University of Cincinnati College of Law Dean Verna Williams offers her expertise
The first day of confirmation hearings are underway for Judge Ketanji Brown, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and is now under consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court. She would be the first Black woman to serve on the high court and would replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
Verna Williams, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, is among a handful of Black women who have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. She is available to media and others looking for comment about Biden’s choice.
“The Supreme Court is a public institution; in a pluralistic society such as ours, it must contain diverse voices,” explains Williams. “A diverse bench is essential to the court’s credibility and legitimacy.”
“Justices decide cases affecting the lives of real people. In addition to business matters, the court resolves contentious issues dealing with criminal law, voting rights, as well as education and employment—matters that impact the spectrum of American life,” says Williams. “The court should include someone who not only understands the law but also how the law can reinforce subordination, just as the late Justice Thurgood Marshall did.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court first assembled in 1790, a total 115 people have served as justices; of that number, 108 were white men. Only two African Americans, both males, along with one Hispanic woman and four white women have served on the high court in 232 years.
Williams joined the UC faculty in 2001 and is a cum laude graduate of both Harvard Law School and Georgetown University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Before joining the College of Law, Dean Williams was vice president and director of educational opportunities at the National Women’s Law Center, where she focused on issues of gender equity in education.
During her time at the Center, Williams was lead counsel and successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court the case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which established that Title IX requires educational institutions to respond to and address known complaints of student-to-student sexual harassment.
Williams also clerked for David S. Nelson, U.S. District Judge and the first African American to serve as a federal judge in Massachusetts. After the clerkship, she practiced law at the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley Austin and the U.S. Department of Justice.