(Bloomberg Law) -- U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs would bring extensive experience as a state and federal trial judge if nominated as the Supreme Court’s first Black woman.
Childs, 55, also has the public endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House and an influential figure in Joe Biden’s ascent to the presidency.
What she lacks is experience as a federal appellate judge. Biden sought to fill that gap in her resume by announcing plans last year to nominate her to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a common springboard for Supreme Court nominations.
Childs is now viewed as a potential replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced on Thursday that he plans to retire at the end of the current term once his successor is in place.
Biden said he intends to nominate the first Black woman justice by the end of February. The list of potential candidates includes another former federal trial court judge Biden tapped for the D.C. Circuit, Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Childs, a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s law school, would stand out on the high court as a rare justice without Ivy League credentials. Her experience as a state court judge also makes her stand out. The last justice with previous service on a state court was David Souter, who was nominated in 1990 by Republican George H.W. Bush.
Childs served four years as a state trial court judge in South Carolina and has been a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina since 2010, when she was appointed by Barack Obama.
At her April 2010 confirmation hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced her by saying, “every lawyer that I know of who’s appeared before her, regardless of their political persuasion or philosophy, has nothing but great things to say about Judge Childs.”
She was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote.
Her noteworthy district court decisions include a 2014 case in which she ruled in favor of a lesbian couple who sued to have South Carolina recognize their out-of-state marriage.
Childs spent much of her early career in Columbia at the law firm Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard where she focused on labor and employment law. In an interview with her law school alma mater, Childs said she was “the first black female partner in a major law firm in the state.”
She went on to serve as an official in the South Carolina labor department and as a commissioner on the state workers’ compensation board before becoming a state judge in 2006.
During her time as a state trial judge, Childs served as an acting justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court “on several occasions,” she said in her answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
Clyburn, the House majority whip, has advocated for a Childs high court appointment in media interviews and with calls to lawmakers. He’s touted her blue collar roots, public education, and varied work experience.
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