Last week, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer blessedly announced he would retire at the end of this court term in June, and President Joe Biden said at a press conference that he would keep his campaign promise of nominating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court by the end of February.
The dean of Georgetown Law announced today that the school is placing recent hire Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave and not allowing him on campus while the university investigates “whether he violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment,” per to a statement from Dean Bill Treanor shared by Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern.
Georgetown Law announced on January 21 that Shapiro was joining its Center for the Constitution as executive director and as a senior lecturer. In a since-deleted tweet on January 26, Shapiro wrote that he thought Sri Srinivasan, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, was “objectively” the best pick for the Breyer vacancy and would “even ha[ve] identity politics benefit” of being the first Indian American judge, “but alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman.”
Shapiro also said it was fitting that the court was taking up an affirmative action case next term, and that Biden’s nominee “will always have an asterisk attached.” He of course left out that every justice before Thurgood Marshall’s nomination in 1967 already has an asterisk next to their name: They met the prerequisite of being white and male.
Treanor wrote today that Shapiro’s “tweets are antithetical to the work we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity.”
Shapiro, who previously was a vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, has made past derogatory remarks about nominating a woman of color to the Supreme Court. In 2009, he wrote in a CNN op-ed that then-judge and now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor “would not have even been on the short list if she were not Hispanic.” He argued that Sotomayor “has not issued any important decisions or made a name for herself as a legal scholar or particularly respected jurist” and that President Barack Obama “has confirmed that identity politics matter to him more than merit.”
It’s worth nothing that reactions like Shapiro’s came after Biden simply confirmed that he’ll nominate a Black woman—not even a specific Black woman! It will get worse when he names his pick and when that woman testifies in confirmation hearings.