Judge Barbara Jongbloed – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

Barbara Jongbloed, a judge for Connecticut’s Superior Court since 2000, has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.  While Jongbloed is a registered Democrat, this is her second nomination by a Republican executive, having been tapped for state court by Gov. John Rowland.

Background

Jongbloed was born in Washington D.C. in 1959.  She earned her B.A. from Lawrence University in 1981 and her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1984.  After graduating law school, she clerked for U.S. District Judge T. Gilroy Daly, before joining Day Berry & Howard in Stamford, Connecticut.  In 1987, Jongbloed moved to the public sector as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, staying in the office for thirteen years, the last two as criminal chief.  In 2000, Jongbloed was nominated by Rowland to become a Superior Court Judge in New London, where she currently serves.

History of the Seat

Jongbloed was nominated to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on October 15, 2019.  The vacancy opened on August 31, 2018, with Judge Alvin Thompson’s move to senior status.

In August 2018, Jongbloed applied for the judgeship with Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats.  They recommended Jongbloed to the White House in March 2019.  

Legal Career

Jongbloed’s primary experience before becoming a judge was as a federal prosecutor.  Over the thirteen years she was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Jongbloed tried 14 cases to verdict.  Jongbloed was co-counsel with fellow Connecticut federal judge Kari Dooley in the prosecution of Stewart Leonard, who was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison for embezzlement.[1]  She also prosecuted Greenwich Acupuncture Center and its owners for various forms of fraud.[2] 

Jurisprudence

Jongbloed has served as a Judge on the Connecticut Superior Court since 2000, when she was appointed by Republican Gov. John Rowland.  In the past 19 years, Jongbloed has presided over approximately 105 cases that have proceeded to verdict and judgment.  Among these, Jongbloed has not hesitated to issue long sentences in criminal cases where she deems it appropriate.  For example, she sentenced Dante Hughes, who shot a good samaritan who was attempting to intervene in a domestic dispute, to 50 years in prison.[3]  Similarly, she sentenced George Leinart to the mandatory sentence of life for capital felony for the death of a 15 year old girl,[4] and sentenced Mozzelle Brown to 56 years in prison for the murder of physicist Eugene Mallove.[5]  In fact, the two cases in which Jongbloed was reversed over her tenure as a judge, both involve rulings in favor of the prosecution which were overruled by the Connecticut Supreme Court.[6]

Overall Assessment

Jongbloed’s status as a Democrat nominated by Trump will likely be enough to satisfy partisans on either side to let her move through without a fight.  Nonetheless, setting aside party affiliation, Jongbloed has extensive experience both as an attorney and as a state court judge, which should quell concerns about her jurisprudence.


[1] See United States v. Stewart J. Leonard Sr., et al., 37 F.3d 32 (2d Cir. 1994).

[2] United States v. Greenwich Acupuncture Cntr., et al., No. 5:91CR00040 WE (D. Conn. 1991).

[3] State v. Dante Hughes: KNL-CR16-335957.

[4] Karen Florin, A ‘True Predator’ Removed From Society: Judge Sentences Leniart to Life in Cold-Case Murder, The Day, June 23, 2010.

[5] Karen Florin, Mozzelle Brown Sentenced to 58 Years For Mallove Murder, The Day, Jan. 6, 2015.

[6] Compare State v. Jean Jacques, 332 Conn. 271 (2019) and State v. Chihan Eric Chyung, 325 Conn. 236 (2017).

Patrick Bumatay – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Patrick Bumatay was originally nominated last year, amidst much self-congratulatory fanfare, for the Ninth Circuit, with many noting that Bumatay, if confirmed, would be the first openly LGBT circuit judge on the territorial courts of appeals.  However, the opposition of California’s Democratic Senators downgraded Bumatay’s nomination to the district court level.  However, with his nomination still stalled, the White House has tapped Bumatay again for the Ninth Circuit.

Background

Patrick Joseph Bumatay was born on February 14, 1978.  As a college student, Bumatay interned for the consulting company run by Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (now Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President).  Bumatay attended Yale University and then Harvard Law School.  He then clerked for Judge Sandra Townes on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and for Judge Timothy Tymkovich on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

After his clerkships, Bumatay joined Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason Anello & Bohrer P.C. in New York.  In 2012, Bumatay moved to San Diego to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, where he still works.  However, since 2017, Bumatay has been on detail with the Department of Justice, working in the Attorney General’s office.

