Who Will Biden Nominate for the Supreme Court? Meet the Shortlist

Among the contenders for the historic appointment are a range of federal judges, former public defenders, educators and more

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Ketanji Brown Jackson; J. Michelle Childs; Leondra Kruger; Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright
Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images; Richland County Bar Association; Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock; Courtesy of Office of Governor Dayton

President Joe Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman as a Supreme Court justice to replace Stephen Breyer: Here are 10 names he is considering.

In addition to the White House's praise for J. Michelle Childs, a source familiar tells PEOPLE that three of the other judges on the shortlist have stood out for their history of bipartisan support, legal and academic accolades, work in public service and their life stories: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Leondra Kruger and Wilhelmina Wright.

Read on for background on each of the women whom Biden might pick for an historic appointment.

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Nancy Abudu

Nancy G. Abudu

Abudu is the strategic litigation director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, focused on "ensuring the voting rights of communities of color and other historically disenfranchised groups, primarily in the Deep South," according to her bio. Recently nominated by President Biden to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Abudu is the daughter of immigrants from Ghana. She received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a law degree from Tulane Law School.

Her experience includes extensive work on voting, reproductive, felon disenfranchisement and LGBTQ rights, some of which could disqualify her in the eyes of more conservative groups. Her work has brought her before various federal courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court, to which she has submitted more than 80 briefs, according to the Alliance for Justice.

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J. Michelle Childs

J. Michelle Childs
Charles Dharapak/AP/Shutterstock

Childs, 55, currently serves on the district court in Columbia, South Carolina, and was reportedly considered for a promotion to the federal appeals court for that circuit by Biden before news broke of a vacancy coming on the Supreme Court. Unlike many considered for the nation's highest court, Childs attended public universities on scholarships — including undergraduate work at University of South Florida and earning law and business degrees at the University of South Carolina — which has been pointed out as an advantage by influential Biden ally Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.

Another lawmaker from that state, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, has also expressed his support for Childs, calling her "an awesome person." In 2020, Childs presided over cases on voting rights, ending a witness-signature requirement for mail-in ballots, and COVID-19 vaccination rules, refusing to block a mandate for a federal contractor, CNN reports.

However, some liberal advocates have criticized her previous work for corporations in discrimination cases and her past ties to a law firm advertising anti-union services.

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Tiffany Cunningham

Tiffany P. Cunningham

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin praised the "exceptional credentials" of Judge Cunningham, 45, following her nomination by President Biden in 2021 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She was confirmed in a bipartisan vote of 63-33. In a letter to Durbin and his Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, colleagues wrote a glowing recommendation based on her background and experience, including earning a chemical engineering degree from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a law degree from Harvard.

"She grew up in Michigan, where her mother was a teacher and her father worked in the automobile industry. She was the first in her family to go to law school. Her work ethic, fierce intelligence, and collegial nature has led her to excel in almost every context and environment where she has found herself," the letter says.

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Sherrilyn Ifill

Sherrilyn Ifill
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Ifill, 59, is a civil rights attorney who's led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund since 2013. Raised in Queens, New York, by Panamanian immigrant parents, Ifill declared her goal of being a Supreme Court justice in high school before pursuing her education at Vassar College and New York University School of Law. In 1993, Ifill joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law, where she taught Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law. She has litigated voting rights cases and done extensive work in civil rights and issues around racial justice.

According to her bio at the Thurgood Marshall Institute, Ifill is working on a book about race and Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Her recent statements on police reform could complicate a confirmation process given strong opposition among Republicans and some Democrats, including the president, to the goal of reforming and "defunding the police."

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Candace Jackson-Akiwumi

Candace Jackson-Akiwumi
Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

Jackson-Akiwumi currently serves as a circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after being appointed by Biden in July 2021. The daughter of two judges, Jackson-Akiwumi attended Princeton University and received her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, where she served as a senior editor for the Yale Law Journal and an NAACP LDF Earl Warren Legal Scholar, according to an old web page for the firm where she previously practiced.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Brown Jackson. Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

Jackson, 51, has already been tested by the U.S. Senate, which confirmed her nomination to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year in a 53-to-44 vote, which included support from Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Born in Washington, D.C., but raised in Miami, she graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating cum laude in 1996. For a term that began in 1999, Jackson clerked for outgoing Justice Breyer, who has called her "brilliant," and praised her "common sense" and "thoughtfulness," according to SCOTUS Blog.

Jackson has said her time as a public defender informed her work as a trial judge because of how little her clients knew about the legal process. On the District Court in D.C., Jackson recently joined an opinion that upheld the decision of a lower court ordering records from the Trump White House to be handed over to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Supreme Court later turned down the former president's request to overturn that ruling.

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Leondra Kruger

Leondra Kruger
Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock

The California Supreme Court justice would, if appointed, be the youngest justice on the high court by more than four years At just 45, Kruger still has considerable experience, having argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court. She graduated with honors from Harvard University, where she served as a reporter for the Harvard Crimson, and later attended Yale Law School, where she was the first Black woman to serve as editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal. She was appointed to her role on the California Supreme Court in January 2015, and appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

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Eunice Lee

Eunice C. Lee
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A federal judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Lee attended Ohio State University and Yale Law School before clerking for two federal judges and serving as a public defender for two decades. She was appointed to her current role in August 2021 by Biden.

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Holly Thomas

Holly A. Thomas

Thomas is a federal judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, for which she was appointed by Biden in 2021. She previously served as a judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, from 2018 to 2022, and attended Stanford University and Yale Law School. As the Los Angeles Daily Journal reported ahead of her current appointment, neither of Thomas' parents — a bookkeeper and school custodian — went to college, but both encouraged her interest in the law.

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Wilhelmina "Mimi" Wright

Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright
Office of Governor Dayton

Wright is an Article III federal judge for the District of Minnesota, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015. She previously served as an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court from 2012 to 2016 and was the first black woman to join the court. She attended Yale University and Harvard Law School.

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