Richland County to reopen Blythewood magistrate's office

dhinshaw@thestate.comDecember 2, 2013 

Work is nearly complete on the new magistrate's court and sheriff's department substation in Blythewood. Here Larry Martin, with James Able and Son's, marks lines before paving a parking lot adjacent to the building.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • Magistrate caseloads in Richland County

    In the past five years, the criminal and traffic dockets in Richland County’s lower court have gotten shorter, but magistrates are hearing more civil cases.

    2006-07

    • Criminal: 14,417

    • DUI: 2,386

    • Other traffic: 54,246

    • Civil: 24,001

    2011-12

    • Criminal: 10,068

    • DUI: 846

    • Other traffic: 36,023

    • Civil: 25,984

    SOURCE: State court administration

Residents of Blythewood soon will have a magistrate’s office and regional sheriff’s office.

Magistrate Josef Robinson will hold court at a newly renovated storefront, at 118 McNulty St., a former hardware store. The date the offices will open have not been announced, but Robinson said he expects it will be after the new year.

“I’m really excited about going into the new office and learning the community of Blythewood,” said Robinson, 55, appointed to the bench in May 2011.

The county spent just over $1 million to buy and upfit the property, chief Magistrate Donald Simons said.

The new site re-establishes a courtroom in Blythewood abandoned 25 years ago. Since then, growth in the northeast part of the county made it the logical choice for a new office, Simons said.

Magistrates primarily handle traffic citations, along with civil and criminal cases.

“It’s one of the courts you don’t hear much about,” said 31-year Magistrate Mel Maurer, the last judge assigned to Blythewood. “It stays under the radar, but it’s a very busy court.”

The county closed the Blythewood office in 1988, when it was combined with Pontiac, Maurer said.

Now, Richland County’s lower court has grown to 11 districts staffed by 16 magistrates, two of them serving part-time.

Simons said the new Blythewood office will draw from caseloads now handled by the Pontiac and Dentsville magistrates.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s Region 6 patrol headquarters will relocate from a mobile home near the entrance to Lake Carolina.

But department spokesman Capt. Chris Cowan said the shift will not affect response times or the presence of deputies because they’re rarely in the office anyway.

“We don’t want them sitting in the office,” he said. “They’ll be patrolling the area.”

About 40 officers will work out of the Blythewood region headquarters, about half of them deputies in the patrol division.

Cowan said citizens will be better served by the joint presence of a patrol headquarters, headed by Capt. Roxana Meetze, and magistrate’s office.

The office will be used as a place to meet with community groups and hold squad meetings.

Cowan said the department’s traffic safety unit will be moving into a storefront at Lake Carolina, at no cost to the department. He did not know when that might happen.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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