Joseph Dawson – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

The J. Waites Waring Judicial Center in Charleston, SC

There has never been an African American judge on the South Carolina federal bench appointed by a Republican President.  If confirmed, Charleston County attorney Joseph Dawson would break that notable barrier.


Born in 1970, Joseph Dawson III received a B.A. from The Citadel in 1991 and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1997.[1]  While a law student, Dawson worked as a clerk at the Charleston County Attorney’s Office.  Upon graduation, Dawson was hired there as an Assistant County Attorney.  In 2000, Dawson became Deputy County Attorney and has served as County Attorney since 2001.[2] 

Additionally, Dawson has also maintained a part-time solo practice since 2001.

History of the Seat

The seat Dawson has been nominated for opened on February 28, 2019, with Judge Terry Wooten’s move to senior status.  Dawson was nominated on October 23, 2020 at the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

Legal Experience

Dawson’s primary role is as County Attorney for Charleston County.  In this capacity, Dawson oversees all legal matters for the County and manages the County Attorney’s Office, with a budget of approximately $1.7 million.[3]  Among Dawson’s more prominent cases, he was the primary lawyer defending the County Assessor in a suit challenging tax assessments laid against a new Hampton Inn & Suites.[4]  After losing the suit at trial, Dawson appealed the matter to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the South Carolina Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the assessment.[5]

However, Dawson’s tenure as County Attorney has not been without some controversy.  In 2011, Dawson drew criticism for drawing an income of over $300,000 a year from the County, significantly more than other County Attorneys across the state.[6]  Dawson’s contract maintained a fixed salary of $172,500 but permitted compensation for additional legal services, which allowed for the greater income.[7] 

Overall Assessment

Salary issues aside, there is little in Dawson’s background that should attract controversy during his confirmation.  Rather, the biggest issue Dawson is facing is the depleting Senate calendar.  Nonetheless, I expect that, as Dawson has already received a hearing and the Judiciary Chairman is his home-state senator, his nomination will be one of the last confirmed before the end of the Congress.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Joseph Dawson III: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. at 17-18.

[4] See Charleston Cnty. Assessor v. Univ. Ventures, LLC, 427 S.C. 273 (2019).

[5] Id. 

[6] Bill Sharpe, Charleston County Attorney Dodges Questions About His Salary, Live 5 News, May 3, 2011,

[7] See id.

Sherri Lydon – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

The J. Waites Waring Judicial Center in Charleston, SC

Sherri Lydon has not only the distinction of being the first female U.S. Attorney to be confirmed for the District of South Carolina, but also of being the first Trump-era U.S. Attorney to be nominated for a federal judgeship.


Lydon was born Cheryl Darlene Allen on Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1962.  She received a B.A. from Clemson College in 1983 and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1987.  Upon graduation, Lydon was hired by the Columbia firm of Nexsen, Pruet, Jacobs & Pollard as an Associate.[1] 

In 1990, Lydon joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.  She left in 1993 to return to private practice.  In 2003, Lydon joined the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office as Chief for the State Grand Jury.[2]

In 2005, Lydon reopened her own law practice in Columbia, where she stayed until she was appointed as U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina in 2018.

History of the Seat

The seat Lydon has been nominated for opened on September 4, 2018, with Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum’s elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  In June 2019, Lydon was contacted by Sen. Tim Scott to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[3]  After Lydon confirmed her interest, she was recommended by Scott and Sen. Lindsay Graham to the White House.

Legal Experience

Lydon has primarily spent her career in criminal law, alternating between working as a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney.  Over the course of her career, Lydon has tried approximately fifteen cases to verdict.  

Lydon’s time as a prosecutor is obviously capped by her current position as U.S. Attorney, a position she got over the frontrunner possibly due to his more liberal position on cannabis.[4]  However, even before she became U.S. Attorney, Lydon made a name for herself as a prosecutor on Operation Lost Trust, a corruption probe.[5]  Lydon also prosecuted Earle Morris, the former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, for violations of state securities laws.[6]

As a criminal defense attorney, Lydon notably represented Lexington County Sheriff James Metts who faced criminal charges for bribery.[7]  While representing Metts, Lydon managed to negotiate a no-prison-sentence plea deal with prosecutor Jay Richardson (now on the Fourth Circuit), which was rejected by Judge Terry Wooten.[8]  Metts ultimately plead guilty and spent less than a year in jail.[9]

Overall Assessment

As an experienced prosecutor with extensive experience on the defense side as well, Lydon would be well-prepared to handle the criminal side of being a federal judge.  While senators may question the extent of her civil experience, Lydon would likely overcome that hurdle on the way to a comfortable confirmation.

[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Sherri A. Lydon: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 2.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 35.

[4] See Meg Kinnard, SC Prosecutor Contender at Odds With Feds on Medical Pot, Ass. Press State & Local, Mar. 18, 2017.

[5] See id.

[6] See Ben Werner, Former South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Sentenced to 44 Months, The State, Nov. 20, 2004.

[7] See Meg Kinnard, SC Sheriff Pleads Not Guilty to Bribery Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 1, 2014.

[8] Jeffrey Collins, Judge Rejects Ex-Lexington Sheriff’s Plea Deal, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 17, 2014.

[9] Former Sheriff Headed to Prison to Donate Political Money, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 3, 2015.

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.


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  

[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,

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

[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, (last visited Oct. 3, 2017).  

[8] See id.

[9] Id.

