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Some progressives are raising concerns about a 2009 sentence handed out by potential Biden Supreme Court pick J. Michelle Childs in which a man was sent to prison for 12 years for a nonviolent marijuana charge, according to a report.
The White House, meanwhile, noted that the decision is just one of “thousands” Childs made over many years as a judge, and said she’s always supported “access to justice for criminal defendants.”
The American Prospect, a progressive publication, reported Thursday that when Childs was a county circuit judge in South Carolina, she sentenced a man named William Roy Goodwin to 12 years in prison for a half pound of marijuana.
Goodwin was caught on hidden camera selling marijuana to an undercover police officer, according to the Prospect. He pleaded guilty to a host of charges, expecting a sentence up to five years given that he was a repeat offender.
But prosecutors argued for much larger sentence, according to the Prospect, and Childs granted it – sending Goodwin away for over a decade.
“Outrageous,” liberal commentator Krystal Ball tweeted in response to the story.
“The hits keep coming. Now we learn Judge Childs tossed some guy in the clink for over a decade for taking too many tokes,” Tom Nelson, a progressive Democrat Senate candidate in Wisconsin said. “How many more reasons do we need to reject her nomination?”
“President Biden is evaluating Judge Childs for this Supreme Court vacancy for the same reasons that he is proud to have nominated her for the D.C. Circuit court: because of her record, character, and values,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital in response to the Prospect report. “She has served honorably as a federal judge since President Obama chose her in 2010, based on her experience on the South Carolina bench as well as her ‘exceptional integrity’ and ‘unwavering commitment to justice.’”
Bates also highlighted work Childs did as a judge to assist those charged with drug-related offenses, and other criminal defendants.
“In her 16 years being a judge, she has issued thousands of decisions. As a federal judge, Judge Childs created and continues to administer her court’s first drug court program—Columbia Bridge—which has diverted defendants charged with drug related offenses away from prison toward drug treatment and reform,” Bates said.
He added: “Moreover, as a state court judge she similarly prioritized access to justice for criminal defendants, adjusting her courtroom’s schedule such that public defenders were able to spend more time with clients and less time waiting in court. As we have said, the President is considering her among other deeply qualified potential Supreme Court nominees, and attacks will not inform his decision.”
Goodwin told the Prospect that he was distraught by his sentence, and was given “more time than people in there who killed somebody. It was crazy.” He alleged Childs imposed the harsh sentence because she was gunning for a federal court appointment, which came a few months later.
The revelation of Childs’ sentence in the case comes as momentum continues to grow in blue states and red states alike for recreational marijuana legalization – as well as in the federal government.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is agitating for the Senate to pass legislation federally legalizing marijuana. And he may even have some allies in the GOP on this issue. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is pushing for federal marijuana legalization in the House.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is also backing protections for state-legal marijuana businesses. He’s a cosponsor of the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, which aims to help such companies access banking and financial services which are currently unavailable to them.
Neither Schumer’s office nor Durbin’s office immediately responded to requests for comment on the Prospect story Friday morning. A spokesperson for Childs did not respond to a message from Fox News Digital either.
Some members of the legal cannabis industry, however, noted that Childs’ sentence against Goodwin is part of a larger pattern over decades in the war on drugs, and pushed for the federal government to act on marijuana legislation.
“There are far too many U.S. citizens, predominantly from Black and Brown communities, either in prison or being disproportionately targeted for nonviolent cannabis offenses,” Narmin Jarrous, the chief development officer of the Michigan-based marijuana business Exclusive Brands, said.
“It’s cases like this that help illustrate why bills such as the MORE Act or the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act that contain social equity provisions are badly needed to be passed by Congress,” Luis Merchan, the CEO international cannabis production company Flora Growth, told Fox News.
Childs is now a federal district court judge in South Carolina. She was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before Justice Stephen Breyer announced he plans to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., is a big booster of Childs’ and has significant influence in the White House. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., effusively praised Childs in recent weeks too.
Other top potential candidates for the Breyer vacancy are D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain met with Senate Democrats about the vacancy Thursday. Multiple Democrat senators said they were under the impression that the White House has already made its Supreme Court selection. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it “sounded to me like they pretty much had someone — already made up their mind.”
Fox News’ Kelly Phares contributed to this report.