With bipartisan support from the United States Senate, Michelle Childs, a U.S. District Court judge for South Carolina has moved one step closer to confirmation for a seat on the federal bench.
On May 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-5 to approve Childs’ nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Her nomination will next go to the full Senate for confirmation. Her supporters include Democratic U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Childs, a native of Detroit, received her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and started her career as an associate attorney in Nexsen Pruet’s Columbia office, where she practiced employment law, focusing on representing businesses and employers. At Nexsen Pruet, she became the first African American woman to make partner at a major law firm in South Carolina.
Leighton Lord, chairman of the firm, says he and Childs were hired at about the same time and worked together for the first 10 years of their careers. He recalls her as hardworking, engaged, and well-prepared.
“She was great to work with,” he said in a phone interview. “She always kept a cool head and took a measured approach to her cases, which often involved working through heated matters involving employment terminations and other issues.”
Prior to Childs’ nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals, she was on President Joe Biden’s short list of possible nominees to fill retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s Supreme Court seat.
Graham, who backed Childs’ nomination to the high court expressed his support for her final confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on his website, echoing Lord’s assessment of her qualifications and temperament.
“Judge Childs would not have been chosen by a conservative Republican president, but she is highly qualified to do the job,” Graham stated. “She has earned a reputation of following the law as it is written, being fair, and having a disposition that lawyers enjoy being in front of.”
In remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Childs’ nomination, Clyburn said, “while she has done many extraordinary things, it is her ordinary upbringing that has helped shape her life’s work and made her an example for so many young people in similar circumstances.”
In 2000, Childs left Nexsen Pruet to serve as deputy director of the Division of Labor at the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and later was a commissioner on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. She began her career on the bench in 2006 when the South Carolina General Assembly elected her to serve as a Richland County Circuit Court judge.
Childs is still close to her former law partners, and she often visits the firm to interact with the younger lawyers, Lord said
Her generosity with young attorneys extends beyond her former firm, William Hubbard, dean of the USC Law School wrote in a statement.
“She is generous with her time and energy, participating in continuing legal education programs and accepting almost every invitation issued by student groups and faculty at this law school,” Hubbard wrote. “She welcomes South Carolina Law students to her chambers to work alongside her and has been a thoughtful mentor to many more.”
It is this down-to-earth-quality that has endeared her to her colleagues of the South Carolina Bar, Lord said and added the diversity she brings to the judiciary extends beyond her race and gender.
“Michelle practiced law on the local level for almost 10 years, then served on the Workers’ Compensation Commission and knows how state government works,” Lord said. “We need all types of judges, and she brings an educational and professional background that is valuable for the court system.”