History of the Seat

Bumatay has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to fill a seat being vacated by Judge Carlos Bea.  Bumatay was previously nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated by Judge Alex Kozinski on October 10, 2018.  However, due to the opposition of California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, Bumatay was renominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to a seat vacated on September 30, 2016, by Judge Marilyn Huff’s move to senior status.  Instead, President Trump nominated Dan Bress, a D.C. based attorney, to the Kozinski seat (Bress was subsequently confirmed).  However, Bumatay’s nomination to the District Court didn’t move either, potentially because of blue slip issues.  Instead, he was once again tapped for the Ninth Circuit.

Legal Experience

Bumatay has spent his career in two primary positions, at the firm of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason Anello & Bohrer P.C. and at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California.  In the former position, Bumatay worked on both regulatory and litigation matters, including representing the asset management firm GAMCO in defending against a suit filed by account holders who lost money through GAMCO’s investment in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.[1] 

As a federal prosecutor, Bumatay tried eight criminal cases to verdict, focusing largely on drug and immigration cases.  For example, Bumatay tried a number of defendants for the maritime drug trafficking of cocaine.[2]  Bumatay also prosecuted Nicholas Zakov for smuggling Mexican citizens into the United States in his trunk (both citizens unfortunately passed away during the journey).[3]

Since 2017, Bumatay has been on detail at the Department of Justice, where he has overseen criminal and civil policy in the Attorney General’s and Deputy Attorney General’s Offices.

Political Activity

While in college, Bumatay was a member of Yale’s Conservative Party.[4]  Notably, Bumatay, as a college student, was sharply critical of affirmative action, mocking proponents by stating:

“…all men are created equal — unless they are Asian or white.”[5]

Later, Bumatay became co-president of the Yale College Republicans, and supported Republican candidates in New Hampshire.[6]  He also defended President Bush’s grades in college, stating:

“Grades that he got from 25 years ago will not reflect how well he can lead the country.”[7]

Bumatay has also donated to the campaigns of Bush in 2003 and Romney in 2011 and 2012.[8]

Overall Assessment

The White House and California’s Democratic Senators have already had some public clashes over the three California Ninth Circuit nominees confirmed so far.  They are similarly clashing over Bumatay.  Nevertheless, at a time when partisanship on judicial nominees has reached an all-time high, it may be sufficient for Republican senators that Bumatay is a Republican nominated by Trump, which should lead to his confirmation.


[1] See Rioseco v. Gamco Asset Mgmt., Inc., No. 15862/10 (N.Y. Super. Ct., Westchester Cty., Comm. Div. Sept. 23, 2011).

[2] See United States v. Valdez-Medina, 15CR0336-JAH (S.D. Cal. Nov. 22, 2016); United States v. Cedeno-Cedeno, 14CR3305-L (S.D. Cal. Aug. 23-30, 2016).

[3] United States v. Zakov, 14CR2363-AJB (S.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2015).

[4] Hyorim Suh, Yale Profs Debate Affirmative Action With Harvard Teachers, Yale Daily News, Oct. 12, 1999.

[5] See id.

[6] Perry Bacon, Yale Students Hit the Campaign Trail in New Hampshire, Yale Daily News, Oct. 25, 1999.

[7] Brigitte Greenberg, Magazine Publishes Bush’s Alleged Grades, Associated Press, Nov. 10, 1999.

Justice Barbara Lagoa – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Barbara Lagoa, a Justice on the Florida Supreme Court, would be Trump’s first nonwhite nominee to the Eleventh Circuit, and would flip the court to being evenly divided between the genders, a rare case of gender progress on the bench in the last few years.

Background

Barbara Lagoa was born in Miami in 1967.  After getting a B.A. with honors from Florida International University, Lagoa joined Columbia University Law School, graduating in 1992.  After graduating, Lagoa worked in private practice in Miami, moving between the firms of Morgan Lewis & Brockius LLP, Schulte Blum McMahon Joblove & Haft, Cohen Berke Bernstein Brodie & Kondell, P.A., and Greenberg Traurig.

