This list, compiled from a number of sources, reveals some potential picks. White House administrations quickly begin compiling an informal list of possible court nominees to consider in the event of a sudden vacancy. But serious vetting only begins when such a vacancy occurs or is announced in advance by the retiring or deceased justice.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Washington
Born in 1970, Jackson assumed her federal appeals court seat in June 2021, in one of Biden’s first judicial nominations. She was a federal district court judge in DC from 2013 to 2021, served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and was a former Breyer law clerk.
Jackson was a surprising finalist for the high court seat nomination that went to Merrick Garland in 2016, when she was still a trial judge.
In 2019, she presided over a dispute between former White House Counsel Don McGahn and the House Judiciary Committee, which sought to enforce a subpoena against him. Jackson rejected the Trump administration’s claim of “absolute immunity,” concluding “presidents are not kings.”
Jackson’s elevation to a high-profile federal appeals court seat put her near the top of possible high court candidates, given Biden’s pledge to name a Black woman for any vacancy.
Her husband, Patrick Jackson, is the twin brother of former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s brother-in-law William Jackson. The Wisconsin Republican supported her nomination to her current job, saying, “Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity is unequivocal. She’s an amazing person, and I favorably recommend her consideration.”
Justice Leondra Kruger, California Supreme Court
Born in 1976, Kruger is a former clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens and a former Obama Justice Department official, arguing 12 cases before the Supreme Court.
Given her sterling resume and age, Kruger would be a strong favorite for a Supreme Court seat, if Biden holds to his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman.
While she is considered something of a moderate on the state high court, and often a “swing” or deciding vote in close cases, state judges rarely receive serious consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court. The last was Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981.
Kruger’s parents are both pediatricians, her mother Jamaican, her father Jewish. She gave birth to a daughter in March 2016.
Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Born in 1979 in Norfolk, Virginia, Jackson-Akiwumi is the daughter of two judges: U.S. District Judge Raymond Alvin Jackson and former Norfolk General District Court Judge Gwendolyn Jackson.
A former federal defender in Chicago, until recently she was a partner in a D.C. law firm. Nominated by Biden in March 2021, she was one of three Black women named to appeals courts seats in the administration’s first months.
Judge Sri Srinivasan, DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Washington
Born 1967 in India and raised in Kansas, Srinivasan was named to the court in 2013 by a 97-0 Senate vote, months before colleague Patricia Millett joined him.
Srinivasan is now chief judge on that bench and was a finalist for the seat that Garland was nominated for in 2016. Srinivasan was the principal deputy solicitor general at the Justice Department and argued more than two dozen cases before the Supreme Court.
He would be the high court’s first Asian American, and Obama called him “a trailblazer who personifies the best of America.” He clerked for Republican-nominated federal judges Harvie Wilkinson and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Known as low key, practical and non-ideological, he may not excite many progressives nor give conservatives much to dislike. But Justice Elena Kagan has praised him, saying Srinivasan at oral argument “cools it down” with his calm manner.
Elizabeth Prelogar, U.S. Solicitor General
Born 1980, Prelogar became the 40th solicitor general in October 2021, after serving for months in an acting role.