By Kat Walsh
Duffie Stone was elected to his third full term as Fourteenth Judicial Circuit solicitor on June 14.
But what exactly is a solicitor?
“No one knows what a solicitor is,” said Stone. “It’s not unusual for me to step up in front of a group of people to speak, and no one knows what I do.”
A solicitor – also known as a district attorney – is the county’s chief prosecuting agency. For Stone and the Fourteenth Circuit, which covers Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, that means prosecuting about 5,000 cases every year.
Stone, who grew up in Myrtle Beach, said, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who the solicitor was or what he did. Our solicitor, Jim Dunn, famously wore three-piece black suits and his lapel always matched his tie.
“My mother would go over to the Orry County courthouse to watch the criminal trials. Inside, there was theater seating. That’s where people went to see what was really going on. It was a combination of civic knowledge and entertainment.”
Stone knew he wanted to be a lawyer and to do trial work.
“I went to law school to be a prosecutor. After the first year of law school I worked as a summer clerk at the Solicitor’s Office in Columbia for $4.25 an hour,” he said. “That was the greatest job ever. … It helped me afford to pay for my apartment over Revco.”
But before law school was Wofford College, where, in the School of Liberal Arts, Stone was required to study broadly. What seemed interesting but irrelevant to an English major – chemistry, philosophy, psychology – is what Stone says he now uses in his work.
“My exposure to all the disciplines, you put it all together, and it is what I do on a daily basis – listening to witnesses, analyzing what they say, explaining DNA results to a jury, even just preparing the case for trial.”
And all those disciplines in college also seem to have taught Stone discipline in life, personally as a runner and professionally as a leader.
For most people, running means getting in a few miles a few times a week. But for Stone, running reflects responsibility. As his professional obligations increased, so did his weekly mileage.
“I started running when I became a prosecutor,” he said. “On my runs, I spent time thinking about my case, about my opening and closing. As my cases got bigger and the things I needed to think about got longer and longer, so did my runs. I went from 5Ks to 10Ks to the marathon.”
Stone has now successfully completed three marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and says the benefits are as much mental as they are physical.
“You train your body for the first 20 miles, you train your brain for the last six.”
As the head of the solicitor’s office, Stone believes the integrity and credibility of his role is crucial.
“Half the time I make a decision, I make half the room happy and half the room angry,” he said. “So you may not agree with every decision, but I want you to understand that I make those decisions for the right reason.”
Stone’s passion for his job is clear – he says he can’t imagine doing anything else – and he wants those who work for him to feel the same.
“I tell my new hires, ‘I want you finding your passion,’ ” he said. “If you enjoy what you’re doing, you will do very well and, on your own, get better.”
Top photo: Duffie Stone became solicitor of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit in January 2006, succeeding Randolph Murdaugh, whose family had run the office for 86 years. Photo by Bob Sofaly.