Three finalists named for local circuit court judgeship

jzou@heraldonline.comMay 1, 2014 

The race for a 16th Judicial Circuit judgeship has narrowed to three candidates who will square off in a legislative election later this month.

The Judicial Merit Selection Commission has officially nominated public defender Dan Hall, personal injury attorney William McKinnon and defense attorney Jim Morton as finalists to replace Lee Alford.

Attorney Leah Moody withdrew from the race and Deputy Circuit Solicitor Willy Thompson did not receive a nomination, according to the commission’s staff.

The commission held a public hearing on all the candidates on April 28.

Reports from the public hearing will be published in a journal on May 8.

The panel of 10 commissioners, which included members appointed by the state Senate and House, investigated each candidate for qualifications that included ethical fitness, judicial temperament, and other characteristics such as reputation and character, according to a checklist.

The seat is one of two judgeships that primarily handle criminal and civil cases for York and Union counties. The other seat is held by Judge John Hayes III, whose term is set to expire in 2016.

Alford, 72, has served in the seat since 1998. He will retire at the end of this year.

The finalists will square off in a May 28 election by the General Assembly in Columbia.

Hall works in the judicial circuit’s public defender’s office, while both McKinnon and Morton are private attorneys with Rock Hill law firms.

McKinnon is with McGowan, Hood & Felder, a malpractice and injury firm, and Morton is a founding partner of Morton & Gettys, where he focuses on criminal defense and personal injury cases.

Current 16th Circuit judges receive an annual salary of less than $135,000, according to a state compensation database.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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