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Liberty Law Graduate to Fill Vacant Commonwealth's Attorney Position

March 12, 2015

For Lyle Carver, the opportunity to study at a brand new law school still striving for its first provisional accreditation was an exciting challenge.

Now, ten years after he moved to Lynchburg and enrolled in the second graduating class at Liberty University School of Law, Carver stands ready to take the reins as the top prosecutor in Amherst County.

With outgoing Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Maddox and Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Driskill set to take over local judgeships, Carver will be sworn in as the acting commonwealth’s attorney in July, a position he will hold until the general election in November.

On Tuesday, he reflected on his educational and career paths, as well as the time he spent studying at what was then a fledgeling law school. Liberty Law, ABAapproved since 2010, will graduate its ninth class in May.

“It’s kind of a fulfillment of my career goal early on, which is probably a little bit rare,” said Carver, now 34.

“Commonwealth’s attorney is a pinnacle-of-your-career type of job.”
Carver was interested in criminal law even before attending law school and he quickly decided that he wanted to prosecute.

“I had a great education at Liberty,” said Carver, specifically mentioning then Professor F. LaGard Smith as instrumental in his choices, and helping to hone his focus on criminal law.

“You start to realize that Christian attorneys are important in many fields,” he said, eschewing the notion that students at Liberty stereotypically focus on religious liberty.

He also praised Liberty’s focus on practical courtroom skills and writing.

“The lawyering skills program was obviously important and gave me confidence that I could be a lawyer, could do the work, could write the briefs and do the job that I needed to do.”

During his 3L year, Carver interned at the Amherst County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the second student from the law school to do so.

The positive experience in that internship helped him obtain a position as an assistant commonwealth's attorney with the office upon graduation.

"I'm grateful that Stephanie Maddox gave me a chance to prosecute and taught me how to do the job,” Carver said, noting he saw those who trained him as “some  of the very best prosecutors in Virginia.”

In addition to learning under future judges Maddox and Driskill, Carver worked closely with then Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Cary Payne, who also rose to a judgeship in recent years, and Anthony Martin, now commonwealth’s attorney for Nelson County.

“I absolutely think an internship is the way to go about it,” Carver said, in the way of advice for current students. “If you think you might be interested in prosecution, volunteer.”

Even if the internship doesn’t turn into a job, he said the relationships formed could prove to be helpful down the road.

“You make really good contacts, and it’s also the best way to know if it’s really what you want to do.”

Carver also serves as a judge advocate in the Virginia Army National Guard at the rank of captain.

Since Carver was hired, his office has accepted several interns from Liberty Law, and Carver said those interns stack up favorably with other interns, including those from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Carver is now actively preparing for November’s general election.

He said he hasn’t heard of anyone else circulating petitions, but he is ready in case a challenger appears.

“To be appointed (as commonwealth’s attorney) at 35 years old … I feel honored that I’m in a place to do that.”