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Murrells Inlet: Magistrate adjusts to new role and Blackberry

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A new office and cellphone are among the things John Benso is adjusting to this month as he embarks on a new career.

Benso, who was sworn in as the new Murrells Inlet magistrate last week, said he expects one may take more effort than the other.

“The county issued me a Blackberry and I’m sure it’s a very nice phone,” he said. But it’s his first smartphone and he hasn’t quite figured out what features it has, let alone how to work them.

“I am able to make and receive phone calls,” he said with a little laugh. “I have gotten text messages, I think they’re called, and responded with a couple of text messages of my own. But I don’t see the point.”

The attorney turned judge spent part of this week hauling boxes in and out of the office occupied for the last 15 years by newly retired Judge Bill Moeller. He has a long way to go yet — the only thing hanging on his office wall so far is a humorous plaque his wife, Helen, recently gave him.

But he expects to be settled in by the end of the month.

He also has to learn to operate the Case Management System this month and will spend the last two weeks of the month at an orientation for new magistrates at the Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia.

“I can think of places I’d rather be at the end of July,” he said. But he’s looking forward to the learning experience the session will offer.

“Obviously there’s a lot for me to learn,” Benso said. “I don’t want to say it’s intimidating, but it’s a lot. I spent 30 years as a lawyer, concentrated exclusively on the civil side.”

A large portion of what he will deal with as a magistrate involves criminal law.

“I’m going to have to become familiar with that area of the law and the fact that I’m an attorney will be meaningless,” he said. “I will be just as new to that as anybody else.”

He’s also looking forward to a chance to meet people at the orientation who are going through the same process as he.

Benso will start presiding over Murrells Inlet court cases in August. He said he’s lucky that Deb D’Antonio, who was Moeller’s clerk for more than four years, will be around to help.

“I will be very dependent on her and her knowledge,” he said.

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