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Michelle Childs's Punitive Track Record May Doom High Court Bid

South Carolina Federal Judge J. Michelle Childs is the only person confirmed by the Biden administration under consideration for the soon-to-be-vacant Supreme Court seat, The American Prospect reports. Her track record in a post she has held since 2010 has received less inspection. On numerous occasions, Childs issued punitive decisions on criminal justice issues that were overturned on appeal. In 2016, inmate Lewis Duckett sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ dietitian, alleging that the food he was forced to eat while in prison was so lacking in nutrients and vitamins that prison where he was incarcerated was violating his Eighth Amendment right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment. Childs dismissed the case. Just one month later, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Childs’s decision.

Childs’s repeated opposition to leniency in sentencing and alleged abuse cases brought by prisoners is notable in its own right; that she made those decisions on such dubious grounds that they were routinely overturned by higher courts indicates a commitment to tough-on-crime rulings. It’s difficult to imagine someone with a record like Judge Childs’s winning votes from criminal justice advocates like Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), or Dick Durbin (D-IL), both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee and have claimed that these issues are particularly important for them. Childs’s record, meanwhile, is not shared by other front-runners: Ketanji Brown Jackson, for instance, was a former public defender and sentencing commission vice chair.


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