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Biden Ready for Black Female Justice   01/28 06:13

   President Joe Biden strongly affirmed Thursday that he will nominate the 
first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring such historic 
representation is "long overdue" and promising to announce his choice by the 
end of February.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden strongly affirmed Thursday that he 
will nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, declaring such 
historic representation is "long overdue" and promising to announce his choice 
by the end of February.

   In a White House ceremony marking a moment of national transition, Biden 
praised retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, who will have spent nearly 28 years on 
the high court by the time he leaves at the end of the term, as "a model public 
servant at a time of great division in this country."

   And with that the search for Breyer's replacement was underway in full. 
Biden promised a nominee worthy of Breyer's legacy and said he'd already been 
studying the backgrounds and writings of potential candidates.

   "I've made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be 
somebody of extraordinary qualifications, character and integrity," he said. 
"And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United 
States Supreme Court. It is long overdue."

   Biden's choice will be historic on its face: No Black woman has ever served 
on the high court. But the decision is also coming at a critical time of 
national reckoning over race and gender inequality. However, the court's 6-3 
conservative majority is destined to remain intact.

   Biden is using his choice to fulfill one of his early campaign promises, one 
that helped resurrect his moribund primary campaign and propel him to the White 
House in 2020.

   And it gives him the chance to show Black voters, who are increasingly 
frustrated with a president they helped to elect, that he is serious about 
their concerns, particularly with his voting rights legislation stalled in the 
Senate. It also could help drive Democratic enthusiasm amid concerns about a 
midterm routing in congressional races.

   Biden spent his first year in office working to nominate a diverse group of 
judges to the federal bench, not just in race but also in professional 
expertise, and he has been reviewing possible high court candidates along the 
way. He has installed five Black women on federal appeals courts -- where many 
high court justices come from -- with three more nominations pending before the 
Senate. He's had more judges confirmed in a year than any other president since 
Ronald Reagan.

   As a senator, Biden spent years leading the Senate Judiciary Committee and 
so he's quite familiar with the nomination process, having overseen six Supreme 
Court confirmation hearings. One person who will be central to Biden's 
selection process is chief of staff Ron Klain, a former Supreme Court law clerk 
and chief counsel to the Judiciary Committee.

   He promised a rigorous selection process. As part of it, Biden's team will 
review past writings, public remarks and decisions, learn the life stories of 
the candidates and interview them and people who know them. Background checks 
will be updated and candidates may be asked about their health -- it's after 
all a lifetime appointment. The goal, according to people involved with past 
nominations, is to provide the president with the utmost confidence in the 
eventual pick's judicial philosophy, fitness for the court and preparation for 
the high-stakes confirmation fight.

   He has already met personally with at least one top nominee, Ketanji Brown 
Jackson, 51. She is a former Breyer clerk who worked at the U.S. Sentencing 
Commission and has been a federal trial court judge since 2013 in the District 
of Columbia. The two met when Biden interviewed her for her current post as an 
appeals court judge in the D.C. circuit, where she has served since last June.

   Early discussions about a successor are focusing on Jackson, U.S. District 
Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, 
according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of 
anonymity to discuss White House deliberations. Jackson and Kruger have long 
been seen as possible nominees.

   Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, has been nominated but not yet 
confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 
Circuit. She is a favorite of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, one of Biden's 
top congressional allies, who said Thursday she had "everything I think it 
takes to be a great justice."

   Kruger, a graduate of Harvard and of Yale's law school, was previously a 
Supreme Court clerk and has argued a dozen cases before the justices as a 
lawyer for the federal government.

   Biden is also looking at Minnesota U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina 
Wright, the only jurist in Minnesota's history to serve in the state district 
court, appellate court and state Supreme Court. And New York University Law 
Professor Melissa Murray, an expert in family law and reproductive rights 
justice, is also under consideration.

   He's personally interviewed a few other possible candidates during their 
recent appointments, including Eunice Lee and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi. Both 
women have experience as criminal defense attorneys and could diversify the 
range of legal expertise on the high court, where many of the judges came from 
prosecutorial jobs or academia.

   In the Roosevelt Room on Thursday, Biden spoke wistfully about presiding 
over Breyer's ascent to the court in 1994. He praised the justice's legacy and 
highlighted Breyer's opinions on reproductive rights, health care and voting 
rights, calling him "sensitive and nuanced."

   "Justice Breyer has been everything his country could have asked of him," he 

   Breyer, in brief remarks, praised the "miracle" of America's constitutional 
democracy and issued a reminder to a nation riven by partisan discord and last 
year's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that the government "experiment" is not 
yet over.

   "This is a complicated country," he said, leaning onto the lectern. He 
added: "People have come to accept this Constitution, and they've come to 
accept the importance of a rule of law."

   Recounting a subject of frequent talks with students, the outgoing justice 
noted that in the nation's earliest days, European powers doubted it could 
survive, and during the horrors of the Civil War it appeared the United States 
might not make it.

   "They're looking over here and they're saying it's a great idea in 
principle, that it'll never work," Breyer said. "But we'll show them it does. 
That's what Washington thought, and that's what Lincoln thought, and that's 
what people still think today."

   "It's an experiment that's still going on," he added, saying future 
generations will see if the government can live up to its promise. "They'll 
determine whether the experiment still works. And of course, I'm an optimist, 
and I'm pretty sure it will."

   Even with Democrats controlling Congress, there's no guarantee it will be 
easy; some of Biden's top legislation has already stalled. One notable holdout 
on that legislation, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on local West Virginia 
radio that he could support a justice more liberal than he is but it was most 
important to judge her character and whether she can be fair.

   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Breyer's career and 
said the Senate would have a "fair process that moves quickly so we can confirm 
President Biden's nominee to fill Justice Breyer's seat as soon as possible."

   Republicans who changed the Senate rules during the Trump era to allow 
simple majority confirmation of Supreme Court nominees appear resigned to the 
outcome in the 50-50 split chamber. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., 
said he hoped Biden would not "outsource this important decision to the radical 

   Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary 
Committee, said after Breyer's announcement that his successor "should be an 
individual within the legal mainstream who can receive similar broad, 
bipartisan support."

   Grassley voted against Jackson's confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals 
for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as most other Biden appellate 
court nominees.

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