Okay my headline is just a dream right now but who says that it can’t happen? In the history of the Supreme Court, we’ve had two black male justices (although the jury is still out on the race of the current one). However, we’ve never had a black female justice. Some senators like Leahy have recommended that President Obama elect someone to the bench who is not a previous appellate court judge or ties with legal academia.
It is always stated that a president should not base his supreme court nominee on his personal values, but rather, the basis should be placed on the ability of the jurist to uphold the essence of the Constitution. We all know this notion has not been the case in recent history. Presidents who have had the honor of electing a supreme court justice tend to always choose a candidate that falls along their party lines. For example, Republican presidents tend to pick more conservative judges. Justice Scalia is one of the most conservative judges on the bench who adheres to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He was nominated by President Reagan. On the other hand, sometimes Presidents do not get it right. Reagan also nominated Justice Kennedy who is often considered the swing vote (though he tends to reach conservative results when it comes to race, religion or abortion).
Nevertheless, despite a jurist’s requirement to interpret the Constitution in making judicial decisions, such interpretation is based on one’s views. For example, a minority justice may be more lenient in describing affirmative action as constitutional; meanwhile, a non-minority may strictly interpret the Constitution’s view on discrimination and rule more often than not that implementation of affirmative action is in violation of one’s civil rights.
How will a black female jurist shape the court? It’s arguable (though President Obama has acknowledged) that a judge’s background plays a role in the manner in which she interprets the law. Therefore, it is time that we bring more balance back to the court. Like his predecessor, President Obama now has the honor of nominating two justices during his tenure. It is too early to definitively determine how Justice Sotomayor will shape the Court, but there is no doubt that the right black female jurist will leave a mark just as Chief Justice Marshall did.
Who will she be? I’m not certain. President Bush caught a lot of heat when he tried to nominate his White House Consel Harriet Miers to the bench. Since we’ve never had a black female justice I would suggest Obama play it safe and elect someone who has solid qualifications as a former judge. The rumor mill says that Judge Ann Claire Williams (who I had the pleasure of meeting at an event two years ago) and Leah Ward Sears have made Obama’s list.
Black women now exceed black men in law school enrollment. The President sleeps next to a very intelligent and powerful one every night. He made history in the Hispanic community by nominating Sotomayor as the first Hispanic female. Black female jurists have come a long way since Jane Bolin (1st black female judge in the U.S.). Although women still lack in other areas of the legal arena, President Obama can demonstrate that black women are not invisible and they have a strong role in shaping our laws by nominating the first black female to the High Court.