Five vie for Supreme Court seat

Judge Deadra Jefferson of Charleston is seeking a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Ninth Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson of Charleston is among five candidates running for an open seat on the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Jefferson, a circuit judge since her election by the Legislature in 2001, upheld the town of Sullivan's Island's precedent- setting ban on smoking in the workplace in 2006. "The power to regulate and control smoking is widely recognized," Jefferson wrote.

She also began an effort last year to push cases through the system faster in Charleston County. She told probation officials to gather dozens of

pending cases and bring them before her for two days of marathon sessions.

Jefferson, a Charleston native, is based in the Ninth Circuit, which includes Charleston and Berkeley counties.

Also seeking the Supreme Court seat are Circuit Judge John Few of Greenville, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Kaye Hearn of Conway, Family Court Judge Eugene Morehead of Florence and Court of Appeals Judge Bruce Williams of Columbia, the Associated Press reported.

Few also has tackled the issue of local smoking bans but with a different take, overturning Greenville's prohibition of indoor smoking just a few weeks after Jefferson's ruling in favor of the Sullivan's Island ban. "Whether it is a good idea that smoking should be banned in indoor areas is exclusively a legislative issue," Few wrote in his decision.

Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld the right of cities and towns to ban indoor smoking in public places.

Since joining the Circuit Court bench, where she hears criminal and civil cases, Jefferson, 45, has been invited to fill in as a judge on the appeals and supreme courts. It's an invitation that isn't extended to every judge.

"It was challenging and I enjoyed it. It was very intellectual. It is a different experience because you have the ability to have hindsight that most circuit court judges would love to have. We make most decisions in 10 minutes, 15 minutes. We don't have months to think about what we do," she told The Post and Courier in 2005.

Jefferson graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, Converse College and St. Andrews High School, where she got her first taste of the law in a summer job answering the phone and delivering legal papers for Charleston attorney Arthur McFarland.

She practiced law for six years before the Legislature in 1996 elected her as a judge for Charleston County Family Court. In 2001, lawmakers named her a circuit judge.

The Judicial Merit Selection Commission will hold a public hearing to screen the five candidates April 13. It can nominate no more than three people.

The House and Senate will then pick the new justice, who will serve out the remaining three years of the term of retiring Associate Justice John Waller.