There are already some names being tossed around.
As the nation’s most powerful body of judges, the Supreme Court has the power to completely alter the country’s political landscape — for better or worse. That’s why, since multiple sources reported on Wednesday Jan. 26 that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was planning to retire, people all over the internet have been freaking out over who President Joe Biden will nominate to take his seat. (Notably, Breyer hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet, as the formal announcement is expected to come on Jan. 27.) So, who might replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court? If you’re wondering, here's one big clue that just might point you in the right direction.
Ordinarily, presidents and their advisers will have a short list of people in mind to replace a Supreme Court justice should a vacancy arise. In Biden’s case, Americans have a clearer clue: During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden decisively stated that if given the opportunity, he would “push very hard” to appoint the Supreme Court’s first-ever Black woman as a justice.
“We talked about the Supreme Court,” Biden said during a February 2020 debate. “I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court.” And although an official White House announcement has yet to be made, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Biden would stand by his pledge to nominate a Black woman to the nation’s highest court. “The president has stated — and reiterated — his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and certainly stands by that,” Psaki said in a Jan. 26 news conference.
So, who might be in the running to replace Breyer once his term is over? According to political chatter, there are already a few names being tossed around: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Leondra Kruger, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California; Judge Julianna Michelle Childs, United States District Court for the District of South Carolina; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and Anita Earls, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
As of January 2022, the Supreme Court is looking ahead at several critical cases on abortion, guns, religion, and race. While this is far from the first time the country has faced issues like these, the court’s conservative majority — tilted rightward by Donald Trump-nominated justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — has people all over the nation worried about the potential overturn of longstanding legal precedents, such as those made in Roe v. Wade, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and more.
However, Biden may run into some snags if he doesn’t act quickly. If Breyer’s seat is still open after the November 2022 midterm elections, and Republicans regain a majority in the Senate, they may throw Biden’s nominee in jeopardy during the Senate confirmation hearings. Now, however, Democrats can still confirm Breyer’s replacement with a simple majority in the Senate, coupled with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. So while it’s still unclear who Biden’s official Supreme Court nominee will be, one thing is certain: As always in politics, time is of the essence.