Childs gets prosecutors' 'wholehearted' backing for DC court

FILE - 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, April 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (Charles Dharapak, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A bipartisan group of two dozen former South Carolina federal prosecutors are offering their “wholehearted support” for Judge Michelle Childs’ nomination to an appellate court, an elevation that's on hold due to Childs' consideration for an even higher post — the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Not only is Judge Childs fair to all lawyers, but she treats criminal defendants and victims with the utmost respect,” the attorneys wrote in a letter, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Sen. Chuck Grassley, the panel's ranking Republican.

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“Her professionalism and kindness have been a model for several recent federal judicial appointments in South Carolina, and she is admired throughout the state bar.”

President Joe Biden has nominated Childs, currently a judge on South Carolina's federal court, for a post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, an appellate court often seen as a springboard to the U.S. Supreme Court.

She had been slated to appear before senators earlier this week, but the confirmation hearing was put off indefinitely following the White House’s confirmation that Childs was under consideration for a coming U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, due to the impending retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.

Childs has been a federal judge in South Carolina for more than a decade. In December 2020, just a month after Biden's victory, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn recommended her for the D.C. appellate court. Last week, Clyburn told reporters the move had been an intentional one, so as to position Childs for the highest court.

The White House has said it intends to name a pick by the end of this month. Potential nominees are defined by Biden’s election-year pledge that he would nominate a Black woman, with early discussions centering on a handful of names. Those include California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer clerk now on the D.C. appellate court.

But there has been focus on Childs due to advocacy from Clyburn, the highest ranking Black leader in Congress. The top Biden ally suggested the then-candidate promise to nominate a Black woman as his campaign struggled heading into South Carolina’s 2020 primary. Biden made the pledge at a debate in Charleston, and Clyburn endorsed him shortly thereafter.

Childs also shown the potential for bipartisan appeal in a closely divided Senate. On Sunday, she drew praise from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a former Judiciary Committee chairman, who called her a “fair-minded, highly gifted jurist.”

The potential nomination has drawn criticism from the left, mainly over Childs' defense work on employment cases while in private practice before becoming a judge. Childs' defenders have rebutted that critique, saying Childs also represented plaintiffs against employers, doing that and defense work evenhandedly.

Signatories to the letter include Bart Daniel, who served as South Carolina’s top federal prosecutor during the George H.W. Bush administration, and Peter McCoy, who left the post last year after an appointment by Donald Trump. It was also signed by Pete Strom, a Bill Clinton appointee, as well as Bill Nettles, South Carolina’s U.S. Attorney under Barack Obama.

“What we have observed is an unflappable demeanor and a willingness to consider each party’s position fully and fairly before reaching a decision,” the attorneys wrote of Childs’ courtroom manner. “We sign this bipartisan letter because we know these qualities will be brought to bear as a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”


Meg Kinnard can be reached at