Judge J. Michelle Childs and Rep. James Clyburn

U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs stands with House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) before her confirmation hearing on April 16, 2010 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Progressive Urge Biden to Nominate Justice on Side of Workers, Not Corporations

As the president considers several Black women for the seat, one critic said he must choose a judge "who also has a demonstrated interest in commitment and protecting civil and human rights."

Following a number of U.S. Supreme Court rulings favoring powerful corporations, progressives are demanding that President Joe Biden nominate a successor to Justice Stephen Breyer who will represent the interests of working people, continuing the trend he began with his nominations to lower federal courts.

The one potential nominee the White House has confirmed is on the president's shortlist--U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs--is not reassuring labor advocates that their call will be answered.

"Americans deserve a Supreme Court that upholds and advances racial and economic justice and shields workers from the predatory special interests and corporations who continue to treat them as disposable."

Childs' name has been pushed by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose endorsement of Biden during the 2020 presidential primary was seen as instrumental in winning him the nomination.

Clyburn has called for the president to nominate Childs, a former partner at prestigious South Carolina law firm Nexsen Pruet--which has warned against passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, legislation that would strengthen worker protections and is part of Biden's signature economic agenda. At the firm, Childs represented employers in nearly two dozen labor cases.

Childs' nomination could secure Republican votes, Clyburn has told news outlets in recent days--but progressives argue that Biden, who has pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, should choose one of many highly-qualified Black women who have experience fighting against, not on behalf of, corporate power.

"Identity is important but it is not enough," tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) last week after Breyer announced his plan to retire from the court. The congresswoman and racial justice activist said the president must consider nominees who will prioritize "environment" and "economic justice" as much as he considers race and gender.

As The American Progressive reported Monday, while at Nexsen Pruet, Childs "overwhelmingly represented employers accused of violating civil rights and gender discrimination laws in the workplace."

The judge's clients included Conseco Finance, which was sued by a Black employee who alleged racial and pregnancy discrimination after she was fired, and retail company L&L Wings, where an employee alleged she was sexually assaulted by a supervisor.

As a federal judge, Childs also dismissed a workplace sexual harassment case this past year.

Tristin Brown, policy and program director at People's Parity Project--a network of law students and lawyers "organizing to unrig the legal system and build a justice system that values people over profits"--told The Hill that Biden's history-making choice should mark a turning point for representation of workers on the court.

"As a Black woman, I know the importance of this moment. We have an opportunity right now where we can put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, which is a body and institution that throughout its entire existence has almost been exclusively made up of white males," Brown told The Hill.

"At the same time," she added, "I know how critically important it is to make sure that not only are we leveraging this opportunity to make sure we get the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but to make sure that we get the first Black woman who also has a demonstrated interest in commitment and protecting civil and human rights, and one who particularly has a record of being invested in protecting the rights of everyday workers in America."

Biden's expected nomination of a Supreme Court justice follows several pro-corporate rulings by the high court, which is dominated by six right-wing justices including three who were nominated by former President Donald Trump.

Last month, the court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a rule requiring large private companies to mandate Covid-19 vaccination or mask-wearing among staff. Last year, the justices ruled 8-1 in favor of Nestle USA and Cargill, which were sued over alleged child trafficking.

According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, under right-wing Chief Justice John Roberts, the pro-corporate U.S. Chamber of Commerce has supported the Supreme Court's rulings 70% of the time--more than under Chief Justices William Rehnquist and Warren Burger.

"Americans deserve a Supreme Court that upholds and advances racial and economic justice and shields workers from the predatory special interests and corporations who continue to treat them as disposable," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), in a statement last week. "There is no room on the court for more prosecutors or lawyers who spent most of their careers representing corporate interests."

Court reform advocacy group Demand Justice released a shortlist in 2019 of progressive attorneys, judges, and legal experts "who have spent their careers fighting to uphold the values of equal justice under the law."

Black women on the list include Michelle Alexander, founding director of the Racial Justice Project, ACLU of Northern California; Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke; Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; California state Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill; and Judge Wilhemina Wright of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Brown Jackson, Kruger, Ifill, and Wright are reportedly among Biden's contenders.

"There are so many absolutely amazing attorneys being considered for this Supreme Court vacancy--women with long, distinguished track records of using their legal degrees to advance true justice for marginalized people," said Molly Coleman, executive director of People's Parity Project. "Michelle Childs is not one of them."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.