“The Hug-Worthy Way in which Rick Morgan Serves the Citizens of Columbia,” South Carolina Super Lawyers
In addition to his practice at Burr & Forman counseling employers on all aspects of employment and labor law, Morgan has served as a municipal judge for the city of Columbia since 2015. He received requests from the city council as early as 2012 to apply to serve with the court, and while the existing judges renewed their service and filled the bench at that time, Morgan’s application to serve as a substitute judge earned him another call while waiting at the veterinarian’s office three years later; he’s been serving on the court ever since.
As a municipal judge, Morgan handles a diverse docket of non-jury bench trials. “It was a challenging transition because my private practice has really been all on the civil side,” he said. “So the challenge was having to dig into the code and statutes and become familiar with the standards and elements of the numerous kinds of charges that come before us – simple assault, domestic violence, petty larceny, trespass, public drinking.”
In his judicial role, Morgan places a premium on how citizens on the other side of the bench experience the process, especially since municipal court may be the only court they have a chance to witness and will affect their perspective on how our judicial system works. “So I ask myself this question, even today before I go up and sit: ‘How can I make this experience be one that they understand, feel treated with respect and dignity, feel fully heard, before having a decision issued?’” Morgan said. “I felt that was my role.”
To that point, Morgan recounted one matter in which a woman opted to plead guilty to speeding while taking her granddaughter to school because she didn’t want her granddaughter to be tardy. At the end of the exchange, the plaintiff asked if she could give Morgan a hug, saying she didn’t expect to be treated this nicely in court.
“It gives me a great sense of people,” Morgan said. “I think many of us forget that so many of our fellow citizens who end up in court are just regular people who work paycheck to paycheck and do everything they can to try to support their families. I have a unique opportunity, in my view, to be able to sit and observe people and learn from that and take from that maybe a little humility.”
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