By Rosetta Miller Perry
President Joe Biden pledged while campaigning in South Carolina during February of 2020 that he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court IF he had the opportunity. That chance came to him this week, as Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire after 27 years. With the midterm elections approaching and chances not being good of Democrats retaining control of the Senate, they must move quickly, as soon as President Biden announces a selection.
The process can be swift. How quickly mostly rests in the hands of three men. One of course is the President, who must make the nomination. The other two are Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who as Judiciary Committee chairman will shepherd the nominee through that panel; and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, who controls the floor. Schumer went on the record immediately, saying he wants the entire process to take weeks, not months.
If the Democrats move fast, and there are no defections as there were on the filibuster change and other aspects of Biden’s domestic agenda, a new Justice can be seated shortly after Justice Breyer officially steps down. As an example of how quickly things can move, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died six weeks before the 2020 election, Republicans led by Mitch McConnell pushed through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to replace her in a little over five weeks. That should be the marker for the Democrats.
There are certainly qualified Black women judges ready to accept the nomination. They include a federal judge in Biden’s home state, J. Michelle Child. She was suggested by Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina back when the discussion was in the theoretical stages. Now she’s certainly a viable possibility.
But the name that was initially raised as soon as news of Breyer’s retirement became known is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and she went through the Senate confirmation process last year when Biden elevated her from the Federal District Court. She’s certainly also a logical and excellent choice.
However The Tennessee Tribune cites another person who would be fantastic. We think President Biden should nominate the Honorable Angelita Blackshear Dalton. She’s currently Judge of Division II of the Davidson County Criminal Court. Her qualifications and expertise were such that Republican Governor Bill Haslam appointed her to succeed Retired Judge J. Randall Wyatt on the Court. Dalton was first elected to the Davidson County General Sessions Court in 2006, becoming the first African American woman elected to a judgeship in Davidson County. She was re-elected for a second term in 2014. Prior to assuming the bench, Dalton served in various positions with the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office from 1997 through 2005, including a specialized assignment on the domestic violence prosecution team.
Thanks to rule changes, Supreme Court nominations are now free of the filibuster. But you can expect the Republicans to do everything in their power to obstruct getting a Black woman on the court. They can demand all members be physically present in the chamber to conduct business; forcing roll-call votes; and boycotting the Judiciary Committee vote to force the majority party to break Senate rules to advance the nominee. Fortunately, while those delay tactics could slow down the confirmation by a matter of hours or even days, it cannot block it.
The Democratic Party has a short window to make this happen. If they delay and wait, should the Democrats lose just one seat in the November elections (something that will no doubt happen) approving a Biden nominee will be virtually impossible, So Biden must act now, and his party must support that nominee 100 percent. Otherwise, it will be much worse than just another broken campaign promise. It will be widely viewed as a total betrayal, yet another time the Democratic Party failed its most loyal constituency, Black America,