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Meet the 3 Black female judges on Joe Biden’s Supreme Court shortlist

January 27, 2022, 2:13 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Glossier lays off one-third of its corporate staff, New Mexico’s governor steps in as a substitute teacher, and Joe Biden has an opportunity to make Supreme Court history. Have a thoughtful Thursday.

– Full court press. The decision by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at the end of this summer is giving U.S. President Joe Biden a chance to fulfill one of his chief campaign promises: to appoint the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court.

Biden is expected to formally announced Breyer’s retirement plans on Thursday, but the rumor mill is already churning as to who will replace the 83-year-old moderate liberal.

One of Breyer’s former SCOTUS clerks, U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, is considered the front-runner. Former President Barack Obama nominated Jackson, 51, to be a district circuit judge, and Biden elevated her last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., which often funnels judges to the SCOTUS bench. The graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law is a favorite among Democrats’ liberal base, in part because she once served as a public defender, experience that’s rare among SCOTUS hopefuls. Her profile has ballooned in recent years as she’s ruled on cases involving former President Donald Trump. Jackson wrote a line you may remember, “Presidents are not kings,” when ruling that Trump’s former counsel, Donald McGahn II, had to obey a congressional subpoena in the Russia investigation. And a fun fact: she is related by marriage to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, who at a 2012 confirmation hearing said, “my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, for her integrity [is] unequivocal.”

Leondra Kruger, a California Supreme Court justice, is another top contender and considered more moderate, perhaps making her a natural fit to replace Breyer. The 45-year-old graduated from Harvard, was the first Black female editor of the Yale Law Journal, clerked at the Supreme Court, and appeared before the justices numerous times as a lawyer for the government in the Obama administration. Former California Governor Jerry Brown nominated Kruger to the state’s supreme court in 2014, when she was just 38. In 2016, the mother of two became the first California Supreme Court justice to give birth while in office.

Another judge in the running is J. Michelle Childs, arguably the least known of the three women. Support from Rep. James Clyburn (D–S.C.) has helped land Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina, on the shortlist. Clyburn is a close ally of Biden and helped revive the president’s flagging primary campaign. He has pushed Childs, 55, as a nominee who not only fulfills Biden’s goal of appointing a Black woman but one who represents blue collar America, a constituency Biden aligns himself with. Childs attended state schools, meaning she lacks the Ivy League pedigree that’s nearly universal among the current justices. “When people talk to diversity they are always looking at race and ethnicity—I look beyond that to diversity of experience,” Clyburn told the New York Times last year. Biden has already heeded Clyburn’s advice and nominated Childs to the federal appeals court in D.C. In fact, her confirmation hearing for that role is next Tuesday and may provide a preview for how Senators would weigh her Supreme Court candidacy and how she’d perform under tough questioning.

If there was any doubt Biden stood by his vow to select a Black woman for the high court, White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed put it to rest yesterday. She declined to confirm that Breyer was stepping down, but said, “The president has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that.”

Democrats expect nothing less.

“The court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “I want to change that.”

Claire Zillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Beauty bust. Glossier, the beauty brand led by founder and CEO Emily Weiss, laid off more than 80 employees, or about a third of its corporate staff. Weiss wrote in an email to staff that Glossier "got ahead of ourselves on hiring" and "prioritized certain strategic projects that distracted us from the laser-focus we needed." Modern Retail

- Retail empire. Rihanna's lingerie brand Savage X Fenty raised $125 million in Series C funding as the business plans to open 10 retail stores by the end of 2022. That brings the brand's total funding to $310 million—and it's just one part of Rihanna's growing empire, which also includes Fenty Beauty. Forbes

- Left in the primary. The "people's primary" in the French presidential race, which establishes a popular vote preference for the left-wing candidate in the general election, begins this week. Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, is questioning the validity of the primary and declining to take part as she trails in the polls with about 3% of the vote. Former Socialist justice minister Christiane Taubira is the only left-wing candidate who says she intends to make any campaign decisions based on the result. Guardian

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The Gates Foundation added Baroness Nemat "Minouche" Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, as one of four new trustees—part of the foundation's promise to add new oversight amid the Gateses' divorce. Wayfair promoted Fiona Tan to chief technology officer. Photonic computing company Lightmatter hired Beth Keil as VP of people. Elena Donio, a board member at Twilio and Contentful, joins the board of life sciences cloud R&D platform Benchling. Food startup Shef hired former Chan Zuckerberg Initiative comms exec Amy Dudley as head of communications and Airbnb partnerships lead Emma Radin as head of partnerships and community. Tokki CEO Jane Park joins the board of Glo Skin Beauty. Good Nature founder Michelle Masek joined bioscience company Brightseed as VP of marketing. 


- Reporting for duty. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, registered as a substitute teacher to help with her state's teacher shortage amid the ongoing pandemic. The governor had her first day in an elementary school classroom on Wednesday. Washington Post

- Top story in tennis. The top story in tennis was, for weeks, the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Then Novak Djokovic got barred from entering Australia over his vaccination status, and, some thought, attention shifted. Advocates are fighting to return attention to Peng's wellbeing ahead of the Beijing Olympics. NYT

- Staying on the slopes. Before the 2022 Beijing Olympics, top-ranked alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin took action. Worrying about COVID infections was stressful enough, and she thought skiers didn't need to make the trek from the mountains to the central Olympic podiums—sometimes an hours-long journey back and forth. Olympic organizers agreed to award skiers their medals closer to the mountains where they compete. WSJ


Three Sundance movies tell timely stories about abortion, but also miss the mark HuffPost

Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, and Rachel Zegler tell their side of West Side Story The Hollywood Reporter

For Penélope Cruz, the demands of Parallel Mothers were difficult, but worth it LA Times


"I can’t wait to drink too much wine and be cozy in my cashmere on my couch one day, telling [my son] stories."

-Hilary Duff on her new Hulu series How I Met Your Father. She's inspired by Kim Cattrall, who plays an older version of Duff's character. 

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