when she said a former White House counsel to president Donald Trump had to obey a congressional subpoena.

“Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote.

Jackson is married to a surgeon. They have two daughters.

Michelle Childs 

Michelle Childs, 55, an expert in labor law, is the first Black woman to become a partner in a major law firm in her home state of South Carolina.

Most Supreme Court justices are products of Ivy League schools such as Harvard or Yale but Childs earned her law degree from the University of South Carolina.

Her South Carolina ties could prove decisive in securing her a place on the nine-member court.

Childs enjoys the backing of Jim Clyburn, a powerful Black congressman from South Carolina whose support helped Biden win the state’s Democratic presidential primary and propel him to the White House.

Childs also has the vocal support of an influential Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Born in Detroit, Childs moved to South Carolina with her mother when she was 14 after her parents divorced.

Her father, a police officer, stayed in Detroit and died shortly afterwards of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Childs earned a full scholarship to the University of South Florida and won the Miss Black Florida beauty pageant in 1986.

She became a US District Judge in 2009 and was nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit by Biden in December.

Childs’ candidacy has come under fire from some on the left because of her past representation of management against employees.

Childs is married to a gastroenterologist. They have a daughter.

Leondra Kruger 

Leondra Kruger, 45, has had a meteoric rise through the judicial ranks and, if named to the court, would be the youngest of the justices on the bench.

Kruger graduated with honors from Harvard and earned her law degree at Yale, where she was the first Black editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.

At the age of 31, Kruger went to work for the US Solicitor General’s office in the Obama administration, representing the federal government in 12 cases before the Supreme Court.

When she was just 38, Kruger was nominated to the California Supreme Court although she had no experience as a judge.

Kruger has forged a reputation as a moderate progressive and pragmatic justice.

Kruger grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, the daughter of two doctors. Her mother is of Jamaican origin and her father, who died in 2005, was from a family of European Jewish immigrants.

She worked for a private law firm in Washington and then as a law clerk, notably to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

After Biden entered the White House, he reportedly asked Kruger on two occasions to return to Washington to become the solicitor general but she declined.

Kruger is married to a fellow lawyer. They have two children.

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