WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed U.S. District Judge Henry F. Floyd to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, promoting the South Carolinian to the five-state appellate bench.
The Senate’s 96-0 vote for Floyd, a University of South Carolina Law School graduate who lives in Pickens, was a rare bipartisan display of support for a judicial nominee of President Barack Obama.
“This is a happy day,” Floyd told McClatchy after the vote. “I look forward to the challenge. It took a long time, but it turned out well. I’ve been working toward this date for a long time.”
Floyd, 63, thanked Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, both Republicans, along with Rep. Jim Clyburn and former Rep. John Spratt, both Democrats, for recommending his advancement to Obama.
Graham and DeMint both voted to confirm Floyd to the Fourth Circuit. All 45 other GOP senators also backed him, along with 52 Democrats. Four senators didn’t vote.
“Judge Floyd is an outstanding district court judge who brings great intellect and good ole common sense to the federal bench,” Graham said. “He has the judicial background that will make him a great addition to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said Floyd enjoys an excellent reputation among his peers.
“He’s a highly regarded judge,” Tobias said. “He’s made some difficult decisions that appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.”
Among Floyd’s high-profile cases after President George W. Bush named him as a federal district judge was his 2005 ruling that granted habeas rights to alleged terrorist Jose Padilla.
The U.S. Supreme Court had directed a federal judge in South Carolina to decide the case because Padilla, a Brooklyn, New York, native who converted to Islam, had been held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston.
Floyd’s elevation gives South Carolina three members of the Fourth Circuit as he joins William Traxler, its chief judge, and Dennis Shedd.
Traxler and Floyd were law school classmates at USC, while Floyd and Shedd are both Wofford college graduates.
Floyd, a native of Brevard, N.C., becomes the fifth Obama nominee to join the Fourth Circuit, joining Judge James Wynn of Raleigh, Judge Albert Diaz of Charlotte, Barbara Keenan of Virginia and Andrew Davis of Maryland.
The Fourth Circuit now has 14 full-time judges, the most it’s had since Congress expanded it to 15 seats in 1990.
Clyde Hamilton of Columbia, also a Wofford College graduate, is one of three senior judges, a semi-retired status that enables him to hear a reduced number of cases.
Stephanie Thacker, a Charleston, W. Va., attorney, was scheduled to have a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Tuesday for West Virginia’s sole seat on the Fourth Circuit. Obama nominated her last month.