It wouldn’t be difficult for President Obama to carve out a major historic notch in U.S. history by being one of the rare presidents to nominate someone to the U.S. Supreme Court other than an older White man.
In fact, only four presidents – President Johnson (Thurgood Marshall), Ronald Reagan (Sandra Day O’Connor), George H.W. Bush (Clarence Thomas) and Bill Clinton (Ruth Bader Ginsburgh) – have ever appointed a woman or person of color to the esteemed body. Thus, of the total 110 U.S. Supreme Court justices in history, 106 have been White men. To date, there has never been a Black woman, or an Asian-American or Latino of any gender.
Although the lack of diversity is most pronounced on the nation’s highest court, there is also sad representation of the nation’s multiculturalism in the lower federal courts, which Obama likely will also get an opportunity to affect during his administration.
Today, more than 200 women hold federal judgeships, along with 88 African-Americans, 60 Hispanics and eight Asian-Americans. There are some 793 full-time federal trial and appeals court judges, but only 88 (about 11 percent) are African-American; 60 (7 percent) are Hispanic; and eight (fewer than 1 percent) are Asian-American. There’s not a single Native-American judge.