York County’s state senators have nominated Chisa Johnson Putman, a Rock Hill lawyer, city prosecutor and president of the York County Bar Association, to be a York County magistrate judge.
It is believed that Putman, if approved by the governor, would be the just the second black female York County magistrate.
“I am very thankful, and welcome the opportunity,” Putman said Monday.
Putman, 35, is a Winthrop University graduate who later graduated from the Charleston School of Law.
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The selection of Putman to be a judge where impartiality and autonomy is crucial to the justice system is important in York County, a growing county of about 250,000, with a population of about 50,000 blacks, black leaders said.
Newly elected state Sen. Wes Climer, R-Rock Hill, and former state Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill sent Putman’s nomination to the governor. Other state senators who represent parts of York County – Greg Gregory of Lancaster and Harvey Peeler of Gaffney – as well as former state Sen. Creighton Coleman of Winnsboro all agreed to the nomination, Climer said.
Magistrates in South Carolina are selected by the senators in home counties who then get the consent of the full Senate before gubernatorial appointment.
Climer, who took office last week, defeated Hayes in the June Republican primary, but the men worked together to fill the slot opened when Stephanie Wood took over the Rock Hill township magistrate position last summer after Bob Davenport retired.
“Chisa Putman is a phenomenally qualified candidate, and we are thrilled that she is willing to do this job and serve her community in this role,” Climer said.
During the summer before Wood was chosen to succeed Davenport, black leaders in York County sought to have the job filled by a black candidate, Mandrile Young, who was already a magistrate – but was not a lawyer. However, Hayes chose Wood because she was a lawyer and former prosecutor, among other qualifications.
Magistrates do not have to be lawyers but many places in South Carolina are choosing to fill vacancies with lawyers.
York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey of Rock Hill, one of those black leaders who wanted black representation on the bench, called the nomination of Putman “a big day for York County.”
“Her nomination shows the recognition of the significance of having African-American representation at that level,” Roddey said. “She’s definitely qualified.”
The cities of Rock Hill and York have black female municipal judges, but Putman would be the sole black female on the county bench.
Dorothy “Dot” Killian, a longtime Rock Hill lawyer who was the first black female Rock Hill city judge, lauded the selection.
“This is an important position and an important action for York County to take,” Killian said.
York County has 11 magistrates who handle misdemeanor criminal court and civil court, as well as setting bonds, signing arrest warrants, presiding over preliminary hearings, signing search warrants, and other functions. Five of the judges have townships; the others work bond courts and other roles. Putman would be based in the county seat in York at the Moss Justice Center and handle bonds and other duties.
Young, who did not get the Rock Hill township job in the summer, resigned last month, leaving his bond court spot open. The senators have not yet chosen someone to fill that position, Climer said.