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Meet the women who could be Biden's pick for next Supreme Court justice

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Washington — News of Justice Stephen Breyer's expected retirement from the Supreme Court at the end of its current term has reignited questions of who will succeed him, as President Biden's pick is expected to make history.

Mr. Biden has pledged repeatedly that if given the chance to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, he would nominate the first Black woman, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday he "certainly stands by that."

While the president declined to release a list of possible contenders for the Supreme Court during the 2020 presidential campaign, defying calls to do so from fellow Democrats, a number of names have emerged as likely to appear on Mr. Biden's shortlist.

If Mr. Biden's replacement for Breyer is confirmed by the Senate, she would not only make history as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, but it would also mark the first time two Black justices would be on the high court at the same time. Four women would also be on the bench simultaneously.

Here is a look at the possible candidates to succeed on the high court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jackson, 51, was one of Mr. Biden's first picks for the federal judiciary as president and is considered to be the frontrunner for the Supreme Court.

The president selected Jackson to replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered to be the nation's second most powerful court, in March 2021, and she was confirmed by the Senate in June.

Three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted with all 50 Democrats to confirm Jackson.

Before joining the D.C. Circuit, Jackson was a U.S. district judge in the District of Columbia and vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. At her confirmation hearing to the federal district court, Jackson was introduced by then-Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin who would go on to serve as House speaker before retiring in 2018. Ryan and Jackson are related by marriage.

"Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji's intellect, for her character, for her integrity, it is unequivocal. She is an amazing person," Ryan told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012.

Jackson also worked as an assistant special counsel for the sentencing panel for two years, followed by two years as an assistant federal public defender. The judge has been hailed for her work as a former public defender, as judicial groups argue there is a dearth of professional diversity on the federal bench.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, she clerked for Breyer on the Supreme Court from 1999 to 2000.

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is seen in an undated photo. / Credit: U.S. Supreme Court of California/Reuters
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is seen in an undated photo. / Credit: U.S. Supreme Court of California/Reuters

Kruger, 45, hails from the home state of Vice President Kamala Harris and has been a member of its highest court since 2014. She was nominated to the California Supreme Court at just 38 years old by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

Before joining the state supreme court, Kruger worked at the Department of Justice in the Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant attorney general and in the Office of the Solicitor General as an assistant to the solicitor general and acting deputy solicitor general.

During her tenure in the solicitor general's office under President Barack Obama, Kruger argued 12 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She also received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service in 2013 and 2014.

Kruger also worked in private practice and clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens at the Supreme Court from 2003 to 2004. She graduated from Yale Law School.

Judge J. Michelle Childs

Judge J. Michelle Childs listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 16, 2010. / Credit: Charles Dharapak / AP
Judge J. Michelle Childs listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 16, 2010. / Credit: Charles Dharapak / AP

Childs, 55, was formally nominated to the D.C. Circuit by Mr. Biden earlier this month and has served as a judge on the U.S. district court in South Carolina since 2010.

Before her appointment to the federal bench, Childs was a state court trial judge on the South Carolina Circuit Court and a commissioner of the state's Workers' Compensation Commission.

Childs also worked as deputy director of the Division of Labor at the South Carolina Labor Department. She graduated from University of South Carolina School of Law.

Childs is a favorite of South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, a Democrat who is the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and whose endorsement of Mr. Biden was crucial to him winning the state's presidential primary in 2020. Clyburn hailed Childs in an interview with The Post and Courier last year not only for her judicial experience, but also her different educational background. If selected by Mr. Biden and confirmed by the Senate, she would join a Supreme Court whose current membership includes eight graduates of Harvard or Yale law schools and one graduate of Notre Dame Law School.

Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi

Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jackson-Akiwumi, 43, was also in the first group of Mr. Biden's judicial nominees and was a partner at the Washington, D.C., firm Zuckerman Spaeder until her nomination to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021.

She was confirmed in June to the 7th Circuit by a vote of 53 to 40, earning GOP support from Graham, Collins and Murkowski, like Jackson.

For a decade, from 2010 to 2020, Jackson-Akiwumi was a staff attorney in the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois. During her tenure there, she represented more than 400 indigent clients accused of federal crimes.

With her confirmation to the 7th Circuit, Jackson-Akiwumi became the first judge appointed to that court with a background as a federal public defender.

Jackson-Akiwumi is a graduate of Yale Law School.

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