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Unpacking the Implications of the Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Nominee

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court plays an enormous role in the American political system, and yet historically its members have represented only a portion of the electorate. President Biden's promise to nominate a black female justice would send a powerful message, according to Hannah Brenner Johnson, Professor of Law California Western School of Law and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs: “Such a nomination will infuse institutional legitimacy by shaping the Court to more accurately reflect the public it serves.”

Brenner Johnson notes the deeper social impact of President Biden nominating a figure like Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a shortlisted candidate: “Someone like her can inspire the next generation of Black girls to become lawyers and judges and to reach for the ultimate pinnacle in their chosen professions.”

Brenner Johnson has written extensively about the historical gender dynamics of the Supreme Court nomination process; her book Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court will be published in paperback this month with a new forward from Melissa Murray, who has also been mentioned as a successor to retiring justice Stephen Breyer.

Professor of Law Susan Bisom-Rapp notes that President Biden has an opportunity to bring multiple dimensions of diversity to the Supreme Court. “Beyond gender and race, the shortlist is notable for diversity with respect to geography, education, and legal practice. This is important because diverse perspectives in any institution strengthen its decision-making function.”

The way in which the court and current judges adapt to this diversity will be fascinating to watch, according to Professor of Law Jessica Fink. “Whenever a justice who has served as long as Justice Breyer leaves the Court - and whenever someone new joins this body - there is a change to the fabric of the institution. There may be shifts in viewpoints as a new voice is injected into the Court's discussions.”

Fink is hopeful that these shifts may help break through the current hyper-polarized political environment within the U.S. She states: “There may be new alliances forged, both within and perhaps occasionally even across the ideological aisle.”