City Hall | Photo by Rūta Smith

[image-1] Charleston City Council approved Emmanuel Ferguson to be the municipal judge of a new DUI court at its July 14 meeting. City attorney Susan Herdina said she is "hopeful" the court will begin operating Sept. 1.

Ferguson served as an assistant U.S. attorney and assistant solicitor to Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson. Mayor John Tecklenburg, in a letter of support to City Council, said Ferguson will be an "excellent" addition to the municipal court. Ferguson declined to comment for a story.

[image-2] The new DUI court will act as a division of the municipal court, but will handle DUI charges exclusively. The backlog of about 230 pending DUI cases will be "plucked out of the general docket and moved over to a separate docket," Herdina said.

The court was announced earlier this year in an attempt to end a backlog of DUI cases, but COVID-19 slowed the process of creating the court.

"At this point right now, the general court is still dealing with those [DUI] cases," she said. "But, we have a number of tickets that are pending. As soon as we get this separate docket up and running, then Judge Emmanuel will be handling those cases."

Council approved the court to function for one year, but it may be extended if necessary, Herdina said. Compensation for the part-time position will be $48,000, according to city officials.

"The idea would be, hopefully within this year, that we would be able to clean up this backlog and then start fresh, and presumably weave those cases back into the regular docket, but those decisions haven't been made," she said.

Charleston City Council also approved Tecklenburg's nomination for Lindsey McClain Byrd to sit on the municipal court.