Crime & Courts

Surprise! No obstruction! US Senate agrees on something – SC’s newest federal judge

Donald Coggins
Donald Coggins Official photo

Spartanburg attorney Donald Coggins has been confirmed as South Carolina’s newest federal judge by a 96-0 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Although President Donald Trump is known for scorning just about everything associated with his predecessor, President Barack Obama, Trump formally nominated Coggins – whom Obama had first nominated – in August. Coggins is strongly supported by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, who has an on-again, off-again good relationship with Trump.

Coggins, 58, was nominated in 2016 by 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 all of Obama’s nominees to the bench, said University of Richmond Law School professor Carl Tobias, who tracks federal judicial nominations.

Tobias said Friday that the Senate’s easy confirmation this week of Coggins, whom Tobias deemed very qualified, shows how “asinine” the extreme partisanship in the U.S. Congress is.

“The delay doesn’t do anything except hurt the people of South Carolina,” Tobias said. “Now, it’s a year later. Thank God he (Coggins) hung on. It’s just pure obstruction from the Republicans.”

As a federal judge, Coggins will earn $205,100 a year, have at least two law clerks and 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 for that position.

A state’s two U.S. senators have to agree on a federal judge nominee for the nominee to be confirmed.

Federal judges handle 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.