Rep. Clyburn: 'I Think That Judges Ought to Be Able to Empathize'

By Susan Jones | January 27, 2022 | 7:21am EST
The US Supreme Court as seen on January 26, 2022.  (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
The US Supreme Court as seen on January 26, 2022. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is credited with salvaging Joe Biden's presidential campaign by endorsing Biden in the South Carolina primary. Clyburn says he prompted then-candidate Biden to publicly commit to nominating a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, if the opportunity presented itself.

And now that opportunity has arisen, with the anticipated retirement of liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, age 83.

Clyburn told CNN on Wednesday he's now pushing Biden to nominate federal Judge Michelle Childs to replace Breyer. He said her qualifications include “empathy.”

Childs is a U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina whom Biden recently nominated to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.

“I've known her most of her life and she is an incredibly smart woman," Clyburn told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

She is president of the Judges Association, and she has the kind of diverse background in life, and education, and work.

She has worked in the state agency to state agency. She has been a state judge. She's now a federal judge. She's a graduate of a public university down in Florida, and a public law school here in South Carolina, an incredibly smart woman that I believe would do well.

You see, I think that people's experiences mean a whole lot, and if you're going to sit in judgment of people, it will do well to be able to empathize with them. And you can sympathize, that is easy to do. But I think that judges ought to be able to empathize, and I think that she is incredibly prepared to be that kind of a judge.

Bipartisan support?

Press reports say Senate Democrats want to make this next Supreme Court confirmation a speedy process. Clyburn, though, said he wants the process to be "thorough" and "bipartisan."

"I want us to make sure that it is a black woman, I want to make sure that it's a woman that will get universal support. When I say universal, I mean, bipartisan support, and I know that Michelle Childs will have the support of several Republicans, including the two Republican senators from South Carolina."

Those two Republican senators are Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.

Cooper asked Clyburn if Republicans "have an obligation" to vote for a "history-making choice."

"Well, I wouldn't say they have an obligation to do that," Clyburn said.

“I think it would be well for that to happen. As you know, I'm a big fan of Everett Dirksen and that was one of the things I admired about him. He made sure that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were both a bipartisan issue, and I really, really admire that about him.

“And I would -- I'm sure that Republican senators from South Carolina would do all they can to make this choice bipartisan, and I'm sure they will do so because both of them know Michelle real well. She is just our choice."

Clyburn's comment about making the choice bipartisan follows several recent, purely partisan battles in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats tried unsuccessfully to ram through Biden's "Build Back Better" social agenda without a single Republican vote.

And when that proved impossible, Democrats again tried unsuccessfully to ram through a Democrats-only bill that would have meant a federal takeover of state-run elections.

Biden and Breyer are expected to meet today at the White House to announce Breyer’s retirement, word of which leaked on Wednesday.

MRC Store