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Biden reportedly set to release his first round of judicial nominees

President Joe Biden is reportedly preparing to release his first slate of judicial nominees, offering a window into how he hopes to shape the federal judiciary.

Biden’s list could be released as soon as Tuesday, and includes three black women, two of whom would be tapped for powerful appeals court seats, sources familiar with the matter told Politico.

On the campaign trail, Biden vowed to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court, should a vacancy open during his term.

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has long been considered one of Biden’s top options to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and now he is reportedly considering her strongly to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Merrick Garland on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Other names being circulated for appeals court roles include California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruge and US District Court Judge Michelle Childs. 

President Joe Biden is reportedly preparing to release his first slate of judicial nominees, offering a window into how he hopes to shape the federal judiciary

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (above) has long been considered one of Biden's top options to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and he is reportedly considering her for the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals seat vacated by AG Merrick Garland

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (above) has long been considered one of Biden’s top options to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and he is reportedly considering her for the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals seat vacated by AG Merrick Garland

The DC Appeals Court, which handles many complex federal cases, has long been viewed as a pipeline to the Supreme Court, and such an appointment could put Jackson in pole position for the top court.  

Biden began his term with 68 judicial vacancies, including seven appellate court vacancies and 61 district court vacancies.

His first wave of nominees will face tough challenges in the evenly divided Senate, where judicial confirmation votes for the lifetime federal bench often turn contentious.

Democrats narrowly control the Senate due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote, which could seal a judicial confirmation if the battle broke down strictly along party lines. 

On the campaign trail, Biden vowed to elevate a black woman to the Supreme Court, saying that ‘everyone should be represented — no one’s better than me and I’m no better than anyone else.’ 

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruge

US District Court Judge Michelle Childs

Other names being circulated for appeals court roles include California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruge (left) and US District Court Judge Michelle Childs (right)

‘I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure we, in fact, get every representation,’ he said at a Democratic debate last February. Biden reaffirmed his vow after winning the November election.

Jackson has been rumored to be the top choice for Garland’s seat since January, and remained on Biden’s shortlist for the DC appeals bench as recently as last week, sources told Politico. 

Jackson, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former public defender, has served on the district court since 2013, when she was appointed by Obama. She was confirmed by the Senate on a non-roll call voice vote.

She was considered by Obama for the 2016 Supreme Court nomination that ultimately went to Garland, whose confirmation was blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate in 2016.

Jackson, 50, has experience in sentencing reform after working twice for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, including as the Obama-appointed vice chair. 

She had a varied career before becoming a judge, working as a lawyer in private practice and as a public defender. 

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

DC District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Jackson (left and right), a Harvard-trained lawyer and former public defender, has served on the district court since 2013, when she was appointed by Obama

Jackson once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (above) whom some liberal activists are now demanding step down to make way for a younger and non-white judge

Jackson once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (above) whom some liberal activists are now demanding step down to make way for a younger and non-white judge

Earlier in her career, Jackson clerked for liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Now, some progressive activists are arguing that Breyer should step down to make way for a more diverse justice appointed by Biden, while the Democrats control the Senate. 

Breyer is currently the oldest sitting Supreme Court justice, and one of three reliably liberal votes on the nine-member court. 

‘He should announce his retirement immediately, effective upon the confirmation of his successor,’ University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos wrote of Breyer in The New York Times earlier this month. 

Breyer has remained quiet about his plans, at least publicly. His last comment on the topic of retirement was made to Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick in an interview published in December.

‘I mean, eventually I’ll retire, sure I will,’ Breyer said. ‘And it’s hard to know exactly when.’ 


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