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Shortlist of possible nominees to replace Breyer on Supreme Court

Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement gives President Joe Biden an opening he pledges to fill by naming the first Black woman to the nation's highest court.

WASHINGTON — With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer officially planning to retire, all eyes now turn to President Joe Biden as lawmakers await his nomination to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat. 

While Biden hasn't released an official shortlist for a Supreme Court vacancy, he has previously announced his intentions of nominating the first Black woman to the nation's highest court. Biden reiterated that pledge Thursday as Breyer made the official announcement. 

“I've made no decision except the one person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity," Biden said. "And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue."

RELATED: Biden officially announces Supreme Court Justice Breyer's retirement

Who will Biden nominate to replace Breyer?

Political pundits had previously named Ketanji Brown Jackson as a potential front-runner, if there was a SCOTUS vacancy during Biden's presidency.

Biden appointed Jackson last spring to serve as a federal appeals court judge in an effort to leave his legacy on the courts after former president Donald Trump appointed white men as judges at the highest rate in decades. 

Jackson was also on president Barack Obama's Supreme Court shortlist in 2016. 

Credit: AP
Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on pending judicial nominations, Wednesday, April 28, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP)

Among the other names being circulated as potential nominees are California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, prominent civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill and U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, whom Biden has nominated to be an appeals court judge. 

Childs is a favorite of Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who made a crucial endorsement of Biden just before South Carolina's presidential primary in 2020.

Credit: AP
FILE - Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court, listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 16, 2010.

Two other Black women whom Biden appointed to federal appeals courts are also seen as contenders: Holly Thomas, a longtime civil rights lawyer he named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a former public defender he named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

Only two Black Americans have been appointed as Supreme Court justices: Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the current court's most stringent conservative eyes, and the late-Justice Thurgood Marshall, appointed in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

A total of five women have served on the nation's highest court, including Sandra Day O'Connor, the late-Ruth Bader Ginsburg and current justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett, who is the court's most recent appointee. 

Val Lick and the Associated Press contributed to this report.