President Joe Biden has expanded his list of candidates to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court to at least a dozen choices, all of whom are black women, a report says.
An initial short list named at least three potential candidates, and now CNN is reporting that the list may include nine more potential picks, making it at least 12 names long. Some are still awaiting approval for a prior court appointment.
The new candidates include a judge Ted Cruz once called an ‘activist advocate’; a civil rights attorney who compared bans on felons voting to slavery, while comparing a need to show ‘proof of citizenship to vote’ to ‘voter suppression’; an NYU professor who was in favor of impeaching Donald Trump and who called New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s defense of the president during the trial a ‘death spiral of stupid’; and a North Carolina Supreme Court justice who founded a group that provides lawyers to social justice advocates.
Biden announced liberal Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement after nearly 30 years on the court on Thursday, with the 83-year-old standing by his side.
Getting a new, young liberal on the high court would be a badly needed win for Biden, whose first year in office was marked by foreign policy crises, legislative setbacks and plummeting poll numbers.
The list solidifies that Biden intends to fulfill his long-held campaign promise of appointing the first black woman to the Supreme Court.
Judge J. Michelle Childs, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger were widely considered on the early short list.
In a statement Friday, a White House spokesman said Childs was ‘under consideration’ for the spot, but pushed back on the idea that Biden was only considering a few potential nominees.
During his remarks on Thursday, Biden promised to hear recommendations from both sides of the aisle, adding that the SCOTUS nominee ‘will be the first black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court.’
The purported list previously included – and according to CNN, still features – Judge J. Michelle Childs, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and NAACP executive and civil rights attorney Sherylinn Ifill.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Holly A. Thomas
Thomas, 43, was confirmed to the 9th Circuit Court by a 48-40 margin just nine days ago, becoming only the second black woman to serve on the court.
Prior to her appointment, Thomas was an assistant counsel at the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She was also the deputy director of California’s housing and employment agency and special counsel to New York’s solicitor general.
None of her support in confirmation came from Republicans, with Cruz referring to Thomas as an ‘activist advocate’ and criticized her during hearings for being unaware of a sexual assault involving a ‘boy in a skirt’ in Virginia’s Loudoun County in 2021.
‘You testified to this committee that you were not aware of what happened in Loudoun County until this morning,’ Cruz said during a hearing.
‘I find that remarkable for someone who has spent years as one of the leading activists for allowing transgender biological men to use girls’ restrooms and women’s restrooms.’
Her nomination was deadlocked coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by an 11-11 vote along party lines.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Tiffany P. Cunningham
Cunningham, 45 was confirmed by a 63-33 margin last July to become the first black judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the only federal appeals court never to have a black member.
The former lawyer has been a partner at Perkins Coie LLP in Chicago since 2014.
She is a member of the Patent Litigation practice and serves on the 17-member Executive Committee of the firm.
Cunningham serves as trial and appellate counsel for large multinational companies, as well as small enterprises and individuals in complex patent and trade secret disputes.
Cunningham is a registered patent attorney before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. From 2002 to 2014, she worked in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP as an associate until she was elevated to partner in 2007.
Cunningham began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge Timothy B. Dyk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 2001 to 2002. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2001 and her S.B. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998.
Civil rights attorney and 11th Circuit Court candidate Nancy G. Abudu
Abudu, 48, is currently a nominee for the 11th Circuit Court in Georgia, a state that has proved a flashpoint in the Biden administration’s attempt to enact new voting rights laws.
She has come under controversy for comparing bans on felons voting to slavery, while comparing a need to show ‘proof of citizenship to vote’ to ‘voter suppression.’
‘When you add laws that prohibit people with a criminal conviction from voting, it’s practically the same system as during slavery – Black people who have lost their freedom and cannot vote,’ attorney Nancy Gbana Abudu said in a post for the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, where she still works awaiting confirmation.
‘And without access to the ballot, a victim of the system cannot elect the very officials pulling the levers to hire the police, determine which cases are prosecuted and what sentences are imposed.’
On December 23, 2021, Biden pointed to Abudu’s nomination as part of ‘the President’s promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country – both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds.’
