Longtime 16th Circuit deputy public defender B.J. Barrowclough was chosen as the top lawyer for the state’s poor Wednesday after his peers across the state voted him S.C. Public Defender of the Year.
Barrowclough was honored at the state’s annual public defender conference held in Myrtle Beach.
His work defending the rights of the poor that is guaranteed under the Constitution is one of the traits that makes Barrowclough a tireless advocate, said Harry Dest, 16th Circuit chief public defender.
Barrowclough, Dest said, has the courage to fight for people from all backgrounds.
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“B.J. has the heart and the passion that goes with an incredible work ethic and courtroom ability,” Dest said.
Each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits has a public defender office. The largest counties such as Richland, Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg and York have huge caseloads where lawyers are juggling hundreds of cases at any given time. Public defenders generally have a far larger caseload then private defense lawyers and have no choice in what clients they represent.
Barrowclough has worked with the York County Public Defender Office for most of the past two decades, with the last decade handling many of the most serious allegations against indigent defendants.
Barrowclough led the charge in Rock Hill to have a city law allowing police broad ability to stop people on the street or face arrest changed to a law that makes it clear arrests can be made only if a person is interfering with police or actively resisting arrest.
Barrowclough’s impact on the court system of York County and the state has been “profound and lasting,” Dest said.
Barrowclough said after receiving the award that he is honored to represent the “voiceless” in the legal system, and that a judicial process that treats the poor fairly must be the ultimate goal.
“My job is not only sticking up for people who have been accused of a crime, but protecting their rights and making sure that the legal system has integrity for all,” Barrowclough said.