A. Marvin Quattlebaum – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

The J. Waites Waring Judicial Center in Charleston, SC

There are no sure things in judicial confirmations.  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.  A former president of the South Carolina Bar and a nationally recognized attorney, Quattlebaum has attracted little controversy over his career and should be confirmed easily.

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.  He continues to work as a Partner in the firm’s Greenville, SC Office.

From 2011-2012, Quattlebaum served as Chair on the South Carolina Bar Association.  He continues to hold a seat in the Bar’s House of Delegates.

History of the Seat

The seat Quattlebaum has been nominated for opened on October 3, 2013, with Judge Cameron McGowan Currie’s move to senior status.  The Obama Administration made two unsuccessful attempts to fill this vacancy.  First, on June 26, 2013, Obama nominated Judge Alison Renee Lee of South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit to fill the vacancy.[1]  However, Lee’s nomination ran into opposition from conservatives over her decision to reduce bond on a Columbia-area burglary suspect who killed a man after his release.[2]  Ultimately, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) came out in opposition to Lee, and declined to return a blue slip, killing her nomination.[3]

On February 25, 2016, President Obama nominated Justice Donald Beatty of the South Carolina Supreme Court in a second attempt to fill the vacancy.[4]  Unfortunately, neither Scott nor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) returned blue slips on Beatty’s nomination, and Beatty never received a hearing.

In January 2017, Quattlebaum discussed his interest in a federal judgeship with Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy.  After an interview with the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s Office, Quattlebaum was officially nominated on August 3, 2017.

Legal Experience

Other than one year working on plaintiff’s side law at Robertson & Quattlebaum, Quattlebaum has spent his entire legal career practicing business litigation at Nelson Mullins.  As a partner in the Greenville office, Quattlebaum primarily focuses 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.[5]  He also represented Michelin in antitrust and breach of contract actions.[6]

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.[7]  Additionally, Quattlebaum has also donated to former Sen. Jim DeMint, and former Rep. Bob Inglis, both South Carolina Republicans.[8]  In contrast, Quattlebaum has only one contribution to a Democrat, donating $1000 to Alex Sanders’ Senate bid against Graham in 2001.[9]

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

As noted above, Quattlebaum should face relatively little trouble winning confirmation.  He has avoided taking controversial stances as an attorney, and has shown legal acumen through his managing of complex litigation.  While he may draw criticism for his exclusive representation of large corporations seeking to avoid damages from defective products, such criticism is unlikely to derail his nomination.  Overall, Quattlebaum would join the South Carolina bench as a fairly mainstream conservative judge.


[1] Press Release, White House, President Obama Nominates Three to Serve on the United States District Courts (June 26, 2013) (on file at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov).  

[2] Michael Doyle, New Questions Raised About South Carolina Federal Court Nominee, The State, Sept. 25, 2013.

[3] Ali Watkins, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott Joins Opposition to Nomination of SC Judge for Federal Post, The State, July 17, 2014, http://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article13869248.html.

[4] Press Release, White House, President Obama Nominates Two to Serve on the United States District Court (Feb. 25, 2016) (on file at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov).  

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

[6] 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).  

[7] 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).  

[8] See id.

[9] Id.