The White House said on Friday that President Joe Biden has chosen federal appeals judge Kitangi Brown-Jackson to become the first black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, setting the stage for a confirmation battle in a closely divided Senate.
Biden has selected Jackson, 51, for a life job in the nation’s highest judicial body to succeed retired liberal judge Stephen Breyer, at 83, the court’s oldest member. Of the 115 people who served on the Supreme Court, only two were black and both were men.
The timing of Biden’s announcement was volatile due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“President Biden has sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unequivocal personality, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law,” the White House said in a statement.
“He has also sought a candidate who – like Justice Breyer – is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty,” the White House said of Biden’s selection process. “The President has sought someone who is committed to equal justice under the law and who understands the profound impact that Supreme Court decisions have on the lives of the American people.”
Jackson, if passed by the Senate, would become the sixth woman to serve on the court, which currently has three female judges. She will join the liberal bloc in an increasingly assertive court with a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
Other contenders for nomination include C. Michelle Childs, a district court judge in South Carolina and Leondra Krueger, a judge in the California Supreme Court.
The Senate voted 53-44 last year to confirm Jacksona after Biden nominated her to the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, backed by three Republican senators. At the Jackson case confirmation hearing last year, Republicans asked her if race played a role in her approach to cases. She said she didn’t. The Senate had previously assured her that she was a federal judge, a position she held for eight years.
Jackson, who grew up in Miami and attended Harvard Law School, has a diverse legal resume including earlier in her career representing criminal defendants who couldn’t afford an attorney. She was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in December against former Republican President Donald Trump’s attempt to block the delivery of White House records to a congressional committee investigating last year’s Capitol attack.
Democrats are eager to push through with the confirmation process while they control the Senate. Breyer, who has served since 1994, announced in January his intention to step down when the court’s current term expires, likely by the end of June.
While the appointment by Biden won’t alter the court’s ideological balance — Jackson will replace a fellow liberal — her addition enables Biden to revamp his liberal wing with a much younger judge who could serve for decades, just as Trump appoints the relatively young three in a position to do .
The nomination also gives Biden the opportunity to rally political support among women, minorities and liberals ahead of the November 8 midterm elections in which Democrats are fighting to retain control of the House and Senate. Biden’s power among suburban women, which is seen as a key reason for his victory over Trump, has eroded since taking office last year, alarming his political aides.
Installation Process – The Senate confirmation process includes hearings before the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Democrat Dick Durbin and its top Republican, Chuck Grassley. Democrats control the 100-member Senate equally because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking ability. Biden made history in 2020 when he made Harris the first black vice presidential candidate on the main party ticket.
The White House said Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, studied case records of candidates he was considering and consulted legal experts.
To illustrate the precarious nature of Democrats’ control of the Senate, they currently lack a working majority after Democratic Senator Ben Ray Logan suffered a stroke. He is expected to recover in time for a vote on the nomination.
Because of Republican-led changes to soften the confirmation of Trump’s first candidate Neil Gorsuch in 2017 amid Democratic opposition, only a Senate majority vote is needed to confirm Biden’s selection.
Democrats said they plan to move Biden’s nomination onto a timeline, similar to the one month Republicans used for third-time Trump-appointed judge Amy Connie Barrett in 2020.
The White House indicated that it would strongly resist Republican attempts to discredit the candidate. Some Republicans accused Biden of discrimination for his pledge to appoint a black woman to the position without considering any non-black men or women. Biden said in January that a black woman serving on the Supreme Court was long overdue.
The Supreme Court continues to play a fundamental role in American life and has moved to the right thanks to the three Trump appointees. In the coming months, it is scheduled to issue rulings in cases that may limit abortion rights and expand the scope of gun rights. The court, in its session beginning next October, is due to hear cases related to issues of race that could end affirmative action policies used by colleges and universities to increase the number of black and Latino students.