The lead prosecutor in the trial of the accused Emanuel AME Church shooter was confirmed for a seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
Julius "Jay" Richardson, deputy criminal chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Columbia, earned plaudits as the lead prosecutor in the Dylann Roof trial, where he successfully argued that Roof should receive the death penalty for murdering nine worshipers at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church in 2015.
Another South Carolinian was also confirmed to the same court Thursday, federal Judge Marvin Quattlebaum of Greenville.
A Barnwell native, Richardson clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner.
His nomination received support from both Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina, with state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, describing him as "an excellent choice."
In a Senate floor speech Thursday before the confirmation votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called both of the South Carolinians "well-qualified" and "impressive" nominees.
McConnell cited a letter the Judiciary Committee received from Jennifer Pinckney, widow of the late state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Emanuel AME shooting, supporting Richardson's nomination and saying he "will make a fine jurist."
Quattlebaum has swiftly risen through the judicial ranks during the Trump administration. He earned a spot on the U.S. District Court of South Carolina just a few months ago.
That confirmation came despite opposition from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who argued that a white man should not replace African-American nominees put forward during Barack Obama's administration — a contention that drew scathing rebukes from South Carolina Republicans.
“I’ve known Chuck Schumer for years," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at the time. "He is not a racist, but this was an absolutely shameful reason to vote against a very qualified nominee like Marvin Quattlebaum."
On Thursday, Graham described Quattlebaum as "a very sound conservative judge who is incredibly fair-minded," and Richardson as "one of the great legal minds of our time."
The Senate voted 62-28 to confirm Quattlebaum and 81-8 to confirm Richardson.
While the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has garnered much of the headlines, President Donald Trump has left a significant imprint on the consequential appellate courts in the year and a half since he took office.
Quattlebaum and Richardson became the 25th and 26th appeals judges confirmed during the Trump administration respectively — more than any president's first two years in office.