“It is high time”. Joe Biden confirmed Thursday that he would appoint, for the first time in history, a black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States, to replace resigning judge Stephen Breyer. “The person I appoint will have extraordinary qualifications, personality, experience and integrity. And this person will be the first black woman appointed to the Supreme Court, ”said the American president, of whom it was a campaign promise.
In more than 200 years of history, out of 115 judges, all but seven were white men (or 94%). There have been five women (including a Hispanic, Sonia Sotomayor) and two African American judges, civil rights leader Thurgood Marshall in 1967 and ultraconservative Clarence Thomas, who still sits today.
Confirmation before midterms
The president also expressed the nation’s “gratitude” to Stephen Breyer, who stood by his side. The 83-year-old magistrate, known for his progressive views and playfulness, held up a copy of the Constitution. Calling American democracy “an ongoing experiment,” he said, “I’m an optimist, I’m sure it will succeed. »
Joe Biden must wrap up the proceedings before the fall’s high-risk legislative elections, which could well cost him control of the Senate, as the upper house of the US Congress has the final decision on court appointments. supreme.
The Democrats only have a very slim majority there: 50 votes plus that of Vice-President Kamala Harris, against 50 for the Republicans. And the days when Supreme Court justices were a consensus choice seem to be over. Stephen Breyer was confirmed by 87 votes against 9 by the Senate in 1994, a score unthinkable today as the partisan divisions have widened.
Defense of the right to abortion
By appointing a younger judge, Joe Biden will be able, if not to overthrow him, at least to freeze at least for a few years the current balance of power in the Supreme Court. The institution has 6 conservative magistrates – half of whom were put in place by former President Donald Trump – and 3 progressives, all appointed for life.
The Supreme Court plays a major role in the United States by arbitrating, with its case law, many major social debates. The institution, which has taken a clearly conservative turn and is rather hostile to too much interventionism by the federal state, seems ready to reconsider the right to abortion, to extend the right to bear arms or even to dismantle certain environmental regulations.
Several names are circulating to replace Stephen Breyer. Harvard graduate Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, who sits on Washington’s influential federal appeals court, initially seemed like a favorite. But South Carolina lawmaker Jim Clyburn, to whom Biden owes his survival in the Democratic primary, backs Michelle Childs, 55, a moderate South Carolina federal judge who he says may have support from some Republicans. . We must not rule out Benjamin Leondra Kruger, 45, the youngest judge to sit on the Supreme Court of California. Among the other names that come back to observers: Candace Jackson-Akiwumi and Holly Thomas, appellate judges, and Sherrilyn Ilfill, lawyer for the NAACP civil rights organization.
Expected at the turn by the African-American electorate
By keeping his promise to appoint a black woman, Joe Biden could regain some of the lost credit with the African-American electorate, whose support during his presidential campaign and at the polls was decisive. Some activists criticize the Democratic president for having made big promises, in particular on civil rights and police violence, without translating them into action.
In Georgia, a southern state where African-Americans had strongly mobilized for Joe Biden, 36% of black voters are now critical of the president’s action, compared to only 8% last May, according to an Atlanta-Journal poll. Constitution.