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Charleston County's staff attorney picked to become federal judge by Donald Trump

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Joe Dawson.jpg (copy)

President Donald Trump has nominated Charleston County’s staff attorney Joe Dawson III to be a federal judge in South Carolina. File/Provided

President Donald Trump has picked Charleston County's senior government attorney, Joe Dawson III, to be a federal judge.

If confirmed by the Senate, Dawson would be the only Black male currently serving on the state's U.S. district court level, alongside two Black females.

Dawson was nominated by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who worked with Dawson previously when Scott was a member of Charleston County Council.

The vacancy is for a seat in Greenville, Scott's office said, adding the senator is not issuing a statement on the selection at this time because he opts to wait until after screening hearings to comment.

The spot is the only open court seat among the state's 10 federal district judgeships. Five of the state's current district judges were nominated by Democrats and four by Republicans.

Dawson's White House announcement shows no previous work experience as a judge.

It says he's served as Charleston County's "attorney where he is responsible for managing and overseeing all legal matters for the county and its officials."

The announcement continued that "Dawson also operates his own solo law practice and focuses on general civil litigation and providing strategic advice to small businesses."

Dawson graduated from The Citadel, Class of 1991, and received his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

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Dawson also declined to issue a statement or provide a comment on the nomination, the county said.

County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said he has known about the pick for some time, adding there was an in-depth vetting process and that he was interviewed by screening officials.

“It’s a huge loss for the county, but a great gain for the federal bench," Summey said. “He’s one of the fairest, smartest individuals I’ve ever met."

Dawson also ran the county's recycling program.

Dawson was the county's top paid official, earning $421,357.91 in compensation in 2019, according to a county spokesman.

District court judges earn $216,400 annually, according to U.S. courts judicial pay data. 

The two Black women on the federal district bench in South Carolina are judges J. Michele Childs and Margaret Seymour.

David Slade contributed to this report.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

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