Bluffton police chief of staff McCall-Tanner named Beaufort County magistrate

dburley@islandpacket.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Angela McCall-Tanner

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Bluffton Police Department chief of staff Angela McCall-Tanner, a former prosecutor, has been named a Beaufort County magistrate.

McCall-Tanner was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Nikki Haley and confirmed by the state Senate. She was recommended for the position by state Sens. Chip Campsen, Tom Davis and Clementa Pinckney.

"I am very appreciative of Angela's willingness to serve as a county magistrate," Davis, R-Beaufort, said in a statement. She "will be an excellent magistrate, one we can be proud of," he said.

McCall-Tanner has given the police department her two weeks' notice and will be sworn in as a magistrate in mid-March, according to Beaufort County Chief Magistrate Lawrence McElynn.

McCall-Tanner declined comment Wednesday, saying she was required to send media requests to McElynn.

Davis said McElynn will issue an administrative order assigning McCall-Tanner to handle civil cases and requiring her recusal from any cases involving the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office because she is married to Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

"If there are representatives from (Tanner's) organization involved in a case, she will not be involved with it," McElynn said.

He cited McCall-Tanner's experience working with the justice system -- she served a dozen years in the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office -- and her time as a civil lawyer as reasons for her appointment.

"She has exactly the kind of background that is well-suited for this court," he said.

McCall-Tanner will become Beaufort County's 13th magistrate. Each county is allotted magistrates based on a combination of population and accommodations taxes collected, according to state law.

McElynn said the county needed an additional judge. Last year, there were about 25,000 criminal traffic cases and 5,000 civil cases in the county, he said.

"As the population grows here, and as litigation increases, we have more activity in Magistrate Court than we ever have in the past," he said.

Magistrates generally have criminal trial jurisdiction over offenses subject to a fine of less than $500 or jail time of fewer than 30 days, according to the S.C. Judicial Department.

In addition, they are responsible for setting bail, conducting preliminary hearings and issuing arrest and search warrants.

They also have civil jurisdiction when the contested amount is less than $7,500, the department's website says.

Beaufort County has three full-time magistrates, and the rest are part-time. McCall-Tanner's position will be part-time, and she'll make about $25 an hour her first year, McElynn said.

McCall-Tanner graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1998.

After graduation, she joined the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office as the county's first female prosecutor and was promoted to deputy solicitor in 2006.

In that role, she worked on every homicide case that came through the Beaufort office -- including murder, manslaughter and felony DUI death cases -- usually averaging about 10 a year.

In 2011, she left the Solicitor's Office to practice domestic law at Vaux & Marscher in Bluffton. From there, she went to work at the Bluffton Police Department.

McCall-Tanner's run as deputy solicitor was successful, according to fellow prosecutors. In 2009, she secured convictions in six of the seven murder cases she worked.

But her stretch in the office didn't come without controversy.

Earlier this year, a woman filed a lawsuit that claims she was maliciously prosecuted by the former deputy solicitor after the August 2006 death of her toddler, according to federal court records.

Paris Avery, formerly of Beaufort, filed the suit about seven months after the S.C. Supreme Court overturned her 2008 conviction for homicide by child neglect. Her attorney, Elizabeth Franklin-Best, argues that McCall-Tanner was "malicious, deceptive and reckless" in testifying against and prosecuting Avery in the death of her 15-month-old son.

McCall-Tanner's attorney filed a motion last week to dismiss the case, according to federal court records. The motion is pending.

McElynn said Wednesday he was not familiar with the federal case, but he did not "anticipate it should be an issue for us here in the Magistrate Court."

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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