3rd Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Arianna J. Freeman
Freeman, another nominee yet to be confirmed to a judgeship, started her legal career as a clerk for United States District Court judges C. Darnell Jones II and James T. Giles.
She has worked as a community defender since 2009 and since 2016 has been a managing attorney with the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
NYU law professor Melissa Murray
Murray, an NYU law professor, has already been interviewed by MSNBC about the SCOTUS opening and Biden’s promise to nominate a black woman, which she called ‘overdue.’
The professor has been fairly active in appearing on cable news, especially during the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
In 2018, Murray, 46, referred to Giuliani’s defense of the president during impeachment as a ‘death spiral of stupid.’
She also clashed with ABC News’ Dan Abrams when he called the idea of Congress having a duty to impeach Trump ‘nonsensical.’
Murray – a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – has since referred to the High Court’s decision allowing challenges to a controversial Texas abortion ban to be heard but keeping the ban in place an ‘existential crisis’ for the court.
7th Circuit Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi
Jackson-Akiwumi, 43 was confirmed by the Senate by a count of 53-40, meaning a few Republicans crossed party lines to confirm her in June 2021.
A former federal defender in Chicago, Jackson-Akiwumi was a partner in a Washington law firm. Nominated by Biden in March 2021, she was one of three black women confirmed in the administration’s first months.
Her work as a public defender earned her praise from Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
‘Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi has devoted her life to defending the rule of law, including spending ten years as a federal public defender – representing hundreds of indigent clients at every stage of the legal process and providing them with their constitutional right to counsel. With her qualifications, temperament, and range of experience, Ms. Jackson-Akiwumi will be an outstanding addition to the Seventh Circuit bench,’ Durbin said in a statement.
District Judge Wilhelmina ‘Mimi’ Wright
One of the more experienced judges on the list, Wright has been serving since 2012.
Wright, 58, currently serves as a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. She was nominated for the position by former President Barack Obama and was confirmed in 2016 by a vote of 58-36, with more than a dozen Republicans supporting her.
According to the Minnesota Bar Association, Wright was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2012, becoming the first female black justice on the high court’s bench.
Wright, a Harvard Law School graduate, previously served on the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Ramsey County District Court.
Before becoming a judge, she worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. She also worked in private practice in Washington, D.C.
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls
Earls, 61, is another potential nominee who has spoken about being considered, calling it an honor.
The justice currently serves on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.
She founded and is the past executive director of the Southern Coalition of Social Justice, a group that ‘believed that families and communities engaged in social justice struggles need a team of lawyers, social scientists, community organizers and media specialists to support them in their efforts to dismantle structural racism and oppression.’
Previously, Earls served as deputy assistant attorney general for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice in the Clinton administration. Earls has also served on the Equal Access to Justice Commission and the N.C. Board of Elections.
2nd Circuit Judge Eunice Lee
Lee, 52 is another ex-public defender on the list.
The controlled Senate voted 50-47 to approve Lee to the 2nd Circuit in August. She joined the court from the Federal Defenders of New York Inc., where she has served as an assistant defender since 2019.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, questioned Lee at her June 9 confirmation hearing about what in her career as a public defender made her a good fit to handle an appellate docket packed with securities and antitrust cases and intellectual property disputes.
‘Over the course of my career as an appellate litigator, I have often been confronted with topics and subject areas with which I’m not familiar,’ Lee said.
‘The experience of having to learn new topics in the context of a specific case is something I’m very familiar with.’
These names join four previously rumored candidates.
D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Jackson, 51, widely thought to be Biden’s top pick, was elevated from her previous post as a judge on the federal district court in Washington, D.C., where she remained from 2013-2021.
During her confirmation hearing for the highly influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Jackson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that her race would add ‘value’ to the bench when trying to explain how it would not play a role in her decisions.
‘I’m looking at the arguments, the facts and the law. I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case,’ she said.
Then Jackson added: ‘I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable — I hope it would be valuable — if I was confirmed to the court.’
During her time as a judge, Jackson was part of the decision to order former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with the House of Representatives’ subpoena as part of its impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump.
One line in the ruling impressed Democrats: ‘The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.’
Jackson also signed the recent opinion ordering Trump White House documents be disclosed to the January 6 select committee.
