Biden to name Supreme Court nominee by end of February

President Joe Biden on Thursday affirmed his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it was "long overdue."

He praised retiring Justice Stephen Breyer as a model public servant and promised a nominee by the end of February. Breyer joined Biden at the White House, a day after news broke of the 83-year-old’s upcoming retirement.

Breyer said it still gives him "a thrill" to sit on the bench and realize the United States is "a complicated country," that doesn’t always agree, but its citizens have "come to accept the importance of the rule of law."

"There are more than 330 million people, my mother used to say it’s every race, it’s every religion," he said. "And it’s a kind of miracle when you sit there and see all those people in front of you, people that are so different in what they think. And yet they’ve decided to help solve their major differences under law."

Breyer then quoted President Abraham Lincoln’s words in his Gettysburg address, saying the nation is "engaged in a great Civil War" and underscored that the American democratic system is "an experiment that’s still going on."

Breyer said future generations will determine whether that experiment still works.

But he said, he’s "an optimist and pretty sure it will."

Since Biden took office in January 2021, he has focused on nominating a diverse group of judges to the federal bench, not just in race but also in professional expertise. He installed five Black women on federal appeals courts, with three more nominations pending before the Senate.

Biden has already met personally with at least one top nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, Breyer’s former clerk worked at the U.S. Sentencing Commission and has been a federal trial court judge since 2013 in the District of Columbia. The two met when Biden interviewed her for her current post as an appeals court judge in the D.C. circuit, where she has served since last June.

Early discussions about a successor are focusing on Brown Jackson, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House deliberations. Jackson and Kruger have long been seen as possible nominees.

"Choosing someone to sit on the Supreme Court, I believe, is one of the most serious constitutional responsibility a president has. Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a nominee worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency," Biden said.