Manchin Reportedly Backing Corporate-Friendly Michelle Childs for Supreme Court

As President Joe Biden considers several top Supreme Court picks, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is reportedly telling colleagues in private that he prefers a GOP-backed candidate, who unions and pro-labor advocates have sounded the alarm about for her history of advocating for corporations against workers, Punchbowl News has reported.

According to Punchbowl, multiple anonymous sources have said that Manchin wants J. Michelle Childs in the Supreme Court because she has bipartisan support, despite the fact that Supreme Court nominees only need 51 votes to pass. The lawmaker also cites her public school education as a plus.

Childs does indeed have support from conservatives. Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) voiced his support for the District Court judge and predicted that she would get more than 10 Republican votes in the Senate. Manchin’s vote is crucial for Democrats if Biden picks a different nominee, however, as Democrats will need every senator in their caucus to vote “yes.”

But labor groups have raised concerns about Childs, citing her history as a management-side lawyer who worked for corporations in cases of racial discrimination and union drives. Not every potential pick has done this, the groups pointed out.

“She comes from an anti-union law firm where she spent time defending employers from claims of civil rights and labor law violations,” David Borer, general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Washington Post earlier this month. “That’s not what we need.”

Progressives also take issue with Childs’s history as a judge in the criminal legal system. As a judge, The American Prospect has reported, Childs has issued numerous harsh rulings against incarcerated people that were later overturned. In 2009, Childs sentenced a man to 12 years in prison for selling only about half a pound of marijuana.

“Judge Childs’s repeated opposition to leniency in sentencing and alleged abuse cases brought by prisoners is notable in its own right,” wrote The American Prospect’s Alexander Sammon. “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 beyond the letter of procedure.”

This Supreme Court pick is crucial for Democrats, who progressives say should take full advantage of the seat being left by Democratic justice Stephen Breyer by filling it with a strong progressive pick. The very fact that Childs has the support of Republicans has led some progressives to believe that Childs may be backed by corporate donors.

Picking someone who appeals to Republicans would be antithetical to the goal of balancing out the Supreme Court – especially since conservatives have spent years bending and changing the rules to pack the court with extremist right-wing justices, and as the Court is on the precipice of crucial decisions on issues like abortion.

Earlier this month, a group of Black women in the House sent a letter to Biden, applauding him for pledging to pick a Black woman to fill the seat and urging him to pick a civil rights champion. Biden’s pick would be the first Black woman to ever sit on the High Court.

“There is no shortage of incredible, qualified, leading Black female candidates to serve on the Supreme Court,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said in an interview. “But the question is, what is going to be that nominee’s worldview?”

While Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t specifically advocated against any candidates, she says that the candidate’s stances on issues like Citizens United are crucial.

Progressive groups like Justice Democrats have said that someone like Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is in contention for the Supreme Court seat, would be an appropriate choice.