Who is Sherrilyn Ifill? 5 things to know about possible Supreme Court pick

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, has been named as a possible candidate to replace Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Ifill previously announced she would step down from her position, which she has held since 2013, this spring, The Associated Press reported. If selected by President Joe Biden and approved by the Senate to fill Breyer’s seat, Ifill would become the third Black justice and sixth woman in Supreme Court history, but would be the first Black woman in the court’s history.

>> Related: Justice Stephen Breyer retiring; Biden vows to nominate Black woman to Supreme Court

Here are five things to know about Ifill:

Early life

Ifill was raised in Queens by African Methodist Episcopal parents who emigrated from Panama, The Washington Post reported. She was the youngest of 10 siblings, and she was just five years old when her mother died of cancer. Her father, Lester, worked as an electrician before transitioning to work for a community development agency in Harlem, The Washington Post reported.

Voting Rights

Ifill graduated from Vassar College before earning her law degree from New York University in 1987. She began her career at the American Civil Liberties Union before becoming an assistant counsel in the Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s New York office, where she was responsible for litigating voting rights cases, according to her biography on LDF’s website. Among her successful cases was the Voting Rights Act case of Houston Lawyers’ Association vs. Attorney General of Texas, in which the Supreme Court held that trial judges’ elections are covered by the Voting Rights Act.

Teaching law

Ifill joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Law, where she taught civil procedure, constitutional law and a variety of seminars. She also launched several offerings while at the school, including an environmental justice course where students represented rural communities in Maryland, and one of the first legal clinics in the nation dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated persons responsibly re-enter society.

Writer and author

Ifill’s book, “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” focuses on the residual effects the racial trauma of lynching continue to have on society and the legacy of racial terror in the United States. Ifill is currently writing a book about race and Supreme Court confirmation hearings. She was among the group of lawyers named to study the Supreme Court by President Biden in 2021, The Associated Press reported. She also authored an essay in The New York Times in February 2021, arguing that lawyers enabled President Trump in an “assault on American democracy.”

Personal life

Ifill married Ivo Knobloch in 1988, and they have three daughters together. She is the former director of the children’s choir at her church, The Washington Post reported.

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