In 2003, Lagoa became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  In 2006, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Florida.  In 2019, she was elevated by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court.

History of the Seat

Lagoa was tapped for a Florida seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  The seat was vacated by Judge Stanley Marcus.  Notably, Lagoa was nominated only months after she joined the Florida Supreme Court.

Legal Experience

Before she became a judge, Lagoa gained experience in both civil and criminal law, working in private practice and with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  However, perhaps the most prominent case that Lagoa handled was her representation of Lazaro Gonzalez, the Miami-based great uncle of Elian Gonzalez.[1]  Gonzalez left Cuba with his mother and her boyfriend, who both died during the boat journey into Florida.[2]  The push to return Gonzalez to Cuba caused significant partisan conflict as well as intervention by both Congress and the Clinton Administration.[3]  In representing the family, Lagoa represented them in the media and court proceedings seeking to block Elian’s removal to Cuba.[4]  Elian was ultimately returned to his father’s family in Cuba after intervention by Attorney General Janet Reno after court intervention was rejected.

Jurisprudence

Lagoa has served on the Florida Supreme Court for approximately eight months, before which she was a judge on the Court of Appeal of Florida for thirteen years.  On both courts, Lagoa has developed a conservative jurisprudence.  Her appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019, alongside that of Judges Carlos Muniz and Robert Luck, flipped the court from a liberal majority to a conservative one.  This new conservative majority reversed several decisions made by the previous majority, with the only holdover majority judge, Judge Jorge Labarga, in dissent.[5]

For example, in one case, Lagoa joined 6-1 majorities in reversing two 4-3 Florida Supreme Court decisions: one that upheld Orange County election code that allowed officials to be elected in nonpartisan elections; and one that handled attorney-fee disputes in a foreclosure battle.[6]  In a different case, Lagoa joined the majority in reversing another 4-3 Florida Supreme Court ruling and allowing Florida legislative standards for expert witnesses to be entered, even as her fellow conservative Robert Luck excoriated the court for failing to follow proper procedures in reversing itself.[7]

Overall Assessment

With extensive experience as an appellate judge and as a Supreme Court justice, Lagoa is certainly well-qualified for an appellate seat.  While she may draw questions about her conservative jurisprudence, it is likely to be expected that this Administration will put out conservative candidates.  As such, Lagoa would likely be confirmed fairly comfortably.


[1] Tom Raum, Capitol Hill Wary on Cuban Boy, A.P. Online, Jan. 27, 2000.

[2] See id.

[3] See id.

[4] See, e.g.,  Wolf Blitzer, Mark Potter, Federal Court Begins Examining Complicated International Custody Battle Over Elian Gonzalez, CNN The World Today, Mar. 9, 2000.

[5] See Florida Politics, Reversals Show New Day on Supreme Court, State Capital Newsfeed, Apr. 19, 2019.

[6] See id.

[7] What’s Up With Florida’s New Supreme Court? This Case Helps Explain,  Tampa Bay Times Blogs, May 24, 2019.

Stephen Vaden – Nominee to the U.S. Court of International Trade

The U.S. Court of International Trade is a specialized court that hears cases involving international trade and customs laws, but whose judges, nonetheless, sit for lifetime appointments.  While nominees to the court generally attract less opposition due to the court’s specialized nature, there are always exceptions.  Stephen Vaden, who has already had one tough confirmation through the Senate, will likely face questions for his youth, lack of experience, and rocky tenure in his current position.

Background

A native Tennessean, Stephen Alexander Vaden was born in Memphis in 1982.  Vaden grew up in Union City, Tennessee, where his father ran a family farm.[1]  Vaden attended Vanderbilt University and then attended Yale Law School, graduating in 2008.[2]  After graduating, Vaden clerked for Judge Julia Smith Gibbons on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and then for Judge Samuel Mays on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.[3]

After his clerkships, Vaden joined the Washington D.C. office of Patton Boggs as an Associate.[4]  In 2014, Vaden moved to Jones Day in Washington D.C. as an Associate.[5]

In 2017, Vaden was nominated to be General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and serving as acting General Counsel during his nomination.[6]  However, his nomination was criticized by Democrats for his work defending voter restrictions in Ohio and North Carolina.[7]  After passing out of Committee, Vaden’s nomination sat on the floor for months before being confirmed on a 53-46 vote.[8]  He currently serves in that capacity.

