Ky. judges excited about Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to Supreme Court
There have been 115 U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Only five have been women and only three have been people of color.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - When President Joe Biden said he would nominate a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, Pamela Goodwine, Melissa Moore Murphy, and Denotra Spruill Gunther were thrilled.
The women, all judges in Fayette County, feel the move is long overdue.
“It’s been 150 years since the first Black woman graduated from law school, and it’s been 94 years since there was a first Black judge,” said Gunther, judge of Fayette District Court Division 1.
There have been 115 U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Only five have been women and only three have been people of color. It’s the first time Fayette County has seen three Black women sitting on the bench at the same time.
In 1999, Goodwine became the first Black woman to join the local judiciary. Murphy joined her in 2020 and Gunther in 2021.
A trailblazer, Goodwine had sights on wearing a black robe as a young girl. Inspired by Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O’Conner, she hoped to sit on the highest court one day.
She submitted her application to the Obama administration but didn’t become his Supreme Court nominee. She has since focused her attention elsewhere.
“So, I set my eyes on the Kentucky Supreme Court and do plan to become the first African American to sit on that court,” said Goodwine, who serves on the Kentucky Court of Appeals 5th Appellate District.
These women hope their careers will inspire the next generation of female judges, letting little girls who look like them know that they too can achieve. It hasn’t been an easy road for the women.
“We take the same tests, we do the same classes, the bar exam is not for the faint at heart,” said Murphy, who serves Division 4 of Fayette District Court. “We’re doing the same work and most of the time we have to be overqualified to get recognized.”
The judges say they’ve dealt with discrimination despite their list of degrees and credentials.
Murphy explained there were times when nobody thought she could be a prosecutor.
“I was always the social worker or the victims’ advocate,” Murphy said.
Goodwine says when she decided to run for circuit court, the only judge to support her was Gary Payne, the first Black judge in Fayette County.
“The comments were, we don’t know if she’s ready. We don’t know if she has what it takes. Well, why not? Because I have every bit of experience that they did,” Goodwine said.
Biden said he’s done a ‘deep dive’ on four Supreme Court Candidates.
“They’re looking for individuals that typically went to elite law schools, typically have federal bench experience,” said Dr. Justin Wedeking, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
He explained Biden’s pick could help him in the midterms.
“I think certainly President Biden is looking for anything right now to help him boost his approval ratings,” Wedeking said.
President Biden said he would name the nominee by the end of February and Senate Democrats are hoping for a speedy confirmation.
Since Biden’s pick won’t change the court’s ideological balance, Wedeking doubts the confirmation process will be contentious. However, he said there’s still likely to be pushback.
Some lawmakers have called Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman affirmative action and identity politics. But for these judges, those comments are merely distractions.
“I guarantee you that 99 out of 100 times her resume will certainly exceed the expectations,” Gunther said.
The women say Biden’s nomination is a step towards progress. Goodwine said the nominee may be the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court, but she won’t be the last.
President Biden has met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the supreme court vacancy. He could name his nominee any day now.
Copyright 2022 WKYT. All rights reserved.