Toby Heytens – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Virginia Solicitor General Toby Heytens, nominated for the Fourth Circuit, is, in many ways, a liberal counterpart to President Trump’s most notable appellate nominees: young; impeccably credentialed; and politically active.

Background

Born on December 24, 1975, Toby Jay Heytens received a B.A. from Macalester College in 1997, where he was on the mock trial team, Seth Hattena, Mock Trial Judges College Students, Telegraph Herald, Dec. 2, 1995, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School in 2000. After graduating, Heytens clerked for Chief Judge Edward Becker on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Thirs Circuit and then for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court (his clerk year on the court included NYU Dean Trevor Morrison, SDNY Judge Jesse Furman, and 8th Cir. Judge David Stras).

After his clerkship, Heytens joined the D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers as an Associate. Heytens left to become a professor at Cornell Law School, and then, in 2006, at the University of Virginia Law School, where he stayed until 2018 (notwithstanding a three year leave of absence to work in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office). In 2018, Attorney General Mark Herring named Heytens to be Virginia’s Solicitor General, and Heytens has served in that role since.

History of the Seat

Heytens has been nominated to replace U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, who will be moving to senior status on August 31, 2021. Heytens was one of three candidates recommended by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for the vacancy on May 25, 2021. Frank Green, Senators from Virginia Recommend Three Candidates to Fill Federal Appeals Court Vacancy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 25, 2021. Heytens was announced on June 30, 2021.

Legal Experience

After his clerkships, Heytens started his career at O’Melveny & Myers, where, appointed under the Criminal Justice Act, Heytens represented Richard Wayne Simons, convicted of burglary in Maryland. See Peter Geier, New Trial Ordered for Burglary, Baltimore Daily Record, Nov. 2, 2004. Heytens was able to get the Court of Special Appeals to reverse Simons’ conviction, arguing that the prosecutor’s failure to disclose an inculpatory witness statement required suppression of the identification. See id.

While Heytens has spent most of his career since O’Melveny in academia, he did have two notable periods of litigation: from 2007 to 2010 in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office; and since 2018 as Virginia Solicitor General.

During the former period, Heytens argued six cases before the U.S. Supreme Court:

Fed. Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389 (2008) – The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) requires a plaintiff to file a “charge” with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 60 days of the discriminatory act. This case discussed whether filing an intake questionnaire within the 60 days qualifies as filing a charge even where the agency fails to file a formal “charge” within the time limit. Heytens argued as amicus that the filing of an intake questionnaire did not qualify as a charge under the law. The Supreme Court disagreed in a 7-2 ruling by Justice Anthony Kennedy and held that the plaintiffs had met the requirement to file a charge.

Flores-Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646 (2009) – The petitioner in this case was an illegal immigrant who had used a social security number belonging to another person and was convicted of two counts of aggravated identity theft. The question raised was whether the government needed to prove that the petitioner was aware that the social security number he used belonged to another person for the conviction. Heytens argued that the government did not need to prove this element but the Supreme Court held unanimously, in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, that it did.

Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323 (2009) – The question was whether a police officer could, without probable cause, frisk a suspect during a traffic stop in the middle of a conversation about a topic unrelated to the stop. Heytens argued as amicus that probable cause was not needed in that scenario. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, agreed that questions about unrelated topics during the temporary detention of a traffic stop did not transform the stop into a consensual encounter and that an officer could search an individual for weapons without probable cause.

United Student Aid Funds Inc. v. Espinosa, 559 U.S. 260 (2010) – In this case, Heytens argued as amicus in favor of a lender, arguing that the lender’s due process rights were violated when a borrower was permitted in discharging $4500 in loan debt in a bankruptcy proceeding without a showing of “undue hardship.” The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, held that the failure to find “undue hardship” was mere legal error and did not rise to a due process violation.

Maryland v. Shatzer, 559 U.S. 98 (2010) – This case involved an inmate who had been questioned in 2003 regarding allegations of sexual abuse of his child, and had invoked his Miranda rights at the time. The inmate was subsequently questioned in 2006 by a different detective who was unaware of the previous invocation. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the statements made in the 2006 confession should be suppressed due to the 2003 invocation. Heytens argued as amicus that they should not be suppressed and the Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, agreed.

