Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Tommy Pope's resignation should not affect the quality of service victims and the public get from the criminal justice system, said Pope, his potential successor and other top lawyers.
Pope, elected solicitor for York and Union counties since 1993 and one of the state's most prominent prosecutors, said Monday he will resign Oct. 31 to open a private civil law practice. He has asked Gov. Mark Sanford to appoint Deputy Solicitor Kevin Brackett for the duration of his term, which ends in 2008.
Brackett, 41, is a veteran prosecutor with 15 years of experience. Pope will try some cases and continue to run the office until October, while helping Brackett prepare.
"Other than my family, my greatest life's work is this office, and I don't take lightly the idea of placing it in someone else's hands," Pope said. "My loyalty is not just with Kevin, it is with the office. I'll do everything I can to help."
Brackett, who has spent 11 years as second in command at the office, was a chief architect of the case management system that cut York County's case backlog and has become a model for other South Carolina counties and other states, said both former York County Bar Association President Harold Staley and current Bar President Stacey Coleman, an assistant public defender.
"I don't expect any changes in a system that has worked so well," Coleman said.
Coleman said the bar association does not advocate any person for positions and will take no stance on Brackett's potential appointment.
Brackett said if the governor sees fit to appoint him, he will build on the successes of the past 14 years.
"I feel I can handle the challenge," Brackett said.
Brackett already has been part of the daily management of the office and is an experienced trial lawyer who led the prosecution in several high-profile cases. The political part of the job is where Brackett will have to change from first mate to captain.
"I have a good teacher," Brackett said of Pope.
Pope has set a high prosecution standard, said Staley, who worked for Pope and Brackett before entering private practice.
"Tommy Pope has brought honor to this circuit and this state," Staley said.
Pope could be asked to return as a special prosecutor. He could potentially help with the third trial against Bobby Lee Holmes, who was charged with the rape and murder of an 86-year-old woman in 1989. Pope twice got Holmes convicted on murder charges, only to have the case overturned twice on appeal.
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