Second woman on S.C. high court

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COLUMBIA — Court of Appeals Chief Judge Kaye Hearn was selected today as the newest member of the South Carolina Supreme Court, only the second woman ever to sit on the state's highest bench.

Judge Hearn, 59, was the only person on the ballot when state House and Senate members voted her in as the next justice during a joint session. Last month, the other two candidates — Circuit Judges John Few of Greenville and Deadra Jefferson of Charleston — withdrew their names from consideration.

Judge Hearn, who had tried for a seat on the high court twice before, downplayed the significance of being the second woman, saying she was chosen for her qualifications, not her gender.

"I believe in patience and perseverance," she said. "It was definitely worthwhile."

She said she expects to be sworn in either in late fall or early January to fill the seat vacated by Justice John Waller of Marion, who is retiring. His term expires in 2012.

Judge Hearn joined the Court of Appeals in 1995 and was the first woman elected to lead that court in 1999. Hearn joins Chief Justice Jean Toal, who has been on the state Supreme Court since 1988.

"This is a very rejoicing day," Chief Justice Toal said of being joined by a second woman on the state's high court. "We welcome her with open arms."

Since 2006, Judge Hearn has also served as an adjunct professor at the Charleston School of Law. Her husband is freshman Rep. George Hearn, R-Conway.


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