The South Carolina commission that screens judicial candidates is accepting applications through July for two York County circuit court judge seats open in the next year.
The elections will be held by the S.C. General Assembly, not York County voters.
Unlike popular elections in most states, the 170 members of South Carolina’s legislature elect judges to six-year terms. Candidates have the month of July to formally seek a judge’s seat, according to the state’s Judicial Merit Selection Commission.
Both Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III and Master-in Equity Judge Jack Kimball are reaching the state’s mandatory circuit court judge retirement age of 72. Hayes is one of the longest serving judges in the state, with 26 years on the bench. He has to retire by Dec. 31, the judicial commission said.
Kimball has been master-in-equity judge handling mainly property and civil cases since 2003. Kimball has to retire by June 2018, court officials said.
Circuit judges must be lawyers and handle felony criminal cases and most civil cases over $7,500.
The last circuit judge judicial election in York County saw several candidates vie for a seat eventually won by Judge Dan Hall. In 2014, when Judge Lee Alford reached retirement age, five candidates sought the judge seat. The candidates that year were Hall, who eventually won, 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson, and private practice lawyers Leah Moody, William McKinnon and James Morton.
In South Carolina, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission seeks candidates then does background checks and vetting, then public screening before legislators vote. Only three candidates make it out of screening to be considered.
Only after the months long screening is finished can finalists seek endorsements from legislators.