With President Joe Biden expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee in the coming days, more than two dozen organizations representing public defenders are sending him an eleventh-hour message: Pick one of us.
“The current Supreme Court suffers from an astonishing lack of professional diversity, with an overrepresentation of lawyers who have worked for corporations or were prosecutors,” reads a private letter sent to Biden last week by groups including the Black Public Defender Association, the National Association for Public Defense, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and The Legal Aid Society.
“Too often, past presidents have communicated through their judicial nominations that in order to be appointed to a prestigious federal judgeship, a lawyer should spend their career working at a corporate law firm or as a prosecutor,” the groups wrote. “By nominating a former public defender to the highest court in the country, you would make clear that you believe defending the rights of people who cannot afford a lawyer is just as valuable as representing the wealthiest Americans.”
Here’s a copy of their letter, first obtained by HuffPost:
Biden has already said he will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and there’s only one former public defender in the mix of final contenders: Ketanji Brown Jackson. The organizations don’t mention her name in their letter to Biden, but it’s clear she’s who they are urging him to nominate.
Jackson, 51, is already considered the front-runner for the seat. She has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June. Before that, she was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for eight years. She is a former public defender and served as the vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
She also clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term, and it’s now his seat being vacated on the court.
Biden has said he plans to nominate someone in the image of Breyer.
“I’m not looking to make an ideological choice,” the president recently told NBC’s Lester Holt regarding his selection process. “I’m looking for someone to replace Judge Breyer with the same kind of capacity that Judge Breyer had, with an open mind, who understands the Constitution and interprets it in a way that is consistent with the mainstream interpretation of the Constitution.”
Other potential Supreme Court candidates include Michelle Childs, a U.S. district judge in South Carolina; Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court; and Leslie Abrams Gardner, a U.S. district judge in Georgia.