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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an early frontrunner for President Joe Biden's selection to replace Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo:  Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden promised to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Now it’s time to deliver

With liberal justice Stephen Breyer stepping down in June, the president has a chance to put his imprint on the Court.

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President Joe Biden is expected to honor his commitment to make a Black woman his first nomination to the Supreme Court. 

She would replace the liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, who will retire at the end of the Supreme Court term in June. 

“The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a news conference. 

Only two Black men have ever served on the court: Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1967 to 1991 and his successor Justice Clarence Thomas, who is set to become the oldest member on the bench at age 73. 

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the highest-ranking female Democratic leader, released a statement within minutes of the news of Breyer's retirement, pointing to Biden's promise.

"The Court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation's history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States — I want to change that," Murray said.

Among the contenders, 51-year-old Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former law clerk to Breyer, is believed to be at the top. She was confirmed last June to a seat on the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the District of Columbia, succeeding current Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Jackson has served as an assistant federal public defender, making her the epitome of Biden’s focus on appointing judges with backgrounds that deviate from the typical prosecutor and Big Law box. 

Leondra Kruger, 45, who serves on the California Supreme Court, is another potential high court nominee. 

Kruger is very familiar with the Supreme Court because she worked as a clerk for the late Justice John Paul Stevens and served as acting deputy solicitor general during the Obama administration. 

At the California Supreme Court, she has authored significant opinions on the 4th Amendment — holding that law enforcement could not search a woman’s purse without a warrant after she declined to provide a driver’s license — and upholding a California law that requires law enforcement to collect DNA samples as well as fingerprints from all persons arrested for or convicted of felony offenses.

Another contender is J. Michelle Childs, a judge on South Carolina’s federal court. 

In addition to her decade of experience in private practice, the 55-year-old served as a state court trial judge on the South Carolina circuit, as the deputy director of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, and as a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. 

Justice Breyer’s replacement could secure the seat for a liberal justice for decades to come, but it would not shift the court’s current 6-3 conservative majority. 

“President Biden won this election, in part, due to the efforts of Black women who worked tirelessly on his behalf. They will expect him to honor this promise. And he will need them as he presses his domestic agenda and prepares for 2024,” Murray said. 

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