A Charleston County prosecutor chosen as a federal judge by President Donald Trump now has the legal career of the Senate.
Joe Dawson III, an attorney in Charleston County for more than two decades, received positive reviews from the entire Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.
But the clock is ticking. Legal experts say the rapidly approaching deadline before taking over a new White House government could hurt the candidate and the possibility of a democratically controlled Senate could end his chances altogether.
Justice Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., pushed Dawson’s nomination forward after a 15-7 committee vote. Some Democrats have crossed the party lines to vote for it.
Graham and Senator Tim Scott, RS.C., were both major proponents of Dawson’s rise to the Bundesbank. If confirmed, he will be the only African American to serve in the South Carolina District Court.
However, the Senate has a stacked agenda pending its expected adjournment for the holidays later this month, including setting a potential stimulus package for COVID-19.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said Dawson must be voted before January 4 if newly elected senators take their seats.
If the final vote comes after the new Senate members are sworn in, Trump will have to reappoint Dawson and quickly go back through the Justice Committee before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Tobias said he was certain Graham would try to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. To get Dawson re-elected before the break for the holidays.
“The only problem I see is the timing,” said Tobias. “And it’s not clear how long the Senate will be in session. Graham will likely do whatever it takes to make sure he can get a vote.”
Furthermore, the fate of the Republican-controlled Senate can be traced back to a close runoff election in Georgia due to take place on January 5th. If the Democrats win a majority, it could ruin Dawson’s chances.
“It could be difficult if his nomination goes to a new Senate,” said Tobias. “It’s not a guarantee.”
Dawson’s place is the only open court seat among the state’s 10 federal district judges. Five of the state’s current district judges have been nominated by Democrats and four by Republicans.
Dawson has been a Charleston County attorney for more than two decades.
He graduated from the Citadel, 1991 class, and received his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He has no judge experience on his resume, which is not uncommon for many federal judge appointments.
Graham said in a statement he was excited to see Dawson evolve.
“I am delighted to support Mr. Dawson’s appointment as federal district judge for the state of South Carolina,” said Graham. “He has had one life in a row while serving as the district attorney representing the people of Charleston.” I look forward to working with Sen. Scott to see this through. “
Scott worked with Dawson when the Republican senator was a member of Charleston County Council earlier in his political career.
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