Retired S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal praised President Biden’s selection of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nation’s high court. She hopes the nomination will mark a historic step for diversity on the courts.
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal said Friday she believes Ketanji Brown Jackson will make a great U.S. Supreme Court justice, but also expressed sadness that her friend, J. Michelle Childs, was not selected for the high court.
Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden formally nominated Brown, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, to replace retiring Justice Stephen J. Breyer, fulfilling a promise he made two years ago during the South Carolina primary to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Jackson is expected to face a bruising confirmation battle in an evenly divided Senate to gain a seat on the nine-member court.
“I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications,” Biden said in a statement at the White House.
South Carolinians had hoped the President would pick someone closer to home. Childs, a U.S. District judge, was among his top choices and advocated by S.C. Rep. Jim Clyburn and a bipartisan group of the state’s lawmakers. Leondra R. Kruger of the California Supreme Court was also on Biden’s short list.
In an interview, Toal expressed high praise for Jackson, a Harvard-educated jurist. “She is a mom herself and has a wonderful story, just as Michelle does,” Toal said.
Toal has a long background with Childs, whom she described as a “dear friend,” and said she entrusted her with many difficult cases in her time at the federal district court.
“She has rung every bell of excellence from the time she was a young girl,” Toal said. “[She] was widely regarded as someone with a very fair hand, but a very strong determination to protect the working people.”
Before her consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court, Childs was in the middle of confirmation hearings for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which were postponed in January. That nomination is expected to move forward and court watchers believe Childs is likely to win Senate confirmation for the appeals judgeship.
The position on the second highest court in the U.S. will allow Childs’ to have a different impact on the nation, Toal said.
“D.C. Court of Appeals may give her a day-to-day broader impact than being you know, a small minority on the highest court,” Toal said.
South Carolina legislators will be searching for a new judge to take her place at the U.S. District Court level.
“There are a lot of fantastic younger lawyers in this state, who I’m sure will be considered,” Toal said.
A trailblazer for female lawyers in South Carolina, Toal was on one of four women in her class at University of South Carolina School of Law at a time when there were only 10 practicing female lawyers in the state. She became the first woman Supreme Court justice in S.C .and said that Childs’ and Brown’s nominations are a historic step in diversity.
Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, has been a longtime supporter of Childs and publicly advocated for her position. In a statement released Friday, he wrote:
“Although not the finalist, Judge Childs’ inclusion among the three that were interviewed continues her record of remarkable contributions to making this country’s greatest accessible and affordable for all and she continue’s to make all South Carolinian’s proud.”
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.