And in 2019, she blocked Donald Trump’s fast-track deportation policy from going into effect at the southern border.
Questions on Jackson’s impartiality on the high court could also come from her past political activism. On her questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Jackson admitted she was a lawyer and poll watcher for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
She also donated $400 to Obama’s first presidential bid, campaign finance disclosures show.
Jackson, 51, earned her law degree from Harvard and, fittingly, clerked for Breyer. She is also married to the brother-in-law of former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. She has two daughters with her husband Patrick Jackson, whom she married in 1996.
Patrick Jackson, a surgeon, previously donated $1,250 to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and $1,750 to Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.
Some Biden critics could also be concerned Jackson is soft on crime — during her tenure as vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission, the panel retroactively reduced sentences for many crack cocaine offenses.
It allowed 12,000 convicted felons to seek reduced sentences and made 1,800 eligible to be back on the streets immediately.
South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs
Childs, 55, has the backing of a powerful Democratic lawmaker from her state, longtime Biden ally and House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn.
Clyburn spoke on her behalf alongside South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham during Childs’ 2010 confirmation hearing to her current bench, to which she was appointed by Obama.
The U.S. District Court of South Carolina judge was tapped for a promotion last month by Biden to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but the nomination is still pending.
One of her recent high-profile rulings was dealt a defeat by the Supreme Court, when it overturned Childs’ September 2020 decision to kill a measure in South Carolina’s new elections bill that would have tightened security on mail-in ballots.
The South Carolina legislature passed a bill allowing all voters to vote absentee regardless of their reason in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but an amendment to remove a provision requiring a witness signature failed.
Childs upheld the law but struck down the signature requirement in a decisive victory for state and national Democrats just before the presidential election.
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger
Kruger would be a younger choice at 45, and is widely seen as a moderate to liberal judge in the Golden State.
But her husband, a California-based lawyer named Brian Hauck, dives further into left wing politics. As recently as 2020 he donated $1,000 to Biden’s presidential campaign.
Hauck donated a whopping $3,800 to Obama’s first campaign between 2007 and 2008, and then worked in his Justice Department between 2009 and 2014.
Kruger was involved in the federal government as a senior lawyer for the Solicitor General’s office, though she rejected that top job twice when offered by Biden.
She served under Obama as acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General from May 2010 – June 2011 where she argued 12 cases in front of the Supreme Court. During her time at the Department of Justice, Kruger earned in both 2013 and 2014 the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, which is the agency’s highest employee award.
Former NAACP head Sherrilyn Ifill
Her nomination would have some support from the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Politico, but her frequent television appearances and far-left social media presence would make Ifill, 59, a target for accusations of partisanship.
Her Twitter feed is full of partisan opinions atypical for a potential Supreme Court nominee.
In one recent post she takes aim at Republicans and even moderate Democrats in defending Biden’s embattled Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
‘If you’re not talking [about] the insanity & obstruction of the President’s opponents in frustrating his agenda & those of liberal & moderate Dems, you’re doing it wrong,’ Ifill wrote.
Earlier this month the civil rights activist appeared on MSNBC where she lauded Biden’s controversial voting rights speech in Georgia, where he compared opponents of scuttling the filibuster to pass his bill to infamous racists like George Wallace and Jefferson Davis.
She said efforts to pass election security laws by GOP-led legislatures were ‘voter suppression’ measures that unfairly targeted black and brown voters.
‘The purpose of it, the design of it, is to subvert our democracy and ensure the outcome of elections is controlled by one political party,’ Ifill said.
Ifill isn’t afraid to take shots at the court she could be nominated to, either.
She claimed the Supreme Court’s decision to hear affirmative action cases against Harvard and the University of South Carolina ‘seriously threatens the nation’s ideals of equality’ in a statement published in the Harvard Gazette on Wednesday.
‘Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a nominee worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency,’ Biden said this week.
‘While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision except one: the person I will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity.’
‘And that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court,’ the president added.
Biden said it was ‘long overdue’ and noted how he had made that commitment during the 2020 campaign – as part of a pledge to secure a key endorsement from South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the most powerful black member of Congress.
‘And I will keep that commitment,’ Biden said.
This is an excerpt from Daily Mail.
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