Dolan v. United States, 560 U.S. 605 (2010) – The question in this case was whether the 90 day time limit to award restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act was jurisdictional, with Heytens arguing that the district court could still award restitution outside the limits. The Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 ruling by Justice Stephen Breyer.

During his time in academia, Heytens managed the University of Virginia Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and also argued one case before the U.S. Supreme Court:

City of Hays, Kansas v. Vogt, 584 U.S. ___ (2018) – Heytens represented the City of Hays, Kansas, in arguing that the Fifth Amendment rights of a former police officer were not violated when compelled statements were used during a probable cause hearing. The Supreme Court did not decide the case, instead dismissing the petition for certiorari as improvidently granted after oral argument.

As Virginia Solicitor General, Heytens serves as the Commonwealth’s top appellate lawyer and has argued three more cases before the U.S. Supreme Court:

Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, 587 U.S. ___ (2018) – In this suit, Heytens defended Virginia’s ban on uranium mining against a pre-emption challenge under the Atomic Energy Act. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the Virginia ban in a 6-3 decision, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing for a plurality of three justices in the controlling opinion.

Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 587 U.S. ___ (2019) – This case arose as a challenge to “racial gerrymandering” in the redistricting of state house districts in Virginia. After a lower court panel struck down 11 districts, the Solicitor General’s Office declined to appeal, and the Virginia House of Delegates (then controlled by Republicans) filed an appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the case in a 5-4 opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the basis that the Virginia House of Delegates lacked standing to appeal.

Mathena v. Malvo – In this case, Heytens sought to reinstate sentences of life imprisonment against D.C. sniper Lee Malvo, vacated by a lower court due to prior Supreme Court precedent regarding life in prison for minors. After argument, the Supreme Court dismissed the case without decision due to an intervening change in law in Virginia.

In addition to his work before the U.S. Supreme Court, Heytens has defended Virginia’s coronavirus restrictions against legal challenges. See, e.g., Denise Lavoie, Virginia Defends Coronavirus Restrictions in Church Lawsuit, A.P. Int’l, May 7, 2020. In other notable matters, Heytens successfully argued before the Virginia Supreme Court that the risk of violence justified a weapons bar on a gun rights rally, see Denise Lavoie, Virginia’s Highest Court Upholds Weapons Ban at Gun Rally, A.P., Jan. 17, 2020, and defended the legality of removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Richmond. See Adam Klasfeld, ‘A Matter of Racial Equality’: Virginia’s Solicitor General Urges Top Court to Affirm Ruling Allowing Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue, Newstex Blogs, June 8, 2021.

Writings

Having been an academic for most of his career, Heytens has written a number of articles discussing developments in the law. Some of his writing is summarized below:

The Constitutionality of Blaine Amendments

As a law student in 2000, Heytens argued in a note that Blaine Amendments, amendments in state constitutions that bar public money from being spent to benefit religious institutions, are constitutionally suspect under the Equal Protection Clause as they discriminate based on religion. See Toby J. Heytens, School Choice and State Constitutions, 86 Va. L. Rev. 117, 140 (February 2000). Heytens details the anti-Catholic animus underlying many of the amendments and suggests that any effort by states to restrict public money in a voucher program from going to religious schools would likely run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause. See id. at 153-54.

“Transitional Moments”

Heytens has been particularly active in writing about the issues and problems that arise in applying changes in the law. In 2006, Heytens wrote on the application of changes in criminal law and precedent on cases that are pending during the “transition.” Toby J. Heytens, Managing Transitional Moments in Criminal Cases, 115 Yale L.J. 922 (March 2006). Heytens criticizes traditional views of “forfeiture” in the criminal context as unduly restrictive, arguing that we shouldn’t penalize criminal defendants from making legal arguments that were not viable at the time that the defendant was initially convicted. See id. at 942-43. In 2012, Heytens further discussed retroactivity in the law and potential remedies when the law changes. Toby J. Heytens, The Framework(s) of Legal Change, 97 Cornell L. Rev. 595 (March 2012).

