Lexington adds full-time town judge

Brian Jeffcoat
Brian Jeffcoat

Brian Jeffcoat is presiding at Lexington town court in a new role.

The former Lexington County magistrate is the first full-time municipal judge in the steadily growing town of an estimated 20,000 residents, hired mainly to reduce a backlog of more than 500 cases awaiting trial.

Jeffcoat was the choice of town leaders last month for the post paying nearly $76,000 a year from among three lawyers who each served as part-time judges.

Town leaders wanted someone familiar with the demands and procedures of the job, Mayor Steve MacDougall said.

Jeffcoat, a magistrate for 12 years, said he “enjoys working with the town” regardless of the judicial post.

All nine county magistrates were on call as part-time town judges for 10 years, with Jeffcoat mainly assigned that role for six years.

Municipal judges handle many of the same matters as magistrates, such as traffic tickets and some criminal misdemeanors.

The decision to make the post full-time came after complaints from town police officers that they were being called to testify too often on days off, officials said. Court proceedings now are held three days each week.

In addition, access to a full-time judge means search warrants can be obtained faster, officials said.

“Having a full-time judge is much better,” Police Chief Terrence Green said.

The backlog of unresolved cases has been cut to 430 since Jeffcoat took the post, with trials for 102 others scheduled.

The other two part-time judges – John Rakowsky and Leigh Leventis – assist as needed when Jeffcoat is busy on other matters.

Jeffcoat, 44, was a former assistant solicitor before becoming a judge. He likes being on the bench, helping train other judges.

He is the son of County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo, town economic development director since 2009. The senior Jeffcoat didn’t influence the decision and there is no problem with having both on the town payroll, MacDougall said. “Those two positions don’t overlap at all,” the mayor said.

The senior Jeffcoat said his son got the job on his own merits. “I don’t want anybody to give anything to my son just because I’m his father but I don’t want him to be penalized for that,” he said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483