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Democratic strategist weighs in on SC Judge J. Michelle Childs being on SCOTUS shortlist

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Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:53 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:54 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Following Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his retirement on Thursday, South Carolina once again finds itself at the forefront of the political conversation.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs is considered by many to be on President Joe Biden’s shortlist for the country’s highest court.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who helped propel Biden to a crucial South Carolina primary win with his endorsement nearly two years ago, is putting his support behind Childs.

Columbia-based Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said there is not a more qualified judge in the country than Childs.

A Columbia high school graduate, Childs has served as a district court judge since 2010.

She was previously commissioner of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Unlike many justices, Childs does not have an Ivy League education. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, Clyburn lauded her credentials.

“Coming out a blue-collar family, growing up in a single-parent household, and having the kind of experiences of so many she’ll be sitting judgment of,” he said. “I always say it is good for judges and other people in public office to have the ability to empathize, which you cannot do unless you’ve had the experiences to understand what has gone on before you.”

Clyburn said he’s unsure whether Biden has met Childs, but that he’s certainly met many people who think very highly of her.

“Everywhere she goes she’s recognized for her leadership qualities,” he said.

Clyburn’s support carries weight with the president, according to Seawright.

“He will have some influence on the thinking and the strategy around whomever the president decides to choose as his nominee,” he said.

If nominated, Childs would be just the fifth Supreme Court Justice from South Carolina, and the first since James F. Brynes was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.

“There is not one southern voice on the court,” Seawright said. “And I think the South is very reflective of America itself. I think the South is a true snapshot of what this country is going to be and what we are shaping up to be in the future. And I think she brings that type of flavor to the conversation.”

Additionally, Seawright said that a number of the cases that the Supreme Court is set to consider have origins in the South, and Childs’ perspective would be beneficial in these instances.

Seawright said that Biden’s commitment to select the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court, whoever it might be, will help define his legacy.

“The browning of America is happening before our very eyes,” he said. “And I think this president’s commitment to diversity, to racial diversity and gender diversity, age diversity and geographic diversity has been very reflective of his decisions to nominate certain folks and to appoint certain folks to these positions.”

The president said on Thursday that he would nominate a justice by the end of February. Seawright said this was a “wink and a nod” to South Carolinians.

“Those of us who were around South Carolina at the end of February 2020, we know it was the South Carolina primary and the South Carolina debate that launched him to his presidency,” he said. “And so how ironic and iconic would it be if the president made his announcement on the anniversary of the South Carolina debate and or the South Carolina primary.”

Biden nominated Childs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month, and that nomination remains pending.

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