On May 7, 2018, President Trump nominated Julius “Jay” Ness Richardson to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seat previously held by Judge Dennis W. Shedd. Richardson is a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He is currently 41 years old.
The Senate, consistent with its constitutional responsibilities, should carefully examine Richardson’s record before confirming him to a lifetime seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since 2009, Richardson has served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina.1 After clerking for Judge Richard Posner on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court, Richardson worked as an associate at Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick PLLC. He received his
J.D. in 2003 from the University of Chicago Law School and his B.S. from Vanderbilt University in 1999.
Like many of the Trump Administration’s judicial nominees, Richardson is a member of The Federalist Society, an outside group to which Trump has delegated important aspects of the judicial nomination process. Richardson joined last year.
Richardson is currently a member of two private clubs with a history of discrimination, the Forest Lake Club and the Palmetto Club.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
During Richardson’s tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, he has worked on narcotics, violent crime, white collar crime, national security, public corruption, and civil rights cases.
His cases included prosecuting MS-13 members in a 2011 murder-for-hire case and members of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club in a 2013 Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) case. Richardson also worked on a 2016 case in which a farm employing undocumented immigrants was required to pay a $1 million fine and undergo four years of intensive supervision.
In 2015, Richardson helped prosecute a South Carolina sheriff who took bribes from friends in order to release their undocumented employees from the county jail. Richardson stated publicly, “Instead of respecting the law, they were willing to do favors for people who are connected, but not those who are not connected. We certainly don’t think that’s a system that promotes respect for the law.”
Following the tragic June 2015 shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Richardson was part of the team of prosecutors and investigators who brought federal hate crime charges.
During a September 2010 public appearance in his personal capacity, Richardson participated in a conversation about charging decisions, prosecutorial discretion, and mandatory minimums. Richardson spoke to concerns about law enforcement and the use of force.
In a 2017 commencement address, Richardson described Chief Justice Rehnquist as “a hero of mine.” During the process that led to the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, Richardson signed a letter supporting Alito’s nomination that stated:
Judge Alito has a well-deserved reputation as an outstanding jurist. He is, in every sense of the term, a “judge’s judge.” His opinions are fair, thoughtful and rigorous. Those of us who have appeared before Judge Alito appreciate his preparation for argument, his temperament on the bench and the quality and incisiveness of the questions he asks. Those of us who have worked with Judge Alito respect his legal skills, his integrity and his modesty. In short, Judge Alito has the attributes that we believe are essential to being an outstanding Supreme Court justice and therefore should be confirmed.
In 2006, Richardson signed a letter in support of a highly controversial nominee to the Fifth Circuit, Michael Wallace. Wallace had previously argued for getting rid of the Legal Services Corporation and was fiercely opposed by civil rights groups and African-American lawyers in Mississippi. Wallace earned the extremely rare distinction of being rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association based on his temperament. While Richardson supported Wallace’s nomination, the nomination was ultimately withdrawn.
In a September 2010 appearance where Richardson was speaking in his personal capacity, he described his views on the Supreme Court and constitutional analysis as follows:
One of the great inventions, really of the last 20 years at the Supreme Court has been that when they talk about the Constitution, unlike what they did before then, they now actually look at what the Constitution itself says.
Later on in that speech, Richardson provides insight into his views on the standards of review that courts use to assess whether government actions pass constitutional muster. While he made his remarks through the lens of a firearms case in the Seventh Circuit, his comments raise questions about his thinking on important legal standards:
And again, analogizing back to the First Amendment just like Justice Scalia had done, he looked at— there’s really three choices in the First Amendment context—there’s rational basis, there’s strict scrutiny, and then there’s intermediate scrutiny. I don’t think anybody really knows what those mean. I mean, I don’t think the Supreme Court does, and I certainly don’t. And I imagine most of us sort of don’t have a full understanding of what the difference [sic] between them are. . . So then the court is left with the question, Judge Easterbrook is left with the question, is it intermediate scrutiny or strict scrutiny? Again, I’ll sort of sidetrack here to talk a little bit about those. In the end, I don’t think it matters one bit. I think the analysis is the same, and I don’t think it impacts any regulation. I think the court is going to get where it wants to get whether it’s strict scrutiny or intermediate scrutiny. (emphases added)
In a 2005 press interview, Richardson “said he has no plans to put on the robe.” Following the election of Donald Trump, and before any announced vacancies in the Fourth Circuit, Richardson notes in his Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire, that his selection process began as follows: “In informal discussions with friends in the Spring of 2017, I indicated that I would be interested in being considered should a vacancy occur on the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.” Richardson interviewed with the Trump Administration in June 2017, and it was later announced that Judge Shedd, to whose seat Richardson is nominated, would take senior status on January 30, 2018.
When discussing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun safety in his September 2010 appearance, Richardson stated, “The Senate is holding a hearing, and they hold all these hearings and I’m not sure they mean a whole lot, but they’re holding a hearing addressing what we need to be doing about firearm regulation going forward.
In September 2010, Richardson lectured and participated in a panel discussion during a “Gun Rights and Laws CLE” on the “Second Amendment After Heller and McDonald.” Richardson made clear that he was speaking in his personal capacity – and not on behalf of the