Crime & Courts

Obama & Trump both like him – SC lawyer Coggins nearing $205,100 federal judge’s job

Donald Coggins
Donald Coggins Official photo

Spartanburg lawyer Donald Coggins has cleared a major hurdle to be a federal judge in South Carolina, and his nomination now awaits a vote by the full U.S. Senate.

“As soon as a vote is scheduled on the Senate floor, he’ll be confirmed,” said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor who follows federal judicial selection issues.

Coggins, a trial lawyer who is 58, was nominated in 2016 by President Obama and was approved that year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But that nomination was never voted on because the Senate Republican majority had mounted a broad effort to block Obama’s nominees to the bench, Tobias said.

After President Trump nominated Coggins on Aug. 3, Coggins’ nomination was quickly approved this week by the Judiciary Committee. Coggins didn’t need to undergo another hearing because the Judiciary Committee already had held a hearing and approved him.

If confirmed for the prestigious $205,100-a-year job, Coggins will be one of nine full-time federal district judges in South Carolina. The state has another open federal judge’s slot, and Trump has nominated lawyer Marvin Quattlebaum of Greenville. Quattlebaum has not had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Coggins, a trial lawyer, is a consensus candidate backed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the state’s senior senator, Tobias said. Senior senators play a major role in suggesting whom presidents nominate.

A federal district judge handles a range of cases, everything from violations of federal drug and gun laws to historical constitutional issues such as gay marriage. In 2014, two S.C. federal judges – Michelle Childs and Richard Gergel – struck down South Carolina’s anti-gay rights laws when they ruled that same-sex marriages are legal.