Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement, as reported by The Associated Press on Wednesday, paves the way for President Biden’s first nomination to the nation’s highest court.
Biden pledged during the 2020 campaign to nominate a Black woman in what would mark the first time a Black woman has been nominated to serve on the Supreme Court.
“As president, I’d be honored, honored to appoint the first African American woman. Because it should look like the country. It’s long past time,” Biden said in February 2020.
Breyer’s retirement and Biden’s selection would not change the ideological makeup of the court, which currently leans conservative by 6 to 3 after former president Donald Trump’s selection of justices cemented the right wing majority.
Supreme Court justices have often come from federal appellate courts in recent decades. Age is also a factor in the decision: with justices serving life terms on the court, presidents aim to nominate a person who is relatively young.
Here’s a look at names that have been floated in media reports as potential nominees.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
Jackson, 51, serves as a circuit judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the country.
Jackson was nominated by Biden and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the court in June 2021 by a 53-44 vote. Three Republican senators, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski voted to confirm her nomination.
Before she was nominated to the D.C. circuit, Jackson served as a US district judge from 2013 to 2021, according to her D.C. Circuit bio.
Jackson was also a former clerk to Breyer, as well as to Judge Bruce Selya of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Judge Patti Saris of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Jackson’s ties to Massachusetts also extend to her education. She earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1996 and served as a supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before that, she graduated from Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute.
Judge Leondra Kruger
Kruger, 45, serves as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court.
Before that, she served as a deputy assistant attorney general to the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. From 2007 to 2013, she served as acting deputy solicitor general, where she argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government, according to her official bio.
She has clerked for Judge David Tatel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Kruger earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard before attending Yale Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.
Judge J. Michelle Childs
Childs has served as a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina since 2010.
Childs was nominated by Biden in December 2021 to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but she has not yet been confirmed.
Childs earned her Master of Laws from Duke University School of Law in 2016. Before that, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1991 and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in 1988, according to the White House.
Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi
Jackson-Akiwumi was nominated by Biden and confirmed by the Senate in June 2021 as a circuit judge for the Seventh Circuit.
She was confirmed by a vote of 53-40, with Republican senators Graham, Collins, and Murkowski voting in favor of her nomination.
The Seventh Circuit encompasses Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and Jackson-Akiwumi’s confirmation marked the second time a person of color had been confirmed to sit on the court, the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a statement announcing her confirmation.
Jackson-Akiwumi is a former public defender and an alum of Yale Law School, according to the university.
Judge Holly Thomas
Thomas was confirmed just days ago on Jan. 20 by the Senate as a judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The confirmation means Thomas will be the second Black woman to ever sit on the appeals court for the Ninth Circuit, Bloomberg Law reported.
Biden nominated Thomas in September 2021. Her nomination was deadlocked in committee, bringing it to an additional floor vote before it moved forward, according to Bloomberg.
Before her confirmation, she served as a judge on the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County and as a civil rights lawyer in a number of roles.
Thomas received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 2000 and her Juris Doctor in 2004 from Yale Law School, where she served as an essays editor of the Yale Law Journal, according to the Ninth Circuit.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.