SC Supreme Court will have a woman justice again after last year’s all-male abortion decision

South Carolina’s Supreme Court will have one woman again.

Appeals Court Judge Blake Hewitt dropped out of the Supreme Court race, leaving Appeals Court Judge Letitia Verdin as the only remaining candidate, Judicial Merit Selection Commission staff said.

Richland County Judge Jocelyn Newman, a Black woman, withdrew from the race Tuesday.

The JMSC nominated Hewitt, Newman and Verdin earlier this month out of a pool of six applicants. A maximum of three candidates can be forwarded to the General Assembly, which elects judges.

Vote counters in the House said Verdin had secured more than 100 votes.

With Verdin’s pending election, four out of the five justices will continue to be from the Upstate.

Lawmakers are slated to return to Columbia on June 5 to hold the Supreme Court election to replace Justice John Kittredge, who is becoming the chief justice.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty is leaving this year because of the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges. Beatty is currently the only Black justice on the state Supreme court.

The make up of the Supreme Court had been criticized for being all male ahead of the court upholding the state’s 2023 fetal heartbeat law, which bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy, when a woman might not know she’s even pregnant.