South Carolina Legislature elects Judge John Few to Supreme Court

Newly-elected state Supreme Court Justice John Few talks in the Statehouse lobby after being elected 92-73 by the General Assembly on Wednesday. Few, who currently serves as chief judge of the S.C. Court of Appeals, beat out fellow Appeals Court Judge Harris Williams.

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Legislature elected Court of Appeals Chief Judge John C. Few as the newest associate justice on the state Supreme Court.

It was Few’s third attempt at joining the Supreme Court. The Greenville resident has served as a judge since 2010. He fills the seat left vacant when former Chief Justice Jean Toal retired last year.

Few beat out Court of Appeals Judge H. Bruce Williams on a 92-73 vote to join the five-member panel of judges. Administrative Law Court Judge Ralph King “Tripp” Anderson III bowed out of the race less than an hour before the voting was scheduled to begin at noon Wednesday.

A lack of consensus among Democrats led to members walking into the House chamber not knowing how the race would go. Several lawmakers were keeping tally as their colleagues voiced their choices.

Rep. Carl Anderson, D-Georgetown, said Democrats were urged to support Williams. “Most of us that were for Tripp are going for Williams,” Anderson said.

Charleston Republican Rep. Chip Limehouse said he backed Few because of what he surmised about his legal philosophy. “One of the things I like about Few is that he’s a conservative,” Limehouse said.

Few said he didn’t want to describe his judging philosophy that way. “I wouldn’t call it conservative,” he said. “It sums up too many concepts into too small a package.”

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said he did not believe one judge was more liberal than the other and voted for Williams, saying those who know him speak highly of his work as a judge.

“I loath to find rulings (Few has) made that are more conservative than others,” Rutherford said.

Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said he was not concerned with a potential judge’s philosophy when choosing to vote for Few.

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“All of us are conservative to an extent,” he said. “The issue becomes if someone is an activist.”

Malloy, who said he’s known Few and his family since college, said he voted for Few because he is an academic and an intellectual who is dedicated to the court.

The General Assembly will go through the process again next year of picking a new court member after Chief Justice Costa Pleicones retires at the end of the year.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.