ROCK HILL — Lawmakers elected Rock Hill lawyer Tony Jones as one of six new Family Court judges Wednesday.
In South Carolina, judges are elected by the Legislature, not by voters.
The election of Jones to an at-large seat with jurisdiction throughout the state will help ease the backlog of cases in Family Court.
York Countys caseload has grown faster than any other in the state, as the population has risen 36 percent since 2000, while the rest of the state grew by 15 percent.
Getting another judge to help serve the public is important, and Tony will serve the people of this state well, said state Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, who led the county legislative delegation in pushing for Jones to win the slot. York County has been overdue.
Other candidates dropped out of the race in the last few days, making Wednesdays vote unanimous after a contentious race in which candidates have to seek endorsements from legislators.
The York County delegation worked very had to get this seat, Jones said. York County has needed another Family Court judge for years. They deserve the credit.
David Guyton is York Countys resident Family Court judge, and the addition of Jones will allow Family Court to hear far more cases.
The Legislature created nine judge positions last year to deal with burgeoning court dockets.
Six of the new judges will work in Family Court, which handles child custody disputes, divorces, child abuse and neglect cases and minors charged with crimes. The other three judgeships are for circuit courts that handle criminal and civil cases.
Tony is well-qualified with a breadth of experience, said state Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York.
Jones, 54, has worked almost exclusively as a Family Court practitioner for 30 years. He is scheduled to start July 1, but Simrill said it is possible that after judicial training, Jones term could start earlier.
York Countys Family Court caseload has grown so large in recent years that another courtroom was built at the York County Complex on Heckle Boulevard. Jones will be based there.
At-large judges typically travel during some terms, but Jones residency is York County so he likely will be assigned locally often, said David Hamilton, York County Clerk of Court.