Reassignment on Remand

In 2014, Heytens authored an article discussing the rare practice of appellate courts reassigning decisions to different district court judges after reversing the original opinions. Toby J. Heytens, Reassignment, 66 Stan. L. Rev. 1 (Jan. 2014). Heytens suggests that the practice be more clearly delineated through local rules that are broadly applicable to reassignment decisions rather than having the decisions be made on a case-by-case basis. See id. at 54.

Political Activity

Heytens has an extensive record of political contributions, almost exclusively to Democrats. Recipients of Heytens’ contributions included the Presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, as well as Gov. Ralph Northam, A.G. Mark Herring, and Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Overall Assessment

With excellent academic credentials, and a record of strong appellate advocacy, Heytens can be deemed well-qualified for a seat on the Fourth Circuit. Nonetheless, he may draw opposition based on his academic writings, as well as his litigation history (including his defense of the Lee statue removal and the firearms ban) and his political contributions.

However, barring any unexpected developments, Heytens will likely be confirmed in due course. On the bench, Heytens is expected to pad up the Fourth Circuit’s aging center-left majority.

Allison Rushing – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

At just 36 years old, Allison Jones Rushing is the youngest nominee Trump has put forward so far to an appellate seat.  While Rushing has a stellar resume, her youth will likely raise concerns in the confirmation process.

Background

Rushing was born Allison Blair Jones in Hendersonville, North Carolina in 1982.  She received a B.A. summa cum laude from Wake Forest University in 2002 and a J.D. magna cum laude from the Duke University School of Law in 2007.  As a law student, Rushing worked as a summer intern at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) (now Alliance Defending Freedom).[1]  ADF has drawn controversy for its advocacy involving “religious freedom” and has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[2]

After graduating, Rushing clerked for then-Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Tenth Circuit, Judge David Sentelle on the D.C. Circuit, and for Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court, with a short stint as an Associate at Williams & Connolly in between.[3]

After her clerkships, Rushing rejoined the D.C. office of Williams & Connolly as an Associate.  In 2016, Rushing became a Partner at the firm, where she continues to serve.

History of the Seat

Rushing has been nominated to replace U.S. Circuit Judge Allyson Kay Duncan, who has indicated her intention to move to senior status upon the confirmation of her successor.  In June 2018, shortly after Duncan announced her departure, Rushing was contacted by the White House to gauge her interest in an appointment to the Fourth Circuit.[4]  After an interview, Rushing was informed by the White House that she would be nominated.[5]  Rushing was officially nominated on August 27, 2018.

Legal Experience

Other than her clerkships, Rushing has spent her legal career at the firm of Williams & Connolly, specifically focusing on appellate and commercial litigation.  Over the course of her career, Rushing has handled four trials in federal district court as well as over 47 briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court.[6]  In her litigation work, she has frequently collaborated with Williams & Connolly partner Kannon Shanmugam, himself a famous conservative attorney.

Among her more prominent clients, Rushing has represented the Bank of America corporation,[7] KPMG,[8] Ernst & Young,[9] and Eli Lilly.[10]  Rushing also represented Jesse Litvak, a bond trader convicted of securities fraud based on statements he had made during negotiations, on appeal, successfully reversing the convictions on the basis that Litvak’s misstatements were immaterial.[11]  Rushing also represented the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus as amicus in a case involving New York City’s policy of preventing worship services in schools.[12]

Writings

As a law student, Rushing authored an article discussing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which bars lower federal courts from reviewing state court judgments.[13]  In the paper, Rushing outlines the doctrine, as well as changes to its contours in later decisions such as Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., which clarified that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not bar “parallel suits.”[14]

Political Activity & Membersips

Rushing has been a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies since 2012.[15]  Rushing also served as a legal advisor in the Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign, to which she also donated $500.[16]

On the flip side, Rushing campaigned for Democratic Maryland Delegate Sam Arora, a former aide to Senator Hillary Clinton.[17]

Overall Assessment

With her hearing today, Rushing is on track to be the  youngest appellate judge confirmed since Alex Kozinski was appointed in 1985.  As such, it is likely that much of the debate around Rushing will revolve around her qualifications and experience.

