Clyburn pushes for Judge J. Michelle Childs to be Supreme Court’s first Black female justice, report says

Rep. James Clyburn advocated for the Biden administration to consider Judge J. Michelle Childs for a potential Supreme Court appointment, according to a report, adding yet another name to the speculative list of potential high court nominees.

The New York Times reported that after Clyburn, D-S.C., visited with President Biden in the Oval Office, he went to Vice President Harris’ office to float Childs as a potential justice. 

Childs, a federal district judge in South Carolina, would be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court.  

A spokesperson for Clyburn said that longtime lawmaker has told the White House he believes Childs deserves to be elevated to a higher federal court, even if just to the appeals level. Notably, there is one vacancy on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — considered the second-highest court in the land — and another that will soon be open once Judge Merrick Garland is confirmed to be the attorney general. 

Clyburn is the highest-ranking Black member of Congress and is widely credited with helping save Biden’s primary campaign. Biden was lagging significantly behind expectations after the Nevada caucuses. But an endorsement from Clyburn helped Biden come roaring back before his massively successful Super Tuesday. 

Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the United States District Court, District of South Carolina, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 16, 2010, during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the United States District Court, District of South Carolina, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 16, 2010, during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Most other names who have been floated for Supreme Court appointments have come from outside groups and not lawmakers, so Clyburn’s support gives Childs instant credibility as a contender.

Childs was nominated to her current seat by former President Barack Obama in late 2009 and confirmed in 2010. She went to the University of South Florida for her undergraduate degree and received her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. 

She then worked in private practice for eight years before holding various positions in the South Carolina government. She started her career as a state judge in South Carolina in 2006. 

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There is no vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it is widely speculated that Justice Stephen Breyer will retire during Biden’s current term, potentially after the current Supreme Court session that ends in late spring. Further, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts are all over 65 years old. 

Childs would join Justice Amy Coney Barrett as the only justices not to hold Ivy League law degrees. Barrett is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School.

The White House and Clyburn’s office did not respond to requests for comments on the conversation between the powerful House member and the vice president. 

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
((AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster))

Former President Donald Trump in just one term appointed more justices than any president since Ronald Reagan. Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush each only had two justices confirmed.

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Because of the three justices appointed by Trump, there is now a 6-3 majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents, something that Democrats have decried and used as a reason to call for Biden to add more seats to the Supreme Court. 

Biden has not taken a public stance on the issue of adding Supreme Court justices — a practice called court-packing — but if there is a death or a retirement among the current justices he would not need to add Supreme Court seats to get Childs or any other judge on the court. 

If Biden does get a Supreme Court appointment before 2022, however, it’s likely that nominee will face a tough fight in the 50-50 Senate. If Republican senators are united against the nominee — which is not a guarantee, as both of Obama’s nominees got several GOP votes — then that nominee could not lose any Democrat votes and still be confirmed. 

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