Crime & Courts

Trump nominates US Attorney Sherri Lydon to be SC federal judge

Local and federal law enforcement officials develop strategies to stop violence in north Columbia

U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon, Police Chief Skip Holbrook, and Sheriff Leon Lott speak to a north Columbia community to reduce violence and other crimes.
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U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon, Police Chief Skip Holbrook, and Sheriff Leon Lott speak to a north Columbia community to reduce violence and other crimes.

President Donald Trump has nominated Sherri Lydon, current U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, to be the state’s newest federal judge.

Lydon, 57, has been South Carolina’s chief federal prosecutor since May 2018.

Lydon was one of five judicial nominations announced by the White House after 6 p.m. Thursday.

In her current post, Lydon has overseen the work of dozens of federal prosecutors who handle criminal cases concerning white collar crime, public corruption, fraud and major gun and drug crimes as well. Her office also handles federal civil matters such as defending medical malpractice lawsuits brought against the Veterans Administration.

The State reported in July that Lydon was being considered for a prestigious federal judgeship.

In the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lydon oversees some 140 employees at the headquarters Columbia office, along with satellite offices in Charleston, Greenville and Florence. Her 55 prosecutors handle crimes worked on by the FBI, IRS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies.

Lydon’s office has been involved in the ongoing state and federal investigation into the collapse of the $9 billion V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion project in Fairfield County. Earlier this year, her office successfully prosecuted former 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, who was sentenced to a year in federal prison for stealing public money.

Lydon’s tenure, although relatively brief, has been marked by the hiring of some dozen new lawyers and outreaches and partnerships with state and local law enforcement around the state.

Trump’s judicial nominations go the U.S. Senate and are referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican.

The Senate must vote to approve Lydon’s nomination after she secures approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

To be nominated to a federal judgeship, a nominee must have been pre-cleared by federal investigations and usually have the backing of state’s two U.S. senators.

Lydon had intended to sit in on an upcoming federal death penalty trial but her nomination will likely end those plans.

Lydon is a graduate of Clemson University and the University of South Carolina School of Law.

She has law-and-order credentials, having been chief prosecutor of the State Grand Jury in the Attorney General’s Office, as well as U.S. attorney. But she has also been a criminal defense attorney, representing at least one killer, corrupt politicians and people who commit fraud.

Federal district judges make some $210,00 a year and can hire several law clerks, usually recent law school graduates, each year.

Graham released a statement praising Lydon as “a highly respected lawyer who has done a terrific job as our U.S. Attorney. She is well prepared to be a federal district court judge and I look forward to moving this highly qualified nominee forward.”

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond Law School professor who tracks federal judgeships, said that Lydon’s credentials and the backing of Graham should give Lydon “a pretty easy path. There aren’t that many people ahead of her now.”

Still, Tobias said, the judicial process takes time and it could be some months before Lydon formally becomes a judge.

“But with Graham’s help, he might even get her through this year,” Tobias said.

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John Monk has covered courts, crime, politics, public corruption, the environment and other issues in the Carolinas for more than 40 years. A U.S. Army veteran who covered the 1989 American invasion of Panama, Monk is a former Washington correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. He has covered numerous death penalty trials, including that of the Charleston church killer, Dylann Roof.
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