Byron Gipson

Byron Gipson

Solicitor of the Fifth Circuit, Richland & Kershaw Counties, SC

Byron Gipson is the Solicitor of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, serving as the chief prosecutor of individuals charged with criminal offenses occurring in Richland and Kershaw Counties. Mr. Gipson was previously elected as the Chairman of the South Carolina Humanities Council and was appointed by the South Carolina Supreme Court to serve on The Committee on Character and Fitness. Prior to his current role, Mr. Gipson was a partner at Johnson, Toal, and Battiste, PA, where he practiced law for 21 years. Mr. Gipson graduated from the College of Charleston with degrees in English and Political Science and holds a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Warrant Resolution Clinics in Richland and Kershaw Counties, South Carolina

Byron Gipson, solicitor of the 5th circuit in South Carolina, helps residents “hit reset”

Solicitor Byron Gipson of the 5th district of South Carolina believes he and his team should be “ministers of justice.” He became an E Pluribus Unum fellow in 2020 as part of that pursuit. 

Gipson has seen many sides of the law; solicitors are South Carolina’s district attorneys, but for over twenty years prior to taking the role, Gipson was a criminal defense lawyer. He is devoted to keeping his community safe. He also believes the justice system should be fair and equitable, but that there are disparities in experience and outcomes across lines of race and class.  

Too often, Gipson saw people in his community in jail, or at risk of arrest, over low-level, nonviolent matters like unpaid traffic tickets. Some had missed a court date for a misdemeanor, and now had a “bench warrant,” meaning they could be arrested and held in jail to wait for their rescheduled date. 

Often these were people of color or people in poverty. Gipson felt it didn’t serve his community to have them terrified of a routine traffic stop, or sitting in jail, away from their families and jobs. He also felt it wasn’t the best use of law enforcement’s time to arrest them. 

So E Pluribus Unum connected Gipson with other leaders from across the country who had hosted “warrant resolution clinics.” These clinics allowed people with bench warrants for non-felony offenses to “resolve” their warrants, without arrest, by addressing their fines or setting a new court date.

Gipson wanted to do the same. E Pluribus Unum provided support for Gipson’s office with the Centers for Court Innovation. They helped him hone his ideas and allowed him, as he put it, “not to reinvent the wheel.” Gipson valued the partnership with the other E Pluribus Unum fellows and team.

“It’s a spirit that you cannot duplicate. It’s people that just want to see good things happen in this world,” he says. “E Pluribus Unum is a national, even international, point guard; everyone wants to help.”

With E Pluribus Unum’s support, Gipson hosted his first bench warrant resolution clinic at a local church in the fall of 2021. Over 70 people resolved their bench warrants at the event. As of fall 2022, Gipson’s team has held X sessions, and more than X people have had their warrants resolved. 

 Gipson sees it as “hitting reset.” He recalls a man who had been unable to get a driver’s license or get a steady job for twenty years because of his bench warrant. After the clinic, he was able to work out a plan to make his payments. With his warrant resolved, he could get a license and apply for a job. His life was transformed. 

“In every other industry, you miss a payment and you can make the next payment. They don’t just come take the car the first time you miss a payment,” Gipson explains. “Don’t we all want to live in a world where there’s a little bit of grace and mercy?”