Charleston County has a handful of new senators since its magistrates were last appointed in 2011 — and soon will have a handful of new magistrates, too.
And at least one of the outgoing judges, North Area Magistrate Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley, is not happy about the change. Another new magistrate appointee is the wife of a state lawmaker. Five new faces will preside over the county’s courts.
In South Carolina, magistrates are frontline judges who handle smaller criminal and civil cases, such as speeding tickets, evictions and most bail bonds.
Appointing these full- and part-time judges is one of the political privileges — or headaches — of being a state senator, whose other appointment powers involve boards and commissions that pay little, if anything at all. A full-time magistrate makes about $88,000.
Every four years, each county’s Senate delegation submits a list of names to Gov. Nikki Haley, whose office does background checks before passing the names along to the full senate for a confirmation vote.
This time, Charleston County senators are recommending five new appointees. State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, oversaw the recent process instead of former Sen. Glenn McConnell, now president of the College of Charleston. The recommendations also were shaped by new faces on the delegation, including Sens. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, and Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston.
“There were some members who wanted more new appointments and there were some who wanted to reappoint more,” Grooms said, adding he tried to consider the wishes of every senator to develop a consensus on the plan.
Ganaway-Pasley said she learned just a week ago that she would not be reappointed to the bench where she has served almost 13 years. “It was a surprise and a disappointment,” she said, adding that she was given only two weeks notice.
Richardine Singleton-Brown, who runs a North Charleston law firm, and Charleston lawyer Ittriss Jenkins are being recommended as new appointees for North Area magistrate seats. One will work part time from Ganaway-Pasley’s Melbourne Avenue court, while the other will work part-time in the Ladson-Lincolnville area.
Charleston Magistrate Richard Lingenfelter also is being replaced with Jennifer McCoy, a lawyer and wife of state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-James Island. Lingenfelter, a lawyer who previously worked for the city of North Charleston, could not be reached for comment by phone.
Kelley Young, an assistant solicitor in the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, is being recommended to fill the Bond Court position formerly held by Linda Lombard, who is set to retire.
Also, the senators are recommending Martelle Morrison of Hollywood to replace Ravenel-Adams Run area Magistrate Jacquetta Jones.
Ganaway-Pasley said she met with Kimpson earlier this year, and said their conversation was cordial. She said she thought she was doing a good job — and that magistrates traditionally have kept their jobs unless they have faced some disciplinary action. “If you’re doing your job, you expect to be rewarded by keeping it,” she said.
Her 30-hour per week job paid about $65,000 a year.
Kimpson declined to talk about reasons why Ganaway-Pasley was not reappointed but said he met with all magistrates — and prospective magistrate candidates since he was a new senator.
“There’s no entitlement to this position,” he said. “Every four years, you can either be appointed or reappointed.”
While the vote on the senators is public, the discussions unfold over many informal conversations during several months, and Grooms said his goal was the same as McConnell’s — to achieve consensus on the county’s list and avoid a fight on the Senate floor.
Grooms declined to say why certain magistrates were not recommended for a new four-year term.
Political controversies are nothing new to magistrate appointments.
Four years ago, then Sen. Robert Ford made headlines by appointing North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey’s daughter to a magistrate post previously held by Summey’s wife. Magistrate Joanna Summey-Fuller is among those being reappointed.
After learning the news of the senators’ decision, Ganaway-Pasley said she called a meeting with about 125 people who most regularly appear in her courtroom to break the news.
Candy Johnson, a North Charleston landlord who attended that meeting, said, “Everybody in there got very upset,” she said. “She is a wonderful judge.”
Johnson blamed Kimpson for Ganaway-Pasley losing her post as of Friday. Grooms said he is glad magistrate appointments come only once every four years.
In Berkeley County, there was less drama. All sitting magistrates were reappointed, Grooms said. Senators tapped Mark Stokes, a former magistrate who also has served as the Berkeley County attorney, to replace retiring Magistrate Ed Sessions. Magistrate Jim Polk also retired, but Grooms said the delegation might not fill that vacancy until next year.
In Dorchester County, state Sen. Sean Bennett said senators still are in the final stage of making their magistrate picks. He said the names could get to the governor’s office this week.
“I personally am leaning pretty heavily on the magistrate court administration as well as the county administration to tell me what their needs are,” Bennett said. “In the past ... people just used these as political appointments and filled them up as much as they could. I’m not interested in that.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.