Posted February 14, 2022 by Onyinyechi C. Onyejiaka

"As President Biden prepares to announce his nomination towards the end of February, America will have to brace herself for another intense debate which would only worsen the public’s opinion of the Supreme Court."

Reactions To Potential SCOTUS Nominees

By: Onyinyechi C. Onyejiaka

Monday, February 14

During a Democratic debate, President Biden stated, “I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get every representation.”[1] On the 27th of January, Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he would be retiring, thereby leaving his seat on the Supreme Court vacant.[2]

The Supreme Court is currently facing a legitimacy crisis.[3] It has come to be seen as largely partisan, and its public approval is on a steady decline.[4] The Supreme Court’s decisions on issues such as the Voting Rights Act, partisan gerrymandering, and its most anticipated decision on reproductive rights continue to further this divide.[5] There are calls for the Supreme Court to finally start looking like the country it represents, but the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court is not entirely an answer to this.[6] To start with, of the 113 Supreme Court Justices, only three have been people of color, and among them, two are African American.[7] Of the 113 justices, four have been women.[8] This nomination will not change the court’s arithmetic, so this begs the question, why are there such negative reactions to a Black Supreme Court Justice?

When President Biden reaffirmed his promise to nominate a Black woman to the US Supreme Court, Texas Senator Ted Cruz described the announcement as “offensive” and proof that President Biden did not “care about 94% of Americans.”[9] In a since-deleted tweet, Ilya Shapiro, the vice president of the Cato Institute, stated that whoever the President nominated “will not be qualified.”[10] He stated that the President would pick a “‘lesser black woman.’”[11] Tucker Carlson stated that “it’s possible we have all marinated for so long in the causal racism of affirmative action that it seems normal now to reduce human beings to their race.”[12] Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker told a radio station that he will not support whichever Black woman is nominated as she will be a “beneficiary of affirmative action.”[13] In sum, there seems to be a shared view that any Black woman the President will nominate would be unqualified. So, what are the requirements for being a Supreme Court Justice?

While the Constitution does not explicitly state requirements for Justices, the long history of the court shows that the Justices should have been trained in law.[14] Although a controversial topic, a majority of SCOTUS justices have been educated in top-tier law schools.[15]  A simple Google search will show that the women said to be on the President shortlist all meet these criteria.[16] As President Biden prepares to announce his nomination towards the end of February, America will have to brace herself for another intense debate which would only worsen the public’s opinion of the Supreme Court.

[1] Janay Kingsberry & Julianne McShane, Black female judges, law students and more on what the Supreme Court nomination means to them, The Washington Post (Jan. 28, 2022, 12:32 PM).

[2] Colleen Long et al, Justice Breyer Confirms he is Retiring from the Supreme Court, Time (Jan. 27, 2022,12:40 PM).

[3] Zinelle October, Why Adding a Black Woman to the Supreme Court would be Good for the GOP, Politico, (Feb. 3, 2022, 03:35 PM).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Jessica Campisi & Brandon Griggs, Of the 113 Supreme Court justices in US history, all but 6 have been white men, CNN, (Sept. 5, 2018, 8:56 AM).

[8] Id.

[9] Thomas Zimmer, Why are US rightwingers so opposed to a Black woman supreme court nominee? The Guardian, (Feb. 2, 2022, 6:24).

[10] Dahlia Lithwick & Mark Joseph Stern, What Conservatives Really Mean When They Say Biden’s Potential SCOTUS Nominees Are “Unqualified”, Slate (Jan. 27, 2022,4:12 PM).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] FAQs – General Information, Supreme Court of The United States.

[15] Martin Kelly, What Are the Requirements to Become a Supreme Court Justice? ThoughtCo. (May 10, 2020).

[16] Adam Carlson et al, Who Will Biden Nominate for the Supreme Court? Meet the Shortlist, People (Feb. 4, 2022, 01:08 PM).

Monday, February 14, 2022