Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum – Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

If the name A. Marvin Quattlebaum sounds familiar, it should: we wrote on his nomination to the district court just last year.  At the time we said the following:

“Nominees expected to sail through the process become bogged down, while nominees expected to draw controversy surprise everyone by getting confirmed easily.  Nevertheless, A. Marvin Quattlebaum, nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, should feel good about his chances.”

The qualifying sentence proved surprisingly prescient when Quattlebaum’s confirmation drew 28 no votes (to be fair, the no votes were not about Quattlebaum but rather about the two African American Obama nominees to the same seat who never received the courtesy of a Senate vote).  Just one month after his confirmation to the U.S. District Court, Quattlebaum became a nominee again, this time for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  As such, here is an updated take on his nomination.

Background

Arthur Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. was born on August 2, 1964 in Durham, NC.  He received a B.A. with Honors from Rhodes College in 1986 and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1989.  While a law student, Quattlebaum worked as a summer associate at the Columbia law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, LLP.  Upon graduation, Quattlebaum was hired there as an Associate.

In 1996, Quattlebaum left Nelson Mullins to be a partner at the law firm Robinson & Quattlebaum.  A year later, Quattlebaum returned to Nelson Mullins as a Partner.

On August 3, 2017, Quattlebaum was nominated by President Trump to be a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of South Carolina to fill the seat vacated by Judge Cameron Currie on October 3, 2013.  Two African American Obama nominees, Judge Allison Lee and Justice Donald Beatty, were blocked from a final vote for this seat by the opposition of South Carolina’s Republican Senators.  For his part, Quattlebaum attracted little controversy but was confirmed on March 1, 2018 by a relatively narrow 69-28 vote with Democrats citing the treatment of Lee and Beatty as the reason for their opposition.  Quattlebaum serves as a U.S. District Court Judge today.

History of the Seat

Quattlebaum has been nominated to replace U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler, who is scheduled to move to senior status on August 31, 2018.  Traxler, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President George H.W. Bush and to the Fourth Circuit by President Bill Clinton, has been a fairly conservative judge.

Legal Experience

Other than one year working on plaintiff’s side law at Robertson & Quattlebaum, Quattlebaum spent his entire pre-bench legal career practicing business litigation at Nelson Mullins.  As a partner in the Greenville office, Quattlebaum primarily focused on the defense of product liability actions.

Among Quattlebaum’s more prominent cases, he was the primary lawyer defending Michelin North America Inc. against a suit alleging injuries from the sale of a defective tire.[1]  He also represented Michelin in antitrust and breach of contract actions.[2]  In another key case, Quattlebaum successfully defended an industrial manufacturer from a wrongful death claim based on an earth compactor that rolled over.[3]

Jurisprudence

Quattlebaum has been a federal judge since March 6, 2018.  In those two months, he has only had a chance to hear and decide a handful of cases, none of which have reached a resolution on appeal.  Most of these cases involve 1983 civil rights suits brought by state prisoners, which Quattlebaum has generally accepted recommendations to dismiss.[4]

One notable case handled by Quattlebaum in his short tenure was a constitutional challenge to a unique traffic control plan imposed by Myrtle Beach on participants in Bikefest.[5]  The NAACP brought the suit, alleging that the restrictions on Bikefest, whose participants are predominantly African American, violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, noting that similar restrictions were not levied against the majority-white participants in Harley Week.[6]  Quattlebaum declined to grant a preliminary injunction against the traffic control plan, noting that plaintiffs had failed to make the requisite factual findings.[7]

Political Activity

Quattlebaum has a long history of contributions to Congressional Republicans.  This includes approximately $8000 to Graham, $7600 to Scott, and $6400 to Gowdy.[8]  Additionally, Quattlebaum has also donated to former Sen. Jim DeMint, and former Rep. Bob Inglis, both South Carolina Republicans.[9]  In contrast, Quattlebaum has only one contribution to a Democrat, donating $1000 to Alex Sanders’ Senate bid against Graham in 2001.[10]

In addition, Quattlebaum has served in a volunteer capacity in the campaigns of Graham, Scott, and Gowdy.  Quattlebaum also served on the South Carolina Lottery Commission from 2003-2010, appointed to that role by Republican Governor (and now Congressman) Mark Sanford.

Overall Assessment

Quattlebaum’s nomination to the District Court drew opposition primarily based on the history of the specific seat he was nominated for rather than his own personal characteristics.  Furthermore, he has not been on the District Court long enough to draw a controversial record.  As such, one can reasonably conclude that his nomination is unlikely to attract a significant degree of controversy.

However, nominations to the Court of Appeals tend to attract significantly more controversy than those to the District Court, and factors that were forgiven in confirming Quattlebaum earlier, such as his political donation history, may draw more weight for an appellate nominee.  Additionally, critics may argue that Quattlebaum, having only been a judge for two months, lacks the requisite judicial experience to be an appellate judge (although many appellate nominees lack any judicial experience whatsoever).

Overall, Quattlebaum still remains favored for a comfortable confirmation.  However, as his initial confirmation rodeo proved, nothing can be taken for granted.


[1] See Demas v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., No. 09 L 013814, Illinois Circuit Court (Judge Daniel Lynch).

[2] Michelin N. Am., Inc. v. Inter-city Tire, No. 6:13-cv-01067 HMH, 2015 WL 12843914 (D.S.C. Jan 20, 2015) (Judge Henry Herlong).  

[3] Edwards v. Ingersoll Rand Co., No. 6:01-cv-02205-HFF (D.S.C.).

[4] See, e.g., Rose v. Nettles, No. CV01702000AMQPJG, 2018 WL 2268021, at *1 (D.S.C. May 16, 2018); Townsend v. S. Health Partners, No. 0:18-CV-00414-AMQ, 2018 WL 2220282, at *1 (D.S.C. May 15, 2018); Tyler v. Chavis, No. CV 9:17-3270-AMQ-BM, 2018 WL 2011526, at *1 (D.S.C. Apr. 30, 2018); Hurley v. Lovett, No. CV 8:17-1993-AMQ-KFM, 2018 WL 1811371, at *1 (D.S.C. Apr. 17, 2018).

[5] NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF MYRTLE BEACH, et al., Defendants. Additional Party Names: Cedric Stevenson, City of Myrtle Beach Police Dep’t, Leslie Stevenson, Simuel Jones, No. 4:18-CV-00554, 2018 WL 2332018 (D.S.C. May 23, 2018).

[6] Id. at *1.

[7] Id. at *4-*5.

[8] Center for Responsive Government, https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=Marvin+Quattlebaum&order=desc&page=1&sort=D (last visited Oct. 3, 2017).  

[9] See id.

[10] Id.

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