Who is potential Supreme Court nominee J. Michelle Childs?

The federal district judge from South Carolina is garnering bipartisan support.

February 2, 2022, 5:06 AM

Judge J. Michelle Childs was scheduled to have her Senate confirmation hearing to be a federal appeals court judge last 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.

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.
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.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the CBS program "Face The Nation" that he "can't think of a better person."

I can't think of a better person for President Biden to consider the Supreme Court than Michelle Childs

"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."

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.

"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.
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 reportedly has also served in multiple organizations both professional, such as the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division, and community groups, including as a board member of a Columbia Catholic school.

She encouraged students pursuing law degrees to give back.

"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."

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 of law from Duke University School of Law.

Childs began her career as an associate at Nexsen Pruet, LLC in South Carolina after graduation. She became the first Black woman partner both at Nexsen and in any major law firm in the state after nine years.

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.
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 an at-large South Carolina Circuit Court Judge in 2006 and served until 2010.

By 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Childs to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. She earned bipartisan support and the U.S. Senate confirmed her by voice vote on Aug. 5, 2010.

Childs has presided about 5,000 cases and written more than 2,500 opinions, according to Alliance for Justice, an association of progressive groups that says it fights for a fair judicial system. Most appeals involving her cases have either been dismissed or her decisions affirmed.

Notable cases

Childs has made some notable decisions. In one 2014 case, Bradacs v. Haley, Childs ruled that South Carolina must recognize a marriage between two women legally performed in Washington, D.C. This was before the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. Childs ruled the state's failure to recognize their marriage was unconstitutional.

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.
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 Middleton v. Andino. In that case, the South Carolina Democratic Party and a few registered voters sued the South Carolina State Election Commission over some of the state’s election provisions. Childs’ ruling removed a law requiring voters to sign absentee-ballot envelopes in the presence of a witness due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the November 2020 election.

The Fourth Circuit heard an appeal to the case and upheld Childs’ decision. However, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the appeal and overturned Childs' ruling.

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

Editor's note: This story has been corrected and updated to attribute certain material to the Alliance for Justice.

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