Chief Justice Cheri Beasley

Chanté Russell

Staff Writer

Since Former Vice President Joe Biden’s pledge that he would name a woman vice president if elected, his potential picks have been a major topic of discussion. However, he also made another important pledge to nominate a black woman to the U.S. supreme court, which no president has ever done, potentially setting the stage for North Carolina’s Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.  

“I am committed that if I am elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the [Supreme] Court, I will appoint the first black woman to the court,” declared Biden during the March democratic debate. “It is required that they have representation now, it’s long overdue.”

The winner of the 2020 presidential election is expected to be tasked with nominating a new supreme court justice with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest justice at 87 years old, showing signs of deteriorating health in the past few years including recurring cancer in 2019 which has since been treated. She was last hospitalized in Maryland earlier this month for an overnight stay following treatment of a gallstone. The Court reported that she was doing well following the procedure. 

Ginsberg, who plans to retire in 2023, is currently one of four libreal leaning justices on the Supreme Court with the other five tending to take conservative standpoints which makes her seat immensely important with today’s divisive political climate. 

President Trump has already successfully named two justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanuagh whose appointment was controversial because he was accuessed of sexual assault by a college classmate. 

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, while not an immediately obvious choice, could be an ideal supreme court nominee for Joe Biden if elected. Beasley has held a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court since 2012 and was named chief justice in March 2019. She also served as an associate judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, a district court judge in the 12th Judicial District in Cumberland County and a public defender in Cumberland County. 

There are no formal criteria for age, education, profession or native-born citizenship in The Constitution to qualify as a supreme court justice. A justice must only be trained in the law which Beasley certainly is, having earned a Master of Laws in Judicial Studies from Duke University School of Law. She would also be no stranger to making history as she is the first black woman to serve as North Carolina’s chief justice. 

However, of the 14 justices appointed to the Supreme Court since 1975, only two did not come from federal appeals courts: Sandra Day O’Connor, who was selected by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and became the first woman justice, and Elena Kagan, who was selected by Barack Obama in 2010.

Right now, only four US appeals court judges are black women and all four will be over 69 years old this year, adding to the chances that Biden may look elsewhere for his nominee. Breaking tradition in this way may also benefit Biden’s standing with libreal supporters. 

Other black women possibly on Biden’s radar include US District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill and New York University law professor Melissa Murray.

Biden’s campaign has yet to release a short list of potential selections despite calls to do so from some supporters. Instead, Biden’s National Press Secretary TJ Ducklo reminded the public of Biden’s role in the confirmations of justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, and said Biden would pick judges “who share his values and would protect the Constitution” in a statement.

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