Who is potential Supreme Court nominee J. Michelle Childs?

·6 min read
Who is potential Supreme Court nominee J. Michelle Childs?

Judge J. Michelle Childs was scheduled to have her Senate confirmation hearing to be a federal appeals court judge on Tuesday -- just weeks after President Joe Biden nominated her on Jan. 10.

Now, she is the only one of his prospective Supreme Court nominees the White House has named on the record.

"Judge Childs is among multiple individuals under consideration for the Supreme Court. And we are not going to move her nomination on the Court of Appeals while the President is considering her for this vacancy," White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

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PHOTO: In this April 16, 2010, file photo, Richard Gergel and J. Michelle Childs stand with House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn before their confirmation hearing to be U.S. District Judges for the District of South Carolina, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: In this April 16, 2010, file photo, Richard Gergel and J. Michelle Childs stand with House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn before their confirmation hearing to be U.S. District Judges for the District of South Carolina, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE)

Currently a federal district judge in South Carolina, Childs has gotten high praise from the state's influential Democratic Rep. James Clyburn.

"Judge (Michelle) Childs has everything I think it takes to be great," he told the Associated Press.

Clyburn's view is important because he helped Biden revive his presidential campaign at its lowest moment in 2020 by suggesting Biden pledge to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Clyburn credits the move as the motivating factor for many Black voters in South Carolina, helping Biden secure a crucial primary win in the state.

Significantly, South Carolina lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced support, and President Biden has said he'd like his nominee to get bipartisan backing.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he "can't think of a better person."

"She has wide support in our state. She's considered to be a fair-minded, highly-gifted jurist," Graham said. "She's one of the most decent people I've ever met. I cannot say anything bad about Michelle Childs; She is an awesome person."

A spokeswoman for South Carolina's other GOP senator, Tim Scott, said Childs had a "respected reputation as a judge in South Carolina" and "he looks forward to engaging with her if she is the nominee."

Her personal life

In an MSNBC interview on Monday, Clyburn said Childs' background will make her a more compassionate judge.

"She was raised by a single mother," Clyburn said. "Her father, a former police officer, was killed in the line of duty. She was 13 years old, and her mother moved her to South Carolina."

Originally from Detroit, Childs said in a University of South Carolina School of Law Q&A outside of work, she enjoys playing tennis, listening to live music, reading and spending time with her friends and family.

Childs has one daughter, Juliana, with her husband, Floyd Angus.

"The true measure of success is your ability to balance your work life against the time you devote for your spirituality, family and friends and those moments that provide you inner peace," Childs said.

PHOTO: Judge J. Michelle Childs of the United States District Court, District of South Carolina is seen in an undated photo. (Courtesy U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina/Handout via Reuters)
PHOTO: Judge J. Michelle Childs of the United States District Court, District of South Carolina is seen in an undated photo. (Courtesy U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina/Handout via Reuters)

She also is active with various local, state and national bar organizations, as well as community organizations and gave advice to students pursing their law degrees.

"As you continue your journey in this profession, be a person of courage and conviction; we all have a crucial role, individually and collectively, to be architects of society," Childs said. "Being successful is not just for the purpose of a place of comfort and satisfaction, but a place of responsibility and challenge."

Her professional life

Unlike most high court nominees, Childs isn't an Ivy League graduate or a former federal appellate clerk. Now 55, Childs went to the University of South Florida on a scholarship. She then graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law and holds a master's degree from the university's business school, as well as a master's degree in judicial studies from Duke University School of Law.

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After law school, Judge Childs began her career as an associate at Nexsen Pruet, LLC in South Carolina. Her primary practice areas included general litigation, employment and labor law, and domestic relations. She was named partner within nine years, becoming the first Black woman partner in a major law firm in the state.

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She went on to serve as deputy director for the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Division of Labor and Commissioner on the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission.

PHOTO: In this April 16, 2010, file photo, Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court, listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Charles Dharapak/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this April 16, 2010, file photo, Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court, listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Charles Dharapak/AP, FILE)

Childs then served as a South Carolina Circuit Court Judge, the state's trial court of general jurisdiction. She was elected to serve as an at-large Circuit Court judge in 2006, and served until 2010.

On Dec. 22, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Childs to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. Her nomination garnered support from people across the ideological spectrum, including support from both of South Carolina's Republican senators at the time, Graham and Jim DeMint. She was eventually confirmed by the U.S. Senate by voice vote on Aug. 5, 2010.

During her time as a district court judge, Childs has presided over nearly 5,000 cases and authored more than 2,500 opinions. Appeals have been filed in approximately 500 of those matters. In the vast majority of those appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has either dismissed the appeal or affirmed Judge Childs' decision. Her decisions have either been reversed or vacated in less than one percent of the cases over which she has presided.

Notable cases

Childs has made some notable decisions. In one 2014 case, Bradacs v. Haley, Childs ruled in favor of two women who sued to have South Carolina recognize their marriage that had been performed in Washington, D.C.

Judge Childs ruled the state's failure to recognize their marriage was unconstitutional. This was a landmark decision for marriage equality in South Carolina, even before the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 24, 2009, file photo, Judge Michelle Childs gestures as she sentences the six men involved in one of the largest armored car heists in U.S. history, in Columbia, S.C. (Mary Ann Chastain/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Aug. 24, 2009, file photo, Judge Michelle Childs gestures as she sentences the six men involved in one of the largest armored car heists in U.S. history, in Columbia, S.C. (Mary Ann Chastain/AP, FILE)

Another high-profile case she handled is the Middleton v. Andino. In that one, six registered South Carolina voters, and the South Carolina Democratic Party sued the South Carolina State Election Commission. The South Carolina Democratic Party argued the various state law election provisions were unconstitutional.

Childs struck down a law requiring voters to sign absentee-ballot envelopes in the presence of a witness for the November 2020 election, citing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. She reasoned that the challengers were "substantially likely" to be able to show that the combination of the witness requirement and the "unique risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic" infringe on the challengers' constitutional right to vote.

Childs directed the state to "immediately and publicly inform" voters that the witness requirement is not in effect, including on websites and through social media. On appeal to the full Fourth Circuit, a majority of the court upheld Childs' decision. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overturned Judge Childs' ruling but made an exception for ballots cast before it acted and received within two days.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer, Nancy Gabriner and Molly Nagle and contributed to this report.

Who is potential Supreme Court nominee J. Michelle Childs? originally appeared on abcnews.go.com