The 1st Supreme Court Justice: What it's like being the first

Sandra Day O'Connor was nervous as she became the first woman justice on the Supreme Court in 1981.

The 1st Supreme Court Justice: What it's like being the first

O'Connor stated in 2012, "It's fine to be first to do something. But I didn't want the last woman to sit on the Supreme Court." It would be difficult to find another job if I accepted the job and did a poor job. This made me nervous.

Now, President Joe Biden plans to place another woman on the court's historic first bench. He will make the person he chooses to be the first Black female judge a celebrity and put him under unique pressures.

It can be difficult to adjust just being the new justice of the nine-member court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett describedlearning her job as "learning to ride a bicycle with everyone watching you" in a appearance.

This will be magnified by Biden's nominee who will join the ranks immediately of court firsts.

Roger B. Taney was the court's first Catholic member in 1836. Louis Brandeis, the court's first Jewish member in 1916, was Louis Brandeis. Thurgood Marshall, the court's first Black justice in 1967, was Thurgood Marshall. In 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was made the court's first Latina justice.

In a 2018 public presentation, Sotomayor admitted that she felt the burden of being the only woman from color on the court. She called it "a really big burden" as well as a "great responsibility."

She said that she believes women need role models for their general well-being. O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were two of her inspirations. "But, for women of color people in high-ranking positions aren't as common and certainly not as many."

Black women and especially Black women feel the pressure to excel in order to avoid being criticized and asked questions about their fitness.

Maya Sen, a Harvard political scientist who studies issues of gender, race and law, said that "they have to be so perfect that they can shield themselves from criticism."

Sotomayor nearly decided to not submit her nomination to the court. She was deeply hurt after her nomination. It seemed that she wasn't smart enough or very friendly in courtroom. At that moment, however, a friend with an eight-year-old girl told her that it was not about her. ... "This is about my daughter. She needs to see someone like herself in a position that she can control." Sotomayor was allowed to stay in.

Already, Democrats have set expectations for the yet-to be named nominee.

Biden said that he would nominate someone with "extraordinary qualifications, character and experience, integrity". Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that she will be nominating "someone with exceptional qualifications, character, experience, and integrity." Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal was one of the Democrats who spoke with Biden earlier this month to discuss the nomination. He said he believed the nominee would "really help unify the country."

Biden's promise to name a Black woman on the court has been criticized by some Republicans, including Mike Pence, former Vice President. Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, called it offensive. However, he said on Fox News Sunday that he would "consider that nomination on the record" but also stated that the Senate would "focus on substance and what type of justice she would make."

Although the Senate Democrats believe they will be able to confirm Biden’s nominee on their merits, the president and senators would love to see bipartisan support. Ketanji Jackson, a judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Leondra Kruger, a member of California's Supreme Court, and J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina. Biden stated that he would announce his selection before the end of the month.

Marshall was an already legendary civil rights figure by the time that he joined court. This was the latest in a long line of historical achievements. Marshall clerk Mark Tushnet said that he can't recall Marshall ever mentioning being the first Black member of the court.

Marshall is honored with schools and courthouses named after him. In Sotomayor’s case, the public housing community she lived in as a child was renamed after her. The U.S. Justices include Brandeis and Marshall. The Postal Service has honored stamps with Marshall and Brandeis.

Biden's future justice will get lots of mail -- not just congratulations, but also speaking requests. Sotomayor received bins upon bins of mail. O'Connor received truckloads. The majority of writers supported O'Connor's appointment, but some men were angry about O'Connor's selection and sent naked photos to themselves, Evan Thomas wrote in Evan Thomas' biography.

O'Connor mostly ignored the protest. Jay O'Connor, one of her sons, stated that his mother's response to doubters was to put herself in her work and make sure she was extremely prepared.

Jay O'Connor stated that even decades later, women would approach his mother and tell him where they were when they heard about President Ronald Reagan's nomination. He said that they wanted her to understand how meaningful the announcement was for them.

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