Biden considering Judge J. Michelle Childs and may be casting wider net for Supreme Court vacancy

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is considering a federal judge in South Carolina as one of several candidates to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the White House confirmed, and may be casting a wider net than the three or four potential nominees whose names have widely circulated.

Judge J. Michelle Childs, who has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina since 2010, is one of several candidates the president is considering for the opening, a White House spokesman said. Childs has been supported by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and key ally to the Biden administration. 

Childs, who Biden nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit earlier this month, is the first candidate the White House has publicly confirmed. Her consideration, first reported by The Washington Post, came days before she was scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing.

Biden has pledged to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court in the nation’s history next month. While Supreme Court nominees are frequently pulled from federal appeals courts that’s not always the case – and a president has wide latitude to choose.

Biden is considering more than a dozen candidates for the seat, according to a source familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitives involved with the nomination process. 

Some of the names under consideration have been circulating for months, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the D.C. Circuit and California Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra Kruger – both of whom are considered frontrunners.

But the White House is also considering Sherrilyn Ifill, who is stepping down as president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, the source said.

Other names include Judge Holly Thomas, recently confirmed to the California-based U.S. Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit; Judge Wilhelmina Wright, a federal district judge in Minnesota; Nancy Abudu, who Biden recently nominated for a spot on the 11th Circuit; Arianna Freeman, nominated to the 3rd Circuit; Judge Candace Rae Jackson-Akiwumi on the 7th Circuit and Judge Tiffany Cunningham on the Federal Circuit.

The Biden administration has sought to increase the diversity of the federal courts. When Biden became president last year there were four African American women out of 179 appellate judgeships. Now, there are nine with three more nominees in the pipeline.

Supreme Court nominees almost always come from federal appeals courts and, more recently, they have frequently come from the D.C. Circuit, considered the second-most influential court in the nation because of its work adjudicating cases involving the federal government and its historic status as a proving ground for Supreme Court justices. Only one current justice didn’t hear appeals – Elena Kagan – and she was the U.S. solicitor general, the federal government’s top lawyer arguing cases before the high court.

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