Judge J. Michelle Childs: Who’s the Newest Addition to America’s Second Most Important Court?

July 29, 2022
Fli Insider | Judge J. Michelle Childs

by Ethan Tong• 5 min read

The Senate recently confirmed Judge J. Michelle Childs to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Biden nominated Judge Childs last December. She most recently held a position as a federal district judge in South Carolina, a position she held since 2010.

Her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court is no small matter. This court is considered by many to be the second-highest court in the country after the Supreme Court. This court is different than other circuit courts due to the nature of the cases it hears, including highly sensitive issues such as national security, gun rights, food safety, labor law, election law and clean air regulations.

Additionally, the D.C. Circuit is often a springboard to the Supreme Court. Four of the current nine justices are former D.C. Circuit Court judges—Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and newly-appointed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. The late Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia also previously served on the D.C. Circuit.

So, who is Judge Childs? How will her position on this powerful court affect religious freedom? Here’s a more in-depth look at her record.

A Brief Background

After attending the University of South Florida for her undergraduate degree in management, Childs attended the University of South Carolina School of Law. She also received a Master of Laws from Duke University School of Law. She then was hired as a law clerk and later an attorney at Nexsen Pruet, a firm that represents employers in labor law litigation.

After her work with Nexsen Pruet, Childs worked in state government for six years as the deputy director of the division of labor. In 2006, she was elected Richland County Circuit Court Judge. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Childs to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, where she served until her recent confirmation to the D.C. Circuit.

Judge Childs will replace Judge David S. Tatel, who recently assumed senior status (pre-retirement).

Red Flags in Judge Childs’ Record 

Several parts of Judge Childs’ record are concerning. They suggest she could unconstitutionally advance a liberal policy agenda from the federal bench, instead of interpreting the law and the Constitution according to their original text and meaning.

  • In 2014, prior to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), Judge Childs issued a landmark decision recognizing a same-sex marriage in South Carolina. Her ruling contravened binding Supreme Court precedent.
  • In September 2021, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all employees. SRNS employees asked Childs to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent SRNS from enforcing the mandate. Childs refused to grant the requested relief, finding that mandatory vaccination is a legitimate condition of employment.
  • In September 2020, Judge Childs struck down a South Carolina law that required voters to sign absentee ballot envelopes in the presence of a witness. The Supreme Court reversed Childs’ ruling, pointing out that “this Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election.”

Endorsements from Radical Groups

Many Biden nominees have not inspired confidence on religious liberty. As our legal experts have previously explained, his judicial picks often have come from extreme, Left-wing organizations.

Judge Childs appears to be cut from the same cloth. She has been endorsed by groups such as American Atheists, American Civil Liberties Union, American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, and multiple other radical groups hostile to religious liberty.

It is often said you can tell a lot about a person by who their friends are. These endorsements should concern those who believe in religious freedom. They suggest that Judge Childs and many of Biden’s nominees could operate as liberal activists, instead of being impartial judges committed to the rule of law and the Constitution.

Federal judges wield incredible power. It’s not just Supreme Court justices who make sweeping decisions. The rulings of other federal judges—especially those at high courts like the D.C. Circuit—also affect the lives of everyday Americans. These rulings often dictate whether you can freely live out your faith.

Now more than ever, America needs judges who will rule according to the Constitution and the law, not according to their preferences or politics. First Liberty remains committed to our work of evaluating judicial candidates. We will keep providing you with the facts if we uncover any nominee who has a radical or unacceptable record on religious freedom.

Fli Insider Support Banner

Social Facebook Social Instagram Twitter X Icon | First Liberty Institute Social Youtube Social Linkedin

Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyState DisclosuresSitemap • © 2024 Liberty Institute® is a trademark of First Liberty Institute