In front of a packed courtroom in the historic Tom Gettys Courthouse on Main Street in his hometown, Rock Hill native Tony Jones was sworn in Friday as South Carolina’s newest Family Court judge.
Jones, 55, was elected by the Legislature in January to fill one of six slots created statewide to handle the increased caseload in the Family Court, where custody cases, divorces, juvenile criminal matters, abuse and neglect claims, adoptions and other matters involving children are litigated.
He vowed to be “fair but firm” when he takes the bench Monday. After two weeks of sitting with Family Court Judge David Guyton and another judge, Jones will start running his own courtroom and docket July 15.
Jones will work statewide but will be based in York County. His election, pushed by local lawmakers, will help alleviate the county’s backlog that has been handled largely by Guyton with help from visiting judges.
“This is York County’s day here,” Jones told a crowd of lawyers and dignitaries from around the state.
Barrett Martin, president of the York County Bar Association, said Jones’ experience, temperament and knowledge of the law will make him a “great judge for the people of York County and our state.”
The Legislature elects judges in South Carolina, not voters.
State Reps. Tommy Pope, R-York, and Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, were instrumental in pushing their peers to vote for Jones in a close race.
“This truly is a victory for York County in getting a slot that we have been overdue for,” Pope said.
Jones joked that lawmakers had a tough job getting him elected because some South Carolina politicians consider York County “part of Charlotte.”
York County is the second fastest-growing county in the state, with a population of more than 230,000. The county’s population has more than doubled in 35 years, while the state’s population has grown less than half as fast.
Jones told the crowd that York County’s booming growth deserves a court system that gives swift, fair and impartial service.
Guyton said Jones’ 30 years of practicing family law makes him ready to “hit the ground running” on the bench.
The county’s Family Court caseload has grown so much that a new courtroom was built at the York County Complex in Rock Hill. Jones will be based there but will travel to other counties.
He vowed to give York County and the state, a judge residents can be proud of.
“I promise I will give all that I’ve got.”
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065