The commission that nominates judges Monday rescinded one of its nominees to succeed Costa Pleicones on the S.C. Supreme Court.
The Judicial Merit Selection Commission rescinded its nomination of Ralph King “Tripp” Anderson III of Florence, chief judge of the S.C. Administrative Law Court, and approved Circuit Court Judge R. Keith Kelly for the open seat.
The commission — made up of six legislators, plus four other appointees – previously had passed over Kelly.
However, it voted Nov. 29 to reconsider Anderson’s nomination after learning he had attended a political fundraiser, a violation of the state’s code of conduct for judges and judicial candidates.
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“We became aware of that after the nomination,” said state Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, who chairs the commission.
Anderson testified again before the commission before it voted to reconsider.
In the final tally Monday, Kelly received six votes to two votes each for Anderson and attorney Matthew T. Richardson.
In November, commission members had approved Anderson as one of three nominees for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the impending retirement of Pleicones.
Now, however, Kelly’s nomination will go forward to the Legislature with that of Circuit Court Judges Diane Schafer Goodstein and George C. James Jr.
“I’ve served with (Kelly) and know him well. He’s a competent attorney and now a judge,” said Campsen, one of six commissioners to vote for the former legislator’s nomination.
The commission chairman also spoke highly of Anderson.
“He is a great judge, a great guy. I have a lot of respect for him,” Campsen said. “But when you have a lot of good candidates, a misstep from one can edge it out for the other.”
The Legislature will choose from among the three candidates to fill Pleicones’s seat in a vote scheduled for Feb. 1. The winner will be an associate justice on the Supreme Court.
The Legislature already has elected Donald Beatty, an associate justice on the Supreme Court, to replace Pleicones as chief justice.