Utah professor: Supreme Court nominee short list features great options

Jan 27, 2022, 6:37 AM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 1:01 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018:  The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the sea...

WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 19, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Judicial Branch of government. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — The short list of options for a nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer offers some intriguing choices, according to a law professor at the University of Utah. 

Breyer, a Clinton-era appointee, reportedly plans to retire at the end of the current session.

President Joe Biden will choose a nominee to replace Breyer on the Supreme Court. The nearly equally divided U.S. Senate must then confirm the President’s choice. Democrats hold a slim margin, which gives a Biden nomination a chance for approval.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden committed to nominating a Black woman to fill a Supreme Court seat in the event of a vacancy during his presidency. 

“Either of the two potential short-listed names would be extraordinary”

On Wednesday, Dave and Dujanovic reached out to constitutional law professor Erika George, from the University of Utah’s S. J. Quinney College of Law, for her input on possible choices to fill the seat — including federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“(Breyer) has done well,” George told KSL NewsRadio, “and I do think that either of the two potential short-listed names would be extraordinary.” 

“In the interest of full disclosure, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is my former classmate from Harvard Law School,” George continued, “and she recently was at University of Utah Law as our jurist in residence and adjudicated our moot court a few years ago.

“She’s tremendous and demonstrates the kind of integrity and impartiality that I think would make all of us proud.”

A Black woman has never been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall became the first Black man nominated and confirmed in 1967; Clarence Thomas became the second in 1991. 

The women of the U.S. Supreme Court

Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Supreme Court bench in 1981. Since then, four other women, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett have served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The possibility of a Black woman nomination and confirmation excites George.

“It gives young women and men, aspiring lawyers, and lawyers, and members of our profession and our community an expanded understanding of who belongs where. And a Black woman does belong on the United States Supreme Court.

“I think a diverse bench is long overdue.”

George told Dave and Dujanovic that the prospect of a Black woman nominee to the Supreme Court would provide an important new perspective to the American justice system.

“There are certain lived and life experiences that are very different than, say, being a white man in America,” George continued.

“And people bring their experiences with them. There’s a lens through which you might look at the world or have experiences that are very different that can be brought to bear to increase our understanding of what it is to be a pluralistic society and have everyone enjoy equal rights under the law.”

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Utah professor: Supreme Court nominee short list features great options