COLUMBIA -- The Legislature seated Daniel Martin Jr. of Charleston on the Family Court on Wednesday to fill the seat formerly held by Charlie Segars-Andrews.
Martin, 47, was elected by the lawmakers on a voice vote after his two challengers for the 9th Circuit seat, Ben Mack and
Judge James Turner, both of Charleston, withdrew.
The judicial election capped off a controversial nominating process with little fanfare.
Sen. Robert Ford, a Charleston Democrat who is black, praised his colleagues for increasing diversity on the bench with the election of two black judges and three females.
Among them was Charleston resident Stephanie Pendarvis McDonald, 42. She was one of three judges elected to the circuit court.
The representation of minorities in the judicial branch has not been higher in modern times, Ford said. That's a result of pressure from him and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus, he said.
"When you've got qualified people, no matter what color, you've got to
give them a chance, and that's what they've been doing in the last three years," Ford said.
Martin, who is black, served nearly four years as a part-time magistrate for Charleston County from 1989 to 1993. Since 1989, he practiced law with his father and namesake, Daniel Martin Sr., a former circuit judge.
The younger Martin's experience is in the general practice of law, with a concentration on domestic relations and real estate. He served on the Lincolnville Town Council from 1991 to 1998 and as a grand legal adviser for the Grand Lodge of South Carolina.
"I want to be a judge who provides good service to the community, and I hope I'll be a very effective judge and one who can help members of the bar move their cases a lot quicker through the system," Martin said.
Segars-Andrews' term ended June 30. She tried to keep her job, but lawmakers deemed her unqualified because of her actions in a divorce case. Segars-Andrews is now in private practice in Mount Pleasant.
Along with Martin, the Legislature elected by acclamation three new judges to the circuit court and re-elected two judges for another term on the Court of Appeals.
The election process took about five minutes and did not include any nominating speeches. The candidates were screened and found qualified and nominated by the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission.
Judges Paul Short of Chester and Bruce Williams of Columbia were re-elected to the Court of Appeals.
DeAndrea Gist Benjamin of Columbia, Letitia Verdin of Greenville and McDonald were elected to the circuit court.
McDonald was licensed to practice law in 1994. Her experience includes service on the S.C. Commission on Judicial Conduct and as a volunteer prosecutor for the S.C. Attorney General's Criminal Domestic Violence Task Force.
"I am very honored and humbled," McDonald said. "I felt that way just to be nominated."
McDonald's seat is at-large and previously was held by a Columbia-based judge.
She is currently a managing partner with Senn, McDonald & Leinbach, LLC. The practice focuses on a variety of appellate matters, for plaintiffs and defendants, and the defense of public officials, law enforcement agencies, state agencies and local governments in state and federal courts.
Short, Williams, Verdin and McDonald are white. Benjamin, the wife of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, is black.