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S.C. House elects Bill Funderburk to judgeship

Posted: February 5, 2015 4:19 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2015 1:00 a.m.
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Bill Funderburk

The S.C. House of Representatives elected Camden municipal judge and long-time attorney Bill Funderburk to serve as an administrative law judge in Columbia. Funderburk defeated 16-year incumbent Judge Carolyn Matthews, 87-50.

In an exclusive interview Thursday, Funderburk said the administrative court is a relatively new entity designed to take some caseload off the circuit courts dockets.

“This is a court created by the legislature some years ago with the purpose of redirecting certain kinds of cases from circuit court to administrative law court,” Funderburk said. “Some cases also involve inmate discipline and sentencing. The supreme court has ruled that some cases need to have a court hearing and not be left solely to the prison administration.”

Matthews’ term runs through the end of June and Funderburk will take the bench July 1, he said. Camden City Council appointed Funderburk to a municipal judgeship in August 2014, a position he said he will have to leave when he takes his new assignment.  

“That’s a full-time job,” he said of the administrative court position. “My job with the city is a part-time job. Rick Todd is the chief magistrate and I work for him in a number of capacities.”

Camden City Manager Mel Pearson said the city is aware of Funderburk’s election. Pearson said it would be taken up with council as a personnel matter in the near future and make a determination on how to proceed. He said council would likely revisit some previous applications and re-open the position for new applications.

“I need to make sure council, since they approved the hiring of that position, are on the same page,” Pearson said.

Funderburk was born and raised in Camden, educated in the public schools and received a degree in English from Davidson College. He completed graduate school at the University of South Carolina (USC), also in English and worked as a college professor. He still serves as an adjunct professor for USC. After teaching several years in North Carolina, he decided to come home to Camden, but knew an English degree was not the most useful in the business world.

“I knew I couldn’t hang up a shingle downtown and open an English office,” he said. “So, I went to law school at USC and got my law degree in 1985, so I’ve been a lawyer nearly 30 years. I worked my way through law school repairing TVs.”

Funderburk said his legal experience makes him ideal for the administrative law judge position.

“I worked for a state agency for 23 years under administrative law. It’s been a dream of mine to serve and is a cap to my career to be an administrative law judge. That was a dream,” Funderburk said. “But I also had a secondary dream. My father was city attorney when I was a child and I thought it was would be really neat to come back and serve the city of Camden. It has been a wonderful opportunity to serve my city, one of my dreams come true, but as it turned out the incumbent (Matthews) decided to run and we had a contested case. In late November, they nominated me as a qualified candidate. That’s when I considered the possibility of running for that office.”

Funderburk’s nomination was not without controversy, as he is married to State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk. She recused herself from the vote and reportedly did not try to solicit votes from her fellow lawmakers. Bill Funderburk said judge candidates are not allowed to campaign like publicly-elected office seekers, but they are allowed to acquaint themselves with the legislators.  

“I was working really hard to get the attention of the General Assembly. Laurie stepped away from that process and a friend, a representative from Florence, helped. As much as I wanted Laurie’s help, I admired her stance. She was completely professional and ethical throughout the entire thing. South Carolina has more to worry about than a soap opera,” Funderburk said.

He also said he and Matthews talked before the vote was made.

“We agreed to be friends after the vote no matter how it went,” he said. “We have known each other for a long time.”

He said administrative court is held in the Brown Building in Columbia. He said the law allows the court to be held in other locations, but that is rarely done.

(Senior staff writer Jim Tatum contributed to this article.)

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