U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs is putting South Carolina on the national stage after the White House named her as a possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
Childs, 55, is one of three Black women being considered for the high court and has drawn rare bipartisan praise from South Carolina politicians, including Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham and Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, who has pushed hard for Biden to nominate Childs.
Those who worked with the judge, a graduate of University of South Carolina School of Law, recognize this as an important moment for the state.
Dean of UofSC School of Law William Hubbard said Childs’ background as a graduate of a public university and a circuit court judge in the South would bring a fresh perspective to the Supreme Court. Currently, eight of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices hold advanced degrees from Ivy League institutions such as Yale and Harvard.
“I think it would help connect the Supreme Court to the people at large if she were selected,” Hubbard said.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson said Childs’ experience in trial cases and labor litigation is something current justices lack.
“She’s had a good breadth of experience across the board that most appellate judges don’t have,” Anderson, who also graduated from the UofSC School of Law, said. According to Anderson, like those on the U.S. Supreme Court now, most appellate judges argue appeals rather than trying cases.
Childs, who grew up in Columbia, SC, would be the first Black woman and the only current justice with a law degree from a public university.
House majority whip Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of U.S Congress, helped secure Biden’s presidential victory after his endorsement in the S.C. primary. During his campaign, Biden made a promise to Clyburn that he would nominate a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other potential nominees include Washington, D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Harvard graduate, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, a Yale graduate.
Childs is enthusiastic about the UofSC School of Law and works with Hubbard on projects for the school such as celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment in 2020. Hubbard said, “She’s devoted to our law school. She’s not just a graduate, she is one of our greatest boosters.”
Her nomination would have a huge impact on the school and bring in more applicants, Hubbard said. “We’re not as well-known as I hope we will be one day and this would certainly help shine the light on our accomplishments.”
Anderson, who also graduated from UofSC School of Law, agreed. “This law school is a well-kept secret. It is a jewel of a law school that deserves more recognition and gifts because the tuition is very reasonable.”
In Columbia, lawyers and legislators alike are rallying behind Childs in advance of Biden’s decision, which is expected by the end of the month.
Prior to her time as a district judge, Childs was the first Black woman to work at major South Carolina law firm, Nexsen Pruet.
Julian “Jay” Hennig, a partner at Nexsen Pruet, said the law firm is proud of her and her work.
“I’ve known her since before she graduated law school,” Hennig said. “We think the world of her here. She’s got such a nice personality and has an excellent reputation.”
In the South Carolina House of Representatives, Rep. JA Moore, D-Berkeley, introduced a resolution last week urging Biden to nominate Childs to the Supreme Court.
Overall, South Carolina leaders are hoping to see their state represented on a national level.
“I think she’ll charm them in Washington with her smile,” Anderson said. “She’s just a perfect all-around person.”
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Caroline Williamson is an aspiring business journalist and native of Columbia, South Carolina. She was a former editor for the Garnet and Black Magazine and acquisitions intern for UofSC Press where she developed a passion for editing. Williamson enjoys writing narrative pieces that share unique perspectives and bring justice to those without a voice. She hopes to bring those skills and passion to a regional newspaper or magazine after graduation in May.
Cora Stone is a senior multimedia journalism student from Lexington, South Carolina. With professional experience as an Account Manager with The Carolina Agency and as a News Writer for The Daily Gamecock, Stone’s broad range of interests allow her to tell stories with a diverse perspective. Post-graduation, she plans to teach secondary English in Providence, Rhode Island with Teach for America.