Local judge up for spot on Supreme Court

by | December 23, 2016 6:55 am

Last Updated: December 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

A local judge who has devoted the past 10 years of his legal career to the 3rd Circuit bench could soon make his way to the state’s highest court.
Third Circuit Court Judge George C. “Buck” James Jr. is one of two candidates still deemed qualified as of Wednesday by the state’s Judicial Merit Selection Commission, and thus in the running for the seat being vacated by retiring Supreme Court Justice Costa Pleicones.
The General Assembly will select Pleicones’ replacement during the next session of the General Assembly, which should begin in January.
The commission screened seven candidates, and initially qualified three, including James, Chief Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson III of Columbia and 1st Circuit Court Judge Diane Schafer Goodstein of Summerville.
Anderson was replaced Monday with Circuit Court Judge R. Keith Kelly of Moore in Spartanburg County after the commission rescinded the former’s qualification.
According to a commission report, members had questioned Anderson at length about his attendance at a political fundraiser. Judges and judicial nominees are prohibited from attending those types of events.
James said going to the state’s highest court won’t be an easy task, but he is up for the challenge.
“I think it’s a good next step for me,” he said.
James is currently the resident judge of the 3rd Circuit, which covers Clarendon, Sumter, Lee and Williamsburg counties. His chambers are located in Sumter.
Born in 1960, in Savannah, Georgia, he attended Wilson Hall in Sumter and graduated in 1982 from The Citadel, receiving a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He then graduated in 1985 from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
He ultimately became a partner with his father’s law firm, Richardson, James and Playerm which merged in 2000 with another to become Lee, Erter, Wilson, James, Holler and Smith LLC.
He remained a partner with the reformed firm until the General Assembly elected him to the 3rd Circuit. He was sworn in July 1, 2006, replacing retiring Judge Howard P. King, who still takes the bench periodically.
He is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Sumter, where he attends with his wife, Dena. The couple has two adult children ,George, who is also a lawyer practicing in Columbia, and Alston, who is studying communication disorders in graduate school.
He is a former member of the American Bar Association, the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys Association and Defense Research Institute. He has been admitted to practice in all state courts and in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
Though the commission has now qualified James and two other candidates, it will not make a final recommendation until January.
James said that he and other nominees are forbidden to solicit support before the General Assembly convenes. He said they could vote on the position as early as Jan. 10.

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