South Carolina will get a new chief justice leading its judicial system Friday, but only for one year.
Chief Justice Jean Toal turned 72 years old earlier this year, meaning she reached the mandatory retirement age on the state Supreme Court. Toal’s final day in office was Thursday.
Legislators voted unanimously in May to promote Associate Justice Costa Pleicones to the top spot. However, the 71-year-old Pleicones will only be allowed to hold the position for one year before he also reaches the retirement age.
Toal has led the Supreme Court since 2000 and has served on the court for 27 years. Pleicones has been an associate justice for the past 16 years. Legislators will vote this spring among three candidates seeking to fill the newly-open spot on the court. They will also choose a new chief justice to eventually replace Pleicones.
Pleicones is a Greenville native with degrees from Wofford College and the University of South Carolina School of Law. He served in the Judge Advocate’s General Corps during the Vietnam War and continued to be in the Army Reserve even after he left active service to become a public defender and later a municipal judge. He was eventually appointed as a circuit judge in 1991.
He told the Charleston Post & Courier that he plans to push for a standardized bar exam for all law students graduating in South Carolina and also hopes to secure a pay raises for judges.
Pleicones is married with two daughters and one grandchild, according to his Supreme Court biography.
South Carolina is one of the only states that has its legislature both nominate and elect judges on its highest court. The three candidates seeking the fifth spot on the Supreme Court are Administrative Law Court Judge Ralph King Anderson III, Court of Appeals Chief Judge John C. Few and Court of Appeals Judge H. Bruce Williams.