While Rushing falls narrowly short of the American Bar Association’s twelve years of practice requirement, she was nonetheless rated “Qualified” by the group.[18]  This is likely a testament to Rushing’s substantial litigation experience, including extensive practice in the courts of appeals.

However, this does not mean that no questions can be raised about Rushing’s background.  Specifically, North Carolina lawyers might question Rushing’s connection with the court and the state that she will be serving.  While Rushing is a native North Carolinian, she has not practiced law in the state since law school, is not a member of the North Carolina bar, and, according to her firm biography, is not admitted to practice in the Fourth Circuit, the court to which she has been appointed.[19]

Given these factors and her relative youth, many will argue that there are many more qualified and experienced candidates for this vacancy.  However, the ultimate question around Rushing, as around any other nominee, is not whether she is the “most qualified” candidate, but rather, whether she meets the requisite levels of qualifications to be an appellate judge.  As Rushing’s intellect and legal ability are unquestioned, how senators vote will ultimately depend on which factors they consider in answering that question.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Congress, Allison Jones Rushing: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 2.

[2] See Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/alliance-defending-freedom (last visited Oct. 17, 2018).

[3] See Rushing, supra n. 1 at 2.

[4] Id. at 28.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 13-14.

[7] See United States ex rel. O’Donnell v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 83 F. Supp. 3d 528 (S.D.N.Y. 2015).

[8] See Certain Funds, Accounts and/or Inv. Vehicles v. KPMG, LLP, 798 F.3d 113 (2d Cir. 2015).

[9] Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S. Ct. 1612 (2018).

[10] See Eli Lilly & Co. v. Teva Parenteral Medicines, Inc., 845 F.3d 1357 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

[11] See United States v. Litvak, 889 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2018) and 808 F.3d 160 (2d Cir. 2015).

[12] The Bronx Household of Faith et al. v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of New York, 750 F.3d 184 (2d Cir. 2014).

[13] Allison B. Jones, The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine: What Does It Mean to be Inextricably Intertwined, 56 Duke L.J. 643 (Nov. 2006).

[14] Id. at 658-59.

[15] See Rushing, supra n. 1 at 5.

[17] See Rushing, supra n. 1 at 10.

[18] See American Bar Association, Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/uncategorized/GAO/Web%20rating%20Chart%20Trump%20115.pdf (last visited Oct. 17, 2018).

[19] See Williams & Connolly, Allison Rushing, https://www.wc.com/Attorneys/Allison-Jones-Rushing (last visited Oct. 17, 2018).

Jay Richardson – Nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist murdered nine African Americans during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.  During Roof’s subsequent capital trial, the lead federal prosecutor was a well-connected South Carolinian named Jay Richardson.  On April 26, 2018, approximately sixteen months after Roof received the death penalty, Richardson was tapped by President Donald Trump for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Background

A native South Carolinian from a well-connected family with a history in the Palmetto State, Julius Ness Richardson was born on October 26, 1976 in Columbia.  He received a B.S. from Vanderbilt University in 1999 and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2003.  After graduating, Richardson worked for the prolific Judge Richard Posner on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and then for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court (clerking alongside fellow judicial nominee Martha Pacold and Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall).[1]

After his clerkship, Richardson joined the D.C. office of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel as an Associate.  In 2009, Richardson moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, where he continues to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney.[2]

History of the Seat

Richardson has been nominated to replace U.S. Circuit Judge Dennis Shedd, who moved to senior status on January 30, 2018.  In June 2017, a few months before Shedd would announce his departure, Richardson was contacted by the White House to gauge his interest in an appointment to the Fourth Circuit.[3]  Richardson was nominated on May 7, 2018, after interviews with the White House and South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.[4]

