A wide array of duties falls to the state attorney general, and Matthew Richardson's experience and qualifications make him our choice for this office.
The list of legal actions filed in recent years by the attorney general on behalf of the people of South Carolina illustrates that this job goes far beyond criminal prosecutions. They include federal lawsuits over water rights; plans to kill the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada; and constitutional challenges to the health care reform law. The attorney general also has filed a brief in support of Arizona's illegal immigration law, and the South Carolina legislature is poised to follow suit with its own law.
Richardson promises to fight for South Carolinians on these and other important issues. Unlike his Republican opponent, he has experience in federal and appellate courts. He served as law clerk for former S.C. Court of Appeals Judge Kaye Hearn (now a state Supreme Court justice) and U.S. District Court Judge Michael Duffy. He's past president of the Federal Bar Association in South Carolina and vice president of the 1,300-member S.C. Association for Justice.
As a private attorney, his legal work has included consumer protection, securities fraud, commercial and real estate disputes, products liability, intellectual property protection, voting rights and employment rights. Advising public officials at all levels of government on all aspects of state law is an important part of the attorney general's job.
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The criticism that Richardson lacks experience as a courtroom prosecutor is valid, but his opponent's experience is limited to about six years total as an assistant solicitor and assistant attorney general. Alan Wilson has not led a prosecution team. And Richardson's legal experience is nearly double that of Wilson's (12 years versus seven).
Richardson is a smart lawyer who can tap the experience of the people who work in the Attorney General's Office and solicitors across the state.
His primary focus as attorney general, he said, will be public safety. He wants to work with solicitors to make better use of the state's grand jury system to rid our state of gang and drug conspiracy activity. The goal: to help solicitors reach beyond the street-level criminals to get to top-level conspirators.
Second, he wants to prosecute public fraud and corruption. We know firsthand in Beaufort County the importance of that. And he wants to make sure the state is doing all it can to protect our natural resources. Enforcing the law against environmental polluters also is a charge of the state grand jury.
Richardson rightly notes that the attorney general must put the law before politics in addressing legal issues confronting the state. He will serve South Carolina well as attorney general.
Editor's note: Matthew Richardson practices with the Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham law firm, which has represented The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette in the past.