Matthews invested as Family Court Judge

WINNSBORO – Winnsboro attorney Debra Matthews was elected Family Court Judge for seat 2 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit on Feb. 7, to fill the unexpired term of the Honorable W. Thomas Sprott, Jr. Matthews’ investiture was held on Monday, March 5 in the Courtroom of the Fairfield County Courthouse.

Judge Paul E. Short, Jr. presided over the investiture that was attended by many elected officials, judges and local attorneys as well as Matthews’ family and friends.

Several of her colleagues spoke during the ceremony, including Family Court Judge Gwendolyn Jones, who told the audience that she has been friends with Matthews since the two, as young attorneys, began their law careers in Winnsboro.

“Patience and a calm demeanor are the most important characteristics needed for this difficult job,” Jones said, addressing the audience. “Family Court is an extremely emotional area and, Debra, you possess these necessary characteristics, without a doubt. You are firm and deliberate, yet calm and courteous at all times.”

“I want you to understand that you cannot fix every situation that comes your way, no matter how hard you try. All you can do is your best,” Jones said.

In offering guidance to Matthews for what lies ahead in her new career, Jones referenced Matthews’s husband who died last summer after battling cancer for several years.

“Although you were the wife of a residential builder for 28 years, the mother of two sons who are residential builders and you, yourself, hold a residential builder’s license, you cannot fix it all.

“My dear friend, Debra, you are strong, resilient and a smart, beautiful addition to the bench. Welcome to our wonderful family court. You’ll do well,” Jones said.

Winnsboro attorney and longtime friend Creighton Coleman praised Matthews for “doing things right.”

“She has good corporate skills, she has a good temperament, a good work ethic and she’s honest and trustworthy,” Coleman said.

“Historically, the Sixth Circuit is known to produce some of the finest judges in South Carolina,” Coleman said. “In my opinion, Debra, you will emulate those judges who have served South Carolina well. You will do a great job. We’re proud of you.”

The investiture concluded with Matthew’s sons, Jody and Raymond, Jr., assisting their mother in donning her robe. Matthews then raised her sons’ hands high and smiled broadly.

Following the investiture, a reception was held at the Woman’s Club.

Matthews earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Stockton State University and her Juris Doctorate degree in 1999 from Widener University in the State of Delaware.

After being admitted to practice in 2001, Matthews opened a private practice in Winnsboro. As a general practitioner, she concentrated in civil and criminal litigation with a heavy emphasis on family law.  Matthews has served as guardian ad litem and as a contract attorney with the South Carolina Commission of Indigent Defense for vulnerable adults, abuse and neglect cases.  She has handled a variety of family law cases.  Her practice also entailed consumer bankruptcy filings in the United States Bankruptcy Court since 2002.

Judge Matthews was certified as a family court mediator and circuit court mediator in 2010, and is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts in South Carolina. She is an active member of the community, having served on the Mid County Water Board, the 6th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Board and the Public Defender Selection Board. Matthews has dedicated her time to the South Carolina Bar pro bono and mock trial programs and serves in her church, St. Theresa’s in Winnsboro, on the finance committee.

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