Donald Coggins – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

The J. Waites Waring Judicial Center in Charleston, SC

When the 114th Congress adjourned, it left 59 Obama nominees unconfirmed.  Among his first batch of District Court nominees on May 8, 2017, President Trump renominated two names from that group: David Nye, and Scott Palk.  On August 3, 2017, Trump renominated a third: Donald C. Coggins Jr.


Donald Cecil Coggins Jr. was born on July 17, 1959 in Spartanburg, SC.  Coggins attended Clemson University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1981.  He went on to the University of South Carolina School of Law, graduating in 1984.

After graduating, Coggins returned to Spartanburg, joining Cummings and Smith as an associate.  Two years later, Coggins was made partner in the firm, which was renamed Cummings, Smith and Coggins.

In 1993, Coggins became a partner in Smith and Coggins, Attorneys at Law.  After six years, Coggins founded the firm Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C. as a Shareholder.  He became the Managing Shareholder at the firm in 2010, and served in that capacity until 2013.  Coggins currently continues as a Shareholder there.

History of the Seat

Coggins has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.  This seat was opened by Judge Joseph Fletcher Anderson’s move to senior status on November 16, 2014.  Coggins’ name was first floated for this vacancy in early 2015, when news broke that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was urging the Obama Administration to nominate Coggins.[1]  Obama ultimately nominated Coggins and South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty to fill two vacancies on February 25, 2016.[2]

While Beatty did not get the support of Graham or Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Coggins did.[3]  Coggins received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 21, 2016, and was approved without objection on July 14.  However, Coggins’ nomination stalled on the floor due to the blockade on confirmations imposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Without floor action, it was returned unconfirmed on January 3, 2017.

Coggins was renominated on August 3, 2017 by President Trump, with the support of Graham and Scott.[4]

Legal Experience

Coggins has spent virtually his entire legal career in Spartanburg, practicing a primarily civil litigation practice focused on representing plaintiffs in personal injury, product liability, and professional negligence cases.  In these fields, Coggins has secured large awards for his clients.  In 2001, Coggins secured a $1.35 million verdict in a Family and Medical Leave Act case, a record at the time.[5]

In 2007, Coggins was hired by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster (now the Governor) to represent the State in an Unfair Trade Practices Act case against a pharmaceutical company.[6]  After a two week trial, Coggins helped secure a landmark $327 million award,[7] although it was reduced to $124 million by the South Carolina Supreme Court.[8]

Additionally, in 2014, Coggins helped secure the largest medical malpractice award ever obtained in Upstate South Carolina.[9]  The $2 million verdict was the result of the doctor’s failure to adequately diagnose and treat the patient’s mesenteric ischemia (a medical condition in which the small intestine fails to get sufficient blood flow).[10]

In addition to his work as a litigator, Coggins also serves as a member of the South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct.  In this capacity, Coggins has overseen formal charges of misconduct against South Carolina attorneys, including making recommendations to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Political Activity

Coggins has a history of supporting candidates of both political parties, making his own political leanings hard to discern.  On one side, Coggins’ firm is Republican-leaning, and his candidacy was championed by Graham, a Republican.[11]  Additionally, Coggins has frequently supported Graham, including donating almost $15000.[12]  Coggins has also supported other Republicans, donating $5100 to Scott, $3000 to former Governor David Beasley, and $3200 to Rep. Trey Gowdy.[13]

On the other hand, Coggins has been a strong supporter of President Obama, volunteering on his behalf in the 2008 primary, and donating almost $7500 to his campaigns.[14]  Coggins has also donated to other Democrats, including Rep. Jim Clyburn, senate candidates Inez Tenenbaum and Vic Rawl, and house candidate Preston Brittain.[15]  Coggins also donated $1000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2008.[16]

Overall Assessment

Coggins is the first Trump nominee whose legal career has primarily been as a plaintiff’s attorney.  Coggins’ experience handling complex cases with large verdicts and complicated settlements will serve him well as a federal trial judge.  Furthermore, Coggins will benefit from his bipartisan history of support.  Given his nomination by Presidents Obama and Trump, as well as his support from Republicans, including Graham and Scott, and Democrats, including Rep. Jim Clyburn, Coggins should sail through the confirmation process.

[1] John Monk, Three Candidates Emerging for Two S.C. Federal Judgeships, The Herald, Jan. 2, 2015,

[2] Press Release, White House, President Obama Nominates Two to Serve on the United States District Court (February 25, 2016) (on file at  

[3] John Monk, Beatty’s Nomination to be a SC Federal Judge is Stalled, The Herald, July 24, 2016,  

[4] Press Release, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Joint Statement from Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott on Judicial Nominations (August 4, 2017) (on file at

[5] Bellsey v. Betras Plastics, Inc. and Betras, No. 7:00-3882-13 (D.S.C. 2001) (Judge G. Ross Anderson).

[6] See Perry, et al. v. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Co., et al., No. 99-0089, Circuit Court of Jefferson County (Miss.) (Judge Pickard), Vadino, et al. v. American Home Products Corp., et al., No. MID-L-425-98, Superior Court, Middlesex County (N.J.) (Judge Corodemus).

[7] South Carolina ex rel. Wilson v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharms., Inc., No. 07-CP-42-1438, 2011 WL 2185861 (S.C. Com. Pl. June 3, 2011).

[8] State v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharms., Inc., 777 S.E.2d 176 (S.C. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 824 (2016).

[9] Easler v. Spartanburg Reg. Health Serv. Dist. Inc., No. 2011-CP-42-2840 (Spartanburg Cty. Ct. Com. Pl. 2015).

[10] See id.

[11] See Monk, supra n. 1.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.