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Supreme Court Justice-elect Verdin says shes 'honored' to be 3rd woman on SC's top bench

Newly elected South Carolina Supreme Court justice Letitia Verdin talks in the balcony of the state House before her election on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. Verdin's election means South Carolina traded its all-male Supreme Court for an all-white one. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Jeffrey Collins/AP
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AP
Newly elected South Carolina Supreme Court justice Letitia Verdin talks in the balcony of the state House before her election on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. Verdin's election means South Carolina traded its all-male Supreme Court for an all-white one. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

S.C. Supreme Court Justice-elect Letitia Verdin will join the state's high court in August after her unanimous election by the Legislature on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

State Supreme Court Justice-elect Letitia Verdin will join South Carolina's highest court in August as the third woman to ever serve on the bench.

The 53-year-old from Greenville told reporters after her unanimous 152-0 vote on Wednesday that she hopes the public sees that she is a fair judge who believes in serving all South Carolinians.

"I'm so honored to follow in the footsteps of all the justices on the Supreme Court. But to be third woman is certainly a huge honor," Verdin told reporters of her predecessors, retired Justice Kaye Hearn and retired Chief Justice Jean Toal.

"And I'm so grateful for the trust that the Legislature has put in me," she added.

S.C. Supreme Court Justice-elect Letitia Verdin, left, embraces retired Chief Justice Jean Toal, the first woman to sit on the state's Supreme Court. Verdin was elected 152-0 by the Legislature on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.
Maayan Schechter
S.C. Supreme Court Justice-elect Letitia Verdin, left, embraces retired Chief Justice Jean Toal, the first woman to sit on the state's Supreme Court. Verdin was elected 152-0 by the Legislature on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Verdin, a judge on the S.C. Court of Appeals and a former family and circuit court judge, will join the Supreme Court Aug. 1.

Her election means South Carolina will no longer be the only state in the country with an all-male supreme court.

It will mean South Carolina's Supreme Court will not have a Black justice for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty, the lone Black justice on the court, will retire this summer because of the mandatory requirement age, 72, for judges.

Lawmakers elected Justice John Kittredge as Beatty's successor.

The state will join 18 other states without a justice of color, and 25 other states with no Black justice, according to the Brennan Center for Justice's May 2024 diversity report.

In the 18 states without a justice of color, 12 are states where people of color make up at least 20% of the population.

Verdin was one of three candidates found qualified and nominated last month by the Legislature's judicial vetting and nominating committee.

The two other candidates were Judges Blake Hewitt, a white man, and Jocelyn Newman, a Black woman.

Both withdrew before Wednesday's vote.

South Carolina is one of two states where lawmakers elect most judges.

"I know it's going to be a lot of work," Verdin told reporters Wednesday. "And I'm excited to get in there and start working in August."

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is a news reporter with South Carolina Public Radio and ETV. She worked at South Carolina newspapers for a decade, previously working as a reporter and then editor of The State’s S.C. State House and politics team, and as a reporter at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013.