March 24, 2023

US may soon have first black woman on SC bench – Times of India

WASHINGTON: The United States will be on the cusp of another historic political and judicial moment soon, with President Joe Biden finding an opening to nominate the first black woman to the US Supreme Court following the announcement on Wednesday that Justice Stephen Breyer is stepping down.
Like the US Senate, the US Supreme Court has also been a white male bastion in the 230+ years of its existence. There have been 120 Supreme Court justices, and only two are African-American, both men- Justices Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991) and Clarence Thomas (1991-present). Biden has publicly committed to nominating a black woman to the apex court, a call stemming from, among other factors, a 90+ per cent support for Democrats from that demographic.
The hot favorite to succeed Breyer is Ketanji Brown Jackson, who Biden nominated weeks after he was elected to serve as a Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals in Washington DC. A Washington DC-born legal scholar, she clerked for Breyer and is a popular choice among Democrats because of her liberal persuasion.
Democrat lawmakers are expected to make haste to confirm the liberal Breyer replacement in a court that is already tilted 6-3 towards the right, thanks to three vacancies that President Donald Trump filled with some luck and political skullduggery.
Most famously, Republicans blocked the nomination of Obama nominee Merrick Garland eight months before 2016 election, arguing that a new SC judge should not be confirmed in an election year. But when they had control of the Senate and the White House, Republicans went on to confirm conservative Amy Coney Barrett eight days before election when 65 million people had already cast their ballots in early voting.
Breyer is 83, and the scuttlebutt is that he is being pressured out so a like liberal replacement can be made when Democrats still have control of the Senate, which they could well lose in mid-term election this November. Democrats are also chastened by their experience of losing a SC nomination because some of them believe Ruth Bader Ginsburg should have stepped down when Obama was President- to enable a like-liberal replacement. She died in harness during the Trump Presidency, enabling Republicans to grab the nomination.
Who Breyer’s replacement will be is today’s biggest political parlor game in Washington. It will almost certainly be a black woman- the first ever- because as far back as March 2020 when he was still running for President, Biden had pledged that, saying, “It’s required that they have representation now — it’s long overdue.”
Among the few outliers whose names are being tossed around is vice-president Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Some Democrats who see Harris as a political liability want Biden to nominate her so he and the party can get her out of the 2024 election fray. Small problem there though: Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker vote will be needed to confirm any Biden nominee in a Senate that is currently tied 50-50, assuming all Democrat Senators back the Biden nominee.
Republicans are expected to try every maneuver to block a Biden nominee, although three moderate GOP Senators voted to confirm Ketanji Jackson Brown to the DC Appeals Court.

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