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Sweet wins praise at hearing on judicial nomination

WASHINGTON – Kathleen Marie Sweet, the former Bar Association of Erie County president nominated to be a federal judge in Buffalo, went before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and came away likely to be confirmed despite the Senate’s partisan divisions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., presided at the hearing, and at the end praised Sweet and two others from other parts of the country who have been nominated to serve as U.S. district court judges.

“I’ll do everything I can to move you through the process,” Graham said. He said that even though he greeted Sweet with questions about a letter she wrote in the Bar Association newsletter in early 2013 in response to the school shooting that claimed 27 lives in Newtown, Conn., a few months earlier.

“Too many politicians are stifling their instinctive outrage over this latest carnage in deference to the perceived political clout of the National Rifle Association,” Sweet wrote at the time. “Does anyone sincerely believe that the gun show loophole preserves the integrity of the Second Amendment?”

While noting that Sweet was entitled to her personal opinion, Graham – an ardent supporter of gun owners’ rights – asked her if she believed the Supreme Court had ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees the personal right to bear arms.

“Absolutely,” Sweet replied. “That was the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Sweet followed up by saying she would abide by that ruling.

“Policy is not something I would be making as a judge,” she said.

Graham seemed satisfied by Sweet’s answers, saying: “You seem well-prepared in terms of your background.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who recommended that President Barack Obama nominate Sweet, offered effusive praise while introducing her to the committee.

“From the first time I met her, I knew we had found someone who would be an exceptional judge,” Schumer said.

Schumer said Sweet has “the kind of temperament we look for in judges,” meaning she would be an even-tempered, deliberate and moderate approach to interpreting the law from the bench.

The senator also noted that Sweet served in the public sector at the New York State Appellate Division and at Damon Morey, Brown & Tarantino, and Gibson, McAskill & Crosby, both prominent Buffalo law firms.

“Wherever she has gone, accolades have followed,” Schumer said.

Sweet would be the first female district court judge to serve in Buffalo, although Carole Heckman served as a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. Sweet would replace U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny, who has moved to senior status.

Schumer urged that the Senate quickly confirm Sweet, noting that her services are needed on the bench in Buffalo.

“I’d like to remind the Chairman and my colleagues that the Western District of New York is also in desperate need of judges, period,” he said. “The WDNY has one of the longest backlogs of civil and criminal cases in the country.”

Sweet lives in Orchard Park with her husband, Brian T. Fredericks, and their two children.

A graduate of Boston College and Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, Sweet was a collegiate basketball star, prompting Schumer to jokingly call her a “slam dunk” for the judgeship.