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Stacey Abrams' sister, federal judge on Biden's Supreme Court shortlist: reports

Justice Leslie Abrams Gardner has served as a federal district court judge in Georgia since 2014.

ATLANTA — President Joe Biden on Thursday confirmed his plans to make good on a campaign promise to nominate a qualified Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer.

One name being discussed nationally is the sister of Georgia politician Stacey Abrams.  

Justice Leslie Abrams Gardner, a federal prosecutor turned federal district court judge, has had her name appear on lists in such publications as the Washington Post, Politico, and Bloomberg of women that could possibly be nominated.

Gardner was confirmed as a justice to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Middle Georgia bench in 2014, a position she still holds.

Fred Smith is a professor of law at Emory University's School of Law and gave some insight on what the president may be searching for when narrowing down his Supreme Court pick,

"I think the president is going to look across the country for judges that are kind of in the age range where people are particularly selected, so between the ages of 45 and 55 and he is going to look for people that have judicial experience most likely," Smith said.

He added that Gardner checks those boxes, but so do several other current federal and state-level justices that are also Black women. 

Smith said with a list of candidates in hand, Biden will likely interview a small handful of individuals and then name his official nominee. 

Biden on Thursday said such an announcement would come by the end of February. At that point, the U.S. Senate will take over the process. 

"The Senate will gain access to information from that nominee," Smith said. "So any opinion they have ever written, any speech they've ever given, any opinion piece they've ever written, all of that will be in front of the Senate."

The Senate Judiciary Committee will question the nominee during a hearing, and if approved by the committee the full U.S. Senate will then vote. 

"I'm not surprised that she is in the mix, but I don't think ultimately that she will get the nod," said Georgia State College of Law Assistant Professor Anthony Michael Kreis of Justice Gardner.

Kries said she is well qualified to be nominated, but other potential candidates are better positioned and have more experience typical of a nominee. 

He mentioned Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, which several national publications have listed as a front-runner for the role.

Jackson has district court experience similar to Gardner but was also vetted last year by the Biden administration before being nominated and later confirmed with bipartisan support to serve on the D.C. Circut Court of Appeals. 

Jackson's current position has her sitting on the second-highest court, only behind the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Similar to all current U.S. Supreme Court Justices, minus Justice Elana Kagan, Jackson has appeals court experience. 

"More likely that you will see an appellate court judge picked because that has also been the standard as of late. Picking a Georgia district court judge would be somewhat out of step with that," Kries said. 

There is also the notion that the Abrams name, at least in Georgia, brings plenty of political baggage with it as being polarizing politically. 

"We need to judge Judge Gardner in her own right and separate from her sister," said 11AlivePolitical Analyst Andra Gillespie.

Stacey Abrams is the sole Democrat running for governor in this year's race in Georgia.

Gillespie, similar to Kries, said Justice Gardner is qualified based on her own merits, but it is how her career stacks up against other qualified candidates, not the Abrams name that would most likely stop her from being nominated. 

Gillespie also mentioned Jackson as being considered a better-qualified justice. 

"Probably isn't Judge Gardner's moment on the merits, so the fact that she is related to Stacey Abrams I don't think is necessarily an issue in this particular case," Gillespie said.