Legal Experience

Richardson has held two main legal positions after finishing his clerkships: working as an associate at Kellogg Huber; and working as a federal prosecutor.  In the former position, Richardson focused primary on commercial litigation.  Among the matters he handled at Kellogg Huber, Richardson represented Standard Iron Works, a steel purchaser, in a Sherman Act antitrust action against a series of defendant iron producers, alleging coordinated supply cuts.[5]

As a federal prosecutor, Richardson’s most famous case was the prosecution of Dylann Roof, the aforementioned white supremacist who had murdered nine churchgoers in Charleston.[6]  In the case, Richardson handled all pre-trial matters, as well as the trial and the sentencing phase, successfully leading to the imposition of the death penalty against Roof.[7]  Richardson also successfully defended a challenge based on the constitutionality of the death penalty brought by Roof’s attorneys.[8]

In other cases he handled as a federal prosecutor, Richardson prosecuted MS-13 gang members in a murder-for-hire case,[9] and the longest-serving sheriff in South Carolina for bribery.[10]

Writings

In 2002, as a student at the University of Chicago Law School, Richardson authored an article discussing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2).[11]  Rule 4(k)(2) allows federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over defendants who would otherwise not fall under the jurisdiction of any state jurisdiction.  Richardson notes that courts vary in interpreting which party has the burden of production to determine that a defendant falls under the purview of 4(k)(2), with at least one court (the Seventh Circuit) placing the burden on the Defendant.[12]

In his paper, Richardson advocates a burden-shifting mechanism, in which plaintiffs bear an initial burden to present a prima facie case that a defendant falls under the purview of 4(k)(2), at which point the burden shifts to the defendant to demonstrate that a state jurisdiction can exercise jurisdiction over themselves.[13]  Richardson notes that this burden-shifting “minimizes the costs of dispute resolution.”[14]

Memberships

Richardson has been a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies since 2017 (approximately the time that he has been under consideration for a federal judgeship).[15]  Richardson has also been a member of the Palmetto Club and the Forest Lake Club, two private clubs that previously restricted African Americans from membership (the Forest Lake Club admitted its first African American member in 2017).[16]

Overall Assessment

Given his fame as the prosecutor who successfully convicted Dylann Roof, Richardson is not an easy nominee for senators to oppose (the attack ads write themselves).  Nevertheless, even setting the Roof case aside, it is hard to deny that Richardson is qualified for a seat on the federal bench.

First, Richardson has impeccable academic credentials, including having clerked for two of the most influential judges in the country.  Second, Richardson boasts complex litigation experience on both the civil and criminal side.  Additionally, Richardson’s relative reticence on public policy issues and his relative lack of controversy also favor his confirmation.  Furthermore, while Richardson is a member of the Federalist Society, his membership is relatively recent and has not been accompanied by any extensive speaking or political activity.

Overall, barring any unexpected developments, Richardson will likely be confirmed in due course.  On the bench, Richardson looks likely to chart a conservative course, but may, like Posner before him, surprise.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Congress, Julius Ness Richardson: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 2.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 30.

[4] Id.

[5] Standard Iron Works v. Arcelormittal et al., 639 F. Supp. 2d 877 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (denying Defendant steel producers’ motion to dismiss).

[6] See Matt Zapotosky, Roof’s Journal of Racist Rants Revealed on Emotional Day, Wash. Post, Jan. 6, 2017.

[7] Alan Blinder and Kevin Sack, Dylann Roof is Sentenced to Death in Charleston Church Massacre, N.Y. Times, Jan. 10, 2017.

[8] United States v. Roof, 225 F. Supp. 3d 413 (D.S.C. 2016).

[9] United States v. Teran, 496 Fed. App’x. 287 (4th Cir. 2012).

[10] Chris Dixon, Judge Rejects Plea Deal for South Carolina Sheriff, N.Y. Times, Dec. 18, 2014.

[11] Julius Ness Richardson, Shifting the Burden of Production Under Rule 4(k)(2): A Cost-Minimizing Approach, 69 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1427 (Summer 2002).

[12] Id. at 1431

[13] See id. at 1437-39.

[14] Id. at 1441.

[15] See Richardson, supra n. 1 at 5.

[16] Id. at 5-6.

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.