A few weeks ago, Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court. His retirement gives President Joe Biden the opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court Justice.
Biden has made the commitment to nominate a black woman to the highest court in the United States.
The Supreme Court of the United States functions as the decision maker as to which laws are constitutional and which laws are not. The court is composed of nine justices, who, once elected, serve until they die or retire.
The Supreme Court is supposed to be free of the partisan politics that dominate the legislative and executive branches, but this is not necessarily the case. In recent years, the bench has become more and more political. Currently, the bench leans conservatively, following former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court nominations.
The Biden administration has been fairly quiet in terms of releasing information about potential nominees for the open seat, but observers in Washington have placed D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and South Carolina US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs on the short list for potential nominees. All of these potential nominees have extremely impressive careers, but whoever receives the nomination will likely face a lot of push back, specifically from Conservatives.
“I think it’s going to be really ugly,” political science professor Vivien Leung said. “And not just racially but also in regard to gender. We’re already seeing a lot of grumbling about the nomination and accusations of identity politics. We saw some extremely racist and sexist rhetorics come out about Michele Obama after her husband announced his campaign for presidency, and if past instances of black women in American politics tell us anything, this nomination is likely to be fairly nasty.”
Biden said he would announce his nomination by the end of February, so the public should know the nominee soon, however the question of when the confirmation hearing will happen remains up in the air.
The Democrats are poised to suffer losses in this year’s midterm elections so the confirmation hearing will likely be before then, while the Democrats still have their razor thin majority.
“It could be in a few weeks, it could [be] over the summer, or Biden might try to squeeze it in right before the midterms. The timing will definitely be important,” Dr. Leung said. “I also think it will be interesting to see how the confirmation process goes. If the senate votes entirely on party lines, as a lot of people are expecting, Kamala Harris will have to break the tie, which has never happened before with a Supreme Court nomination. The confirmation process will definitely be interesting and also indicative of the highly polarized nature of the American political system.”
“The previous president appointed three justices to the Supreme Court, so choosing who will join them certainly needs to be done carefully and deliberately,” Gracie Hauer ’24 said. “Biden has the opportunity to make a notable change in the way that the Supreme Court is leaning, ideally, to bring the Supreme Court back towards the center.”
Hauer said she would like to see Biden select a more liberal-leaning judge to balance the current conservative state.
“A liberal-leaning black woman would be a welcome change in both politics as well as much needed representation in the Justice System,” she said.