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A shift in power has occurred on the local level of Colleton County’s judicial process.
Longtime magistrate Reaves McLeod is no longer an acting magistrate. He has been replaced by Walterboro-based attorney and community activist Harriet Bonds.
According to McLeod, the magistrates are appointed to their seats by a member of the locally-elected S.C. Senate. After an initial recommendation, by that Senator, the S.C. Governor then appoints each magistrate to the post. That magistrate then continues to work at the will of the local elected senator. McLeod served Colleton County as one of its five magistrates for more than 10 years. He was first appointed by the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney. McLeod left office in mid-March of this year, with the incoming new appointment of Bonds. Bonds has served in various community positions for Colleton County, including the former director of The Colleton Center. She will now serve the county as one of its five appointed magistrates. “Magistrates are a critical part of our local judicial system,” he said. “When people used to ask me what I did, I would tell them I heard all of their friends’ court cases.”
With his tenure over, McLeod says he will become more focused on his attorney duties. He is a partner in the McLeod, Fraser & Cone Law Firm in Walterboro. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of Salkehatchie in Walterboro, is a sitting member of the Board of Directors for the Bank of Walterboro and owns The Colletonian Newspaper, the county’s free weekly publication. “I served as magistrate and am very proud of that,” he said. “I was not reappointed to the seat, but believe fully that Harriet will do an excellent job.”
The magistrate office in Colleton County holds multiple responsibilities, including overseeing all non-felony court cases. The magistrate can also serve eviction notices, sign warrants for law enforcement agencies and hear some civil court cases, to name a few.
In one year, from July of 2009 to June 30th of 2009, an estimated 955,538 court cases were heard in the state’s magistrates courtrooms. During that same time frame, an estimated 123,000 cases were heard in the General Sessions courtroom. “I estimated that I oversaw about 15,000 criminal cases during my tenure, and that’s just me. There are four others in Colleton County,” he said.
The other magistrates in Colleton County are Bert Duffie; KC Campbell; Keshia Gadsden; Harriet Bonds; and Sophia Henderson.