History of the Seat

Vaden has been nominated for a seat vacated by Judge Delissa Ridgeway, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, on January 31, 2019.  

In April 2019, Vaden was contacted by the White House to discuss a judicial appointment.[9]  Vaden interviewed with the Department of Justice and was nominated on October 2, 2019.  

Political Activity

Vaden is a Republican with a long history of contributions to the Tennessee Republican Party.[10]  In addition, Vaden has also given to other Republicans, including his sponsor Rep. David Kustoff.[11] 

Additionally, while in law school, Vaden was President of the Yale Law Republicans, where he opposed the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies.[12]

Legal Experience

Before he started at the Department of Agriculture, Vaden worked at the firms of Patton Boggs and Jones Day, where he handled litigation.  During his tenure there, Vaden argued the case of Lilliputian Sys. Inc. v. Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Admin. Before the D.C. Circuit, in which he persuaded the Court to overturn federal regulations on carrying fuel cell cartridges on passenger flights.[13]  He also represented amicus parties in defending voter restrictions passed by North Carolina and Ohio.[14] 

Since 2017, Vaden has served as General Counsel to the Department of Agriculture.  Vaden’s nomination to the position came under criticism from sources who argued that Vaden was reassigning career appointees and Democrats to jobs in other parts of the country.[15]  He was also criticized for being “intransigent” and hurting morale among Department attorneys.[16] 

Vaden was also implicated in the widely criticized decision by USDA to relocate the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food Agriculture to Kansas City.[17]  The decision was criticized for being politically motivated and for forcing workers to quit.[18]  The move was also lambasted by the Department’s Inspector General, who argued that it violated laws requiring congressional approval before spending money to relocate offices.[19]  In response, Vaden justified the decision in a memo, stating:

“USDA is not required to abide by unconstitutional laws.”[20]

Overall Assessment

While nominations to the Court of International Trade are usually non-controversial, Vaden is likely to draw opposition.  Specifically, Vaden is likely to draw questions regarding his tenure at the Department of Agriculture, his contention that the Department can ignore laws it deems to be unconstitutional, as well as his participation in lawsuits defending voter restrictions.  He is also likely to face questions about his youth and his lack of experience litigating issues of International Trade or appearing in court.  Vaden has not practiced before the Court of International Trade at all, and, by his own account, has only argued in court once in his entire career.  As such, at a time when Trump nominees are drawing criticism for their lack of experience, Vaden will likely face the same scrutiny.


[1] Press Release, Office of Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessean Stephen Vaden Has The “Hands-On Experience’ To Be Agriculture Department General Counsel (Nov. 9, 2017).

[2] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Stephen Vaden: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[3] See id. at 2.

[4] Id. at 2.

[5] Id.

[6] See Alexander, supra n. 1.

[7] Lead Lawyer for Agriculture Comes Under Democratic Fire, Congressional Quarterly News, Nov. 9, 2017.

[8] Tennessee Attorney Confirmed as USDA’s General Counsel, A.P. State & Local, Nov. 28, 2018.

[9] See id. at 25.

[10] See Vaden, supra n. 1 at 10.

[12] Thomas Kaplan, Yale Law, Newly Defeated, Allows Military Recruiters, N.Y. Times, Oct. 1, 2007.

[13] 741 F.3d 1309 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

[14] See Ohio Democratic Party v. Husted, 834 F.3d 620 (6th Cir. 2016); N. Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, 831 F.3d 204 (4th Cir. 2016).

[15] Morning Agriculture, Vaden Advances, So Does Related Controversy, Politico, Dec. 12, 2017, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-agriculture/2017/12/12/vaden-advances-so-does-related-controversy-047706.  

[16] Vaden Causes Concern Within USDA, The Frontrunner, Dec. 5, 2017.

[17] Gregory Wallace, USDA May Have Violated Law in Controversial Office Relocation Decision, Inspector General Says, CNN, Aug. 6, 2019.

[18] See id.

[19] See id.

[20] Id. (quoting Stephen Vaden).

Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico

Judge Silvia Carreno-Coll has extensive experience with litigation and with case management, as she currently serves as a U.S. Magistrate Judge.  As such, she can be considered a fairly uncontroversial selection for a federal judgeship.

