Citizens for Life tells legislature vote no for James Smith

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David Hucks
David Hucks
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at

January 22, 2024 Memo: To members of the South Carolina General Assembly

From: Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life

Re: Vote NO for James Smith for 5th Circuit Judge South Carolina

Citizens for Life strongly opposes pro-abortion activist James Smith for a judgeship on the Circuit Court of South Carolina. We intend to score the vote.  A vote for James Smith will be scored as an anti-life, pro-abortion vote.  

Here is a message from SCCL Board Member Wayne Cockfield, USMC Ret. of Florence, S.C., regarding James Smith’s reprehensible pro-abortion activism.   I’m Wayne Cockfield and I’m a retired Marine Corps Sergeant. I’m here to remind you that the duty of government is to protect the most vulnerable and innocent members of our human family, unborn children. As a combat veteran I believe it is the duty of a civilized nation to protect its weakest members. Democrat James Smith does not.   James Smith is trying to downplay his radical pro-abortion voting record, and instead, tout himself as a combat veteran of Afghanistan. The truth is James Smith is an abortion extremist. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the country’s biggest abortion business and seller of baby body parts for inhuman, cold-blooded experiments. James Smith supports savagely dismembering living unborn children who can feel pain. His radical pro-abortion voting record is a matter of public record on the South Carolina State House website.   I lost both legs in combat in Vietnam. I know what it feels like to be dismembered. I was dismembered to save my life. I cannot fathom how anyone supports ripping apart the body of a living unborn baby to kill her; but James Smith does. When it comes to protecting pregnant women and unborn children, James Smith is AWOL.   Abortion is a real war with a real body count — more than 65 million dead babies and counting since 1973. The war in Afghanistan is over. It is time to stop the war on unborn babies. It is time to stop the killing right here in South Carolina.   Vote NO to stop the election of radical pro-abortion James Smith to the Circuit Court of South Carolina.


The racial and political divide over the volatile issue of racial diversity has been exacerbated by a two-person race for a vacant state judge’s post in Richland County.

The white candidate is James Smith, 56, a Democrat who served as a state representative from 1996 to 2018. He took a leave of absence from the Legislature to serve in front-line combat duty in Afghanistan. He was the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018, losing to Henry McMaster, 54% to 46%. He is currently at Nelson Mullins Law Firm.

Justin Williams, 39, is a black candidate who is not affiliated with any party. He has been a lawyer for 12 years and has worked for two law firms doing civil and criminal work. The Public Service Commission, a quasi-judicial state regulatory agency that oversees utility rates, energy, transportation, and other matters, has appointed Williams as one of its commissioners since 2018.

According to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, a 10-member group which screens candidates for judicial positions and approves or prohibits their candidacy in the Legislature, Smith and Williams are both “qualified” with an “excellent” temperament. There are six lawmakers and four citizens on the commission.

It takes a simple majority to elect Smith or Williams among the state’s 170 lawmakers. The election will be on Wednesday, Feb. 7, in a joint session.

For this story, Smith and Williams declined to comment.

The lack of racial and gender diversity in the state’s high salaried judiciary is a political and social issue in South Carolina. There are only four Black judges among 49 trial judge positions in the state, two of which are vacant after two Black judges retired last year. Judges earn about $200,000 a year. Additionally, they can create networks in the legal community behind-the-scenes by hiring law clerks each year.

As a 31-year state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a Black House member with 31 years in office, said, “What has been so disappointing is that we haven’t capitalized on the opportunity to add diversity to the courts on every level.” White lawyers have filled several judgeships vacated recently by Black judges.

This is not about James Smith, it is about a lack of commitment to diversity. Cobb-Hunter said she finds it frustrating to hear people talk about diversity on the bench and then not act on it. Her critique applies to both Republicans and Democrats, she said. “None of these candidates who go through screening are without merit. They have to have merit, and then some, otherwise they wouldn’t make it out of screening.”

It is disheartening that so many lawmakers who claim to support diversity on the bench support Smith, said Richland County independent Mia McLeod, a 14-year Black lawmaker. In my opinion, both of these candidates are qualified. I have worked with James in the House, but Justin (Williams) is more than qualified for this judicial position. When we compare the two, diversity should always win.”

Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, a Black member of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission and a longtime minority leader in the House, believes Smith’s qualifications and varied experiences are far superior to Williams’.

According to Rutherford, who sat next to Smith during Smith’s years in the Legislature and praised his work ethic, James has forgotten more about the law and process than most people could ever imagine. He wouldn’t say he didn’t know anything about it if an issue came up.

Rutherford, who intends to vote for Smith, said Smith has played an important role in the fiercely-fought debate in 2015 to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds after a white supremacist killed nine Black parishioners at a Charleston church.

Rutherford said Smith’s service in Afghanistan — when he went on leave from the Legislature and enlisted in the U.S. Army after 9/11 and fought in a combat position instead of getting a lucrative job as a military lawyer — was heroic. “He went as a real soldier. He had small children, but he went anyway because it meant that much to him.”

He and nine other members of the Richland County delegation, which includes Blacks, whites, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, have signed letters supporting Smith.

In Howard’s view, Smith’s qualifications far outweigh Williams’. “I’m in favor of diversity. I just don’t think it is the predominant factor.”.

Howard credited Smith with helping Don Beatty, the outgoing chief justice of the Supreme Court, attain high judicial positions.

Smith and Williams are running for a seat that was vacated last year by Judge DeAndrea Benjamin, a Black, who was nominated by President Joe Biden and approved by the U.S. Senate for a seat on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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