Black woman Supreme Court justice nom recalls Biden-Anita Hill history as vetting continues

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Vice President Kamala Harris and Cedric Richmond are some of the names inside of the White House working on what has been called a broad list of Supreme Court Black women nominees. 

White House officials will not confirm nor deny if meetings with the potentially historic nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court could begin happening as early as this week.  

U.S. President Joe Biden spends the weekend at the White House on January 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)(Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden said he will announce the nominee at the end of this month, placing the pick on an expeditious track in the process for the historic nomination. 

The irony of this moment is that it is happening during Black History Month, as pointed out by the Reverend Al Sharpton. The author of the new book, Righteous Trouble Makers, told theGrio he’s also reflecting on a past SCOTUS nomination that involved Biden and another Black woman named Anita Hill

Then President George H.W. Bush nominee, Clarence Thomas, was accused by Hill of sexual harassment. As Sharpton noted, “She was confronted and badgered by the Senate Judiciary Committee chair at that time…a senator from Delaware named Joe Biden.”

He continued, “When Joe Biden decades later ran for president, he had to make amends with Anita Hill. Isn’t it ironic to some…that the man that helped to in many ways disrespect a Black woman named Anita Hill now is going to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court? I hope he invites Anita Hill to the ceremony to show how far you can grow if God gives you time.”

President Joe Biden and Anita Hill. (Photo: Getty Images)

CNN legal analyst Laura Coates told theGrio, “It’s unfortunate that we’re at a time when the only time you can think about a Black woman in a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice is the experience of Anita Hill, who in her own right was an extraordinary lawyer.”

The White House push for a Black Supreme Court justice is not new. Ten years ago, Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable, Reverend Sharpton along with others like National Urban League President Marc Morial pushed then President Barack Obama on the issue when they were vetting names for the court and Sonia Sotomayor emerged as the nominee for the high court.

Sources close to the current Biden vetting process that is underway contend that the White House is not looking to add to the short list of potential Supreme Court candidates. “My information is that they’re in a vetting process. There’s a pool larger than four or five,” Sharpton told theGrio

The White House has consulted with various people and groups on the soon coming nomination. One source inside the process told theGrio, “I think the universe is set. Ketanji [Brown Jackson] was the clear choice last year. Leondra Reid [Kruger] could happen.”

Deputy assistant U.S. attorney general Leondra Kruger, stands during her confirmation hearing to the California Supreme Court in San Francisco on Dec. 22, 2014. (S. Todd Rogers/Pool via AP, File)

Kruger, who received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her juris doctor from Yale Law School, has sat on the Supreme Court of California since 2015. She also clerked for former Supreme Court Justice John Paul.

There has been a prevailing hope that the next person picked for the high court would resemble the civil rights work of late justice Thurgood Marshall, who had an unparalleled legacy on advancing civil rights work. 

So I’ve read so many decisions of the late Thurgood Marshall, and so I’m looking for someone who can replace the brilliance, can replace the legacy of the late [him],” New York Attorney General Tish James told theGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor, adding, “someone who understands the experience of the African-American community and someone that would represent their interest.”

James said she is in support of Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Judge Brown Jackson, who currently sits on the bench as a circuit judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“[Ifill] is a brilliant woman with integrity who is compassionate and whose positions I believe reflect the majority of people of African ancestry,” said James. 

Civil rights leader Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund speaks outside the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris July 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

James also noted that Jackson, as a circuit judge, already went through a U.S. Senate confirmation and received bipartisan support. “Either of those two candidates again would continue the progressive and unfortunately minority view of the United States Supreme Court,” she said. 

Attorney General James added, “I’m hoping that they could sway members of the majority, the more conservative members of the Supreme Court on issues such as voting rights, reproductive rights on and on gun violence and on environmental issues and on climate change. And we really need to make sure that there are individuals who can negotiate and reach a compromise and respect precedent among the Supreme Court jurists.” 

James said this historic moment is also a very proud moment for her as a woman of color and member of the bar association, adding that it’s also a proud moment for “all Americans who care about the interests of others and who care about the rule of law in this country and uphold that institution and uphold its precedent.”

The pool of candidates for the Supreme Court are well qualified, despite statements from some Republican lawmakers like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who said the Black women being considered should find it “offensive” to be in the running for what he characterized as a nomination to fill a quota or an affirmative action agenda set by President Biden.

During the White House press briefing on Tuesday, presidential spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded to a question about Cruz’s statement. “He had no objection to [former President] Donald Trump promising he’d nominate a woman in 2020,” the White House press secretary answered.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily White House press briefing on February 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Not only were there no complaints about choosing a nominee from a specific demographic — from the same corners — but there was widespread praise of now-Justice [Amy Coney] Barrett on those grounds with Republican lawmakers widely highlighting that they thought this was positive for women in America.”

As Coates similarly noted, “Remember back in 1980, when [President Ronald] Reagan said that he wanted a woman before he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor or even George H.W. Bush was pretty intentional about wanting to have the successor of Thurgood Marshall be a Black person.”

On the other end of the spectrum and a surprise to many, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham over the weekend supported his fellow South Carolinian J. Michelle Childs for the nomination and said, “I cannot say anything bad.”

Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court, listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

As support for the candidates begins to rise, the nation’s civil rights leaders and organizations have decided not to step into the nomination endorsement match. 

Reverend Sharpton told theGrio, “We had general conversations, but we made it clear with National Action Network, Urban League, NAACP and others that we were not going to support a single candidate. We want them (Biden Administration) to choose it, and we don’t want to interfere with who the candidate may be.”

The White House continues to drop clues of what the winning candidate would look like. Psaki recently told the press that the president is “looking for someone who can serve a lifetime appointment” – signaling age is a factor in this process.

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