Background

Silvia Luisa Carreno-Coll was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in 1963.  Carreno-Coll received her B.A. cum laude from Emerson College in 1983 and his J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1986.[1]  After graduating, Carreno-Coll joined the Federal Litigation Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Justice.  In 1989, she became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.[2]

In 1995, Carreno-Coll became Associate Regional Counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency in San Juan.[3]  She held that position until her appointment as a federal magistrate judge in 2011.[4]

History of the Seat

Carreno-Coll has been nominated for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  This seat opened when Judge Jay Garcia-Gregory moved to senior status on September 30, 2018.  

In August 2018, Carreno-Coll was contacted by Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[5]  Carreno-Coll was selected as the primary candidate for the vacancy after interviews with the White House in June and July of 2019.

Legal Experience

Carreno-Coll has spent her entire career in the public sector, starting with her work with the Attorney General’s Office, where she defended police departments in 1983 and civil rights suits.  Similarly, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she was responsible for defending federal officers against Bivens suits alleging violations of constitutional rights.  However, Carreno-Coll also brought affirmative civil actions seeking to remove houseboats that were obstructing movement in navigable waters.[6] 

From 1995 to 2011, Carreno-Coll worked for the EPA seeking to remedy violations of environmental laws.  For example, Carreno-Coll prosecuted Braulio Agosto Motors, Inc. for intentionally discharging raw sewage into the Espiritu Santo River.[7]

Jurisprudence

Since 2011, Carreno-Coll has served as a full-time U.S. Magistrate Judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.  During his career, Carreno-Coll has presided over 15 cases that have proceeded to verdict or judgment.[8] 

Among the most notable cases he handled, Carreno-Coll presided over the jury trial arising from a car crash, which resulted in a $6 million jury verdict for the plaintiff.[9]  She also presided over an action in diversity arising from damages from a dog bite, which also ended in a verdict for the plaintiff.[10]

Overall Assessment

Nominations to the District of Puerto Rico have rarely brought the same degree of partisan fervor as those to other courts.  Judge Carreno-Coll’s nomination is unlikely to be any different.  Given her extensive experience, she will likely get bipartisan support.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Silvia Carreno-Coll: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] See id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 36.

[6] United States v. Members of the State of Luis Boothby, 16 F.3d 19 (1st Cir. 1994).

[7] See United States v. Braulio Agosto, et al., 617 F.3d 541 (1st Cir. 2010).

[8] See Carreno-Coll, supra n. 1 at 11.

[9] See Quiles-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc., 823 F.3d 712 (1st Cir. 2016).

[10] See Correa-Zayas v. Miranda Menchaca, et al., No. CV-15-1585 (D.P.R.).

John Gallagher – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

John Gallagher, the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Allentown, is the Trump Administration’s latest nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.    

Background

John Michael Gallagher was born in Queens, NY in 1966.  He attended the Long Island University, getting his B.S. in 1989 and a J.D. from NYU Law School in 1994.[1]  While in Law School, Gallagher worked as a Police Officer in Harlem, NY.

After graduating, Gallagher worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.[2]  He then joined the New York City Police Department as a Special Prosecutor before moving to the Philadelphia Police Department as Special Counsel to the Police Commissioner.[3] 

In 2000, Gallagher became a White House Fellow in the Clinton White House, working as Counsel for Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft.[4]  He then became a federal prosecutor in Albuquerque, NM and Assistant Chief of Police in Miami before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.[5]  In 2014, he became Chief of the Allentown Division of the office.

History of the Seat

Gallagher has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  This seat opened on October 9, 2018, when Judge Joel Slomsky moved to senior status.  

In September 2018,  Gallagher applied for and interviewed with the Judicial Nomination Advisory Panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Gallagher then interviewed with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa), and the White House before being nominated.

