Supreme Court Pick Matters for Black Women in Law


When Markicia Horton graduates this spring from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston and accepts her law degree, she will enter a world in which a black woman will sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. .for the first time in its 232-year history.

With the retirement of Stephen Breyer from the court and President Joe Biden’s commitment to nominate a black woman as his nominee, it is likely that as 25-year-old Horton enters a profession, there will be a black woman as a justice of the Supreme Court. . What that means for her and thousands of other young women of color in law schools or practicing as attorneys across the country is incalculable.

But it also comes with concerns. According to the National Association for the Placement of Lawyers, black women made up 3.17% of associates in US law firms in 2021, but less than 1% of partners. Women of color overall made up almost 16% of associates in American law firms, but only about 4% of partners.

And in federal court, black women hold 45 of the 850 lifetime appointments for district and appellate judges, or about 5%, according to government data.

“I feel like it’s really important to have African-Americans in positions that really affect us,” said Horton, who has a bachelor’s degree in geosciences and plans to work in environmental and energy law in hopes of representing black communities that are affected by environmental issues.

“A lot of times when I see environmental issues that are found in predominantly African American communities or low socioeconomic communities, as a whole, I never see other faces that represent the whole. I want to be that driving force.”

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That, Horton said, is what a black woman on the Supreme Court will bring to the table. “I think it will open a lot of doors for a lot of us, especially when you look at the numbers in the legal profession and how often African-American women leave big law firms due to a lack of opportunities,” she said, adding. that African-American women are not mating at the same rate as others.

“Having somebody sitting on the highest bench in the country, I definitely feel like it’s going to open up a lot of doors for us,” Horton said.

She said having a black woman on the court will also be an important way to bring a new point of view to court that hasn’t been there before.

“Reading cases, reading judges’ opinions, it’s very interesting to see the difference in opinions based on gender, on race,” Horton said.

His point of view at the Houston school is shared more than 1,100 miles away at North Carolina Central University School of Law, where Professor Brenda Reddix-Smalls raised the issue during a course Zoom session. constitutional right that it imparts.

Sophomore law student Antoinette Stone, 26, said that, with liberal-leaning justices still outnumbered, Biden’s nominee might not sway the overall outcome of the case, but that even dissenting opinions “are still outnumbered.” They have weight.”

Sophomore Destiny Boone, 27, thought diversity on the court was important, but felt that whoever was nominated, her credentials would be more questionable because of her race.

“Personally, I think diversity is important,” the Suffolk, Virginia, student said, but “I feel like, unfortunately, we live in a society where African-Americans … have to work twice as hard to get into certain positions.”

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In North Carolina, examples of prominent black female jurists include current state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, whom Biden could consider for the vacancy created by Breyer, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is favored to win. the Democratic nomination in the state’s US Senate race. Beasley was the first black woman to oversee the North Carolina judiciary.

After class ended, several students stayed to ask questions about homework, and the conversation turned to the upcoming Biden election. Adaora Oguno, a 28-year-old sophomore from Nashville, Tennessee, said Biden’s election will fill a century-long vacancy that has left issues specific to black women unaddressed.

“At the end of the day, we’re the only ones who haven’t had a seat at the table,” he said. “The fact that there hasn’t been a black women’s justice yet is a little ridiculous.”

In a subsequent phone interview, Oguno said he is cautiously optimistic about Biden’s promise and hopes he can deliver on it. She said she hopes to work as a prosecutor and eventually become a judge, so having a black woman serve as a US Supreme Court justice would show that a path to the top echelon of the legal profession is achievable.

“I always wanted to be a judge, but a lot of times you have these dreams and they are just a dream. It is not reality. But for me, it makes it where, ‘Oh, this can be a reality,’” he said.


Stangle reported from Dallas.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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