Judge J. Michelle Childs was recently appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit--considered the second highest court in the country--but her dedication to the University of South Carolina School of Law is second to none.
Childs earned her J.D. in 1991 and from then on, her loyalty to the university hasn’t wavered.
“She is generous with her time and energy, participating in continuing legal education programs and accepting almost every invitation issued by student groups and faculty at this law school,” School of Law Dean William Hubbard wrote. “She welcomes South Carolina Law students to her chambers to work alongside her and has been a thoughtful mentor to many more.”
Among Childs' mentees is Danielle Holley, dean and professor at the Howard School of Law. The two first became acquainted when Holley was hired at South Carolina Law in 2005. They got to know each other better by serving on the dean search committee in 2010-2011 and also worked closely on projects like the Middle School Mentoring Program Holley created. Much of Childs’ work leverages her impact through large scale projects, but she is also intentional about her impact on individuals.
In 2014 Holley became a Liberty Fellow, a network of community leaders through the Aspen Institute committed to bettering South Carolina, thanks in part to Childs' nomination.
“By nominating me for the Liberty Fellowship, she opened up a whole world of leaders in South Carolina and around the country. That was a big help in me being able to become a dean,” Holley said. “She is the one who reaches out and says, ‘I think this is something you should do.’ That care and investment of time in a young faculty member at her alma mater meant a lot to me.”
Childs leads by example, showing that while it’s important to hone the traditional skills of any good lawyer, such as knowledge of the law and the ability to write and conduct research, generosity and respect for others are equally crucial to success.
“She is a brilliant, fair, and empathetic jurist and also a supportive and inspiring mentor and friend,” wrote Eboni Nelson, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law. Nelson worked with Childs while serving as associate dean for academic affairs at South Carolina Law. “I witnessed firsthand her commitment to ensuring that all students, including those from diverse backgrounds, had equal access to life transformative opportunities such as judicial internships and clerkships.”
Among those who have benefitted from externing with Childs is 2017 alum Colton Tully-Doyle. “I’m grateful and proud to be a member of her law clerk family,” Tully-Doyle said. “She’s a great judge and an even greater person who absolutely deserves to be at the D.C. Circuit.”
With so much praise, one might assume she would rest on her laurels, but Childs instead sees opportunity to help others.
In a 2020 interview with the School of Law, Childs said, “Being successful is not just for the purpose of a place of comfort and satisfaction, but a place of responsibility and challenge.” It is a responsibility she holds in high regard.