Legal Experience

Gallagher has spent virtually his entire legal career as either a prosecutor or working for the police.  In the latter capacity, Gallagher worked with police departments on issues of training, civil rights, and public relations.  For example, Gallagher worked with the Philadelphia Police Department to develop policies against racial profiling in traffic stops.[6]  He also countered claims by activists and protesters that they suffered police abuse during the 2000 Republican National Convention.[7]

As a federal prosecutor, Gallagher has prosecuted a number of high profile cases.  For example, Gallagher prosecuted Kiboni Savage for the firebombing death of the family of an informant who was testifying against him, securing the death penalty against Savage.[8]

Overall Assessment

Given the bipartisan support he has received from his home state senators and his relatively apolitical background, Gallagher should sail to confirmation.  While he may receive some questions regarding his work with the police, such questions are unlikely to derail what would otherwise be an uncontroversial nomination.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., John M. Gallagher.: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] Id. at 2.

[3] Id. 

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 3.

[6] See Michael Rubinkam, Lawmakers Call For Racial Breakdown on People Stopped By Police, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 27, 1999.

[7] See Bill Johnson, Little Proof of Activists’ Claims of Police Abuse, A.P. State & Local Wire, Aug. 20, 2000.

[8] See Peter Hall, Allentown Federal Prosecutor Nominated to Fill Federal Judgeship Serving Lehigh Valley, Morning Call, Aug. 28, 2019, https://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-nws-lehigh-valley-federal-judge-nomination-20190828-esm77yajyrftpaeqonoys5m45m-story.html.  

Sherri Lydon – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

The J. Waites Waring Judicial Center in Charleston, SC

Sherri Lydon has not only the distinction of being the first female U.S. Attorney to be confirmed for the District of South Carolina, but also of being the first Trump-era U.S. Attorney to be nominated for a federal judgeship.

Background

Lydon was born Cheryl Darlene Allen on Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1962.  She received a B.A. from Clemson College in 1983 and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina Law School in 1987.  Upon graduation, Lydon was hired by the Columbia firm of Nexsen, Pruet, Jacobs & Pollard as an Associate.[1] 

In 1990, Lydon joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.  She left in 1993 to return to private practice.  In 2003, Lydon joined the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office as Chief for the State Grand Jury.[2]

In 2005, Lydon reopened her own law practice in Columbia, where she stayed until she was appointed as U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina in 2018.

History of the Seat

The seat Lydon has been nominated for opened on September 4, 2018, with Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum’s elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  In June 2019, Lydon was contacted by Sen. Tim Scott to gauge her interest in a federal judgeship.[3]  After Lydon confirmed her interest, she was recommended by Scott and Sen. Lindsay Graham to the White House.

Legal Experience

Lydon has primarily spent her career in criminal law, alternating between working as a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney.  Over the course of her career, Lydon has tried approximately fifteen cases to verdict.  

Lydon’s time as a prosecutor is obviously capped by her current position as U.S. Attorney, a position she got over the frontrunner possibly due to his more liberal position on cannabis.[4]  However, even before she became U.S. Attorney, Lydon made a name for herself as a prosecutor on Operation Lost Trust, a corruption probe.[5]  Lydon also prosecuted Earle Morris, the former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, for violations of state securities laws.[6]

As a criminal defense attorney, Lydon notably represented Lexington County Sheriff James Metts who faced criminal charges for bribery.[7]  While representing Metts, Lydon managed to negotiate a no-prison-sentence plea deal with prosecutor Jay Richardson (now on the Fourth Circuit), which was rejected by Judge Terry Wooten.[8]  Metts ultimately plead guilty and spent less than a year in jail.[9]

Overall Assessment

As an experienced prosecutor with extensive experience on the defense side as well, Lydon would be well-prepared to handle the criminal side of being a federal judge.  While senators may question the extent of her civil experience, Lydon would likely overcome that hurdle on the way to a comfortable confirmation.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 116th Cong., Sherri A. Lydon: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 2.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 35.

[4] See Meg Kinnard, SC Prosecutor Contender at Odds With Feds on Medical Pot, Ass. Press State & Local, Mar. 18, 2017.

[5] See id.

[6] See Ben Werner, Former South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Sentenced to 44 Months, The State, Nov. 20, 2004.

[7] See Meg Kinnard, SC Sheriff Pleads Not Guilty to Bribery Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 1, 2014.

[8] Jeffrey Collins, Judge Rejects Ex-Lexington Sheriff’s Plea Deal, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 17, 2014.

[9] Former Sheriff Headed to Prison to Donate Political Money, A.P. State & Local Wire, May 3, 2015.