Crime & Courts

Lydon impresses liberal senator, clears hurdle on way to SC federal judge’s post

It was short and sweet.

Clearing a hurdle on her way to a federal judge’s post in South Carolina, Sherri Lydon, U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, sailed easily through a brief U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

“There wasn’t anything that she couldn’t handle — she should be fine,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who studies how federal judges are selected.

Lydon, a 57-year-old Columbia resident nominated for a judgeship by Republican President Trump, even drew praise from liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who told Lydon she had noticed a 2018 press release from her U.S. attorney’s office in which Lydon had been quoted as stressing the importance of granting “full and equal access to polling places for all voters.”

Feinstein’s question — in which she specifically asked what role federal judges should play in assuring equal access to polls — touched on a hot button national political issue. Trump’s administration has been repeatedly criticized by Democrats as wanting to make it harder for minorities, who often cast ballots for Democrats, to vote.

Lydon answered, “The right to vote is critical to our democracy. ... As a judge I will uphold the law.”

Feinstein interrupted, “The question is what can a federal judge do?”

Lydon replied, “A federal judge can uphold the law and treat with dignity and respect all those that come before me. ... I do certainly respect and intend to uphold all voting laws.”

Her answer satisfied Feinstein, who said, “You made a very strong statement. I found it impressive.”

Lydon was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, a Charleston Republican, who praised Lydon’s performance as U.S. attorney, in which she is the “chief federal law enforcement officer” for South Carolina who throughout her career has served as a role model and mentor for men and women in the legal profession.

Lydon was asked by another senator from South Carolina, Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, why she thinks she’s a good nominee and “what’s the job all about to you?”

Lydon said she had developed “a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law” during her legal work on behalf of individuals, corporations and government. “I’ve represented those who could pay me, and those who could not.”

A formal Judiciary Committee vote to send Lydon’s name to the full Senate for confirmation won’t come for at least three weeks and perhaps even later, Tobias said.

Federal judges make about $210,000 a year. They are lifetime appointments.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

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, and that of child killer Tim Jones.