February 1, 2022
Our Faculty Director Guy-Uriel Charles is extensively quoted in the article below:
The potential impact of a new justice might depend a lot on “personality and background,” said Harvard Law professor Guy-Uriel Charles.
Candidates reportedly under consideration include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former public defender and federal trial court judge who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Leondra Kruger, a California Supreme Court justice who previously worked in the U.S. Solicitor General’s office, and J. Michelle Childs, a federal district court judge in South Carolina.
As a Black woman, any of the contenders could provide new insight for the current justices. Biden has prioritized demographic and professional diversity in his judicial appointments so far to shake up a federal branch comprised mainly of white males with elite pedigrees—many of whom have backgrounds in private practice and prosecutorial experience.
Charles notes that former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor commented that she learned a lot from the court’s first Black justice, Thurgood Marshall, and that his presence impacted her views on race.
An early test will be a challenge to affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, which the justices are likely to hear at the start of their next term in October. The conservative majority is expected to strike down or limit decades-old rulings that narrowly allowed the use of race in higher education admissions.
“Justice Clarence Thomas will no longer be the only credible black voice on this issue,” Charles said. So the “conservative majority may have to be more subtle in its reasoning.”
The same goes for cases touching on gender. While the liberal bloc will consist of three women, the conservative side will include five men and Amy Coney Barrett.
“When all of the Court’s liberals are women and all of the Court’s conservatives are men, save one, the Court’s gender cases present a power dynamic that the Court’s conservatives might wish to avoid,” Charles said.