County’s chief magistrate passes the gavel – Coastal Observer


County’s chief magistrate passes the gavel

Judge Isaac Pyatt receives a barbecue grill from his staff as he steps down after 27 years. (The full-size grill was delivered later.)

The verdict handed down last week in Georgetown County’s Central Traffic Court was unanimous.

Isaac Pyatt was fair.

Win or lose, prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement told the retiring chief magistrate that they knew he had treated them fairly.

Pyatt left the court for the last time Tuesday. The Sandy Island native served on the bench for 27 years, the last 21 of those as chief magistrate. He was a deputy sheriff for 13 years before that. He recalled taking the basic investigations course with Sheriff Carter Weaver, who was then working with the State Law Enforcement Division.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen Wednesday morning at eight o’clock,” he told well-wishers last week. 

But Pyatt’s willing to give it a try.

Comeletia Pyatt, his wife of 36 years, said he first started talking about retirement in 2022. She didn’t hear any more about it until last October when he told her “Jan. 30 is going to be my last day.”

She is retired from the Georgetown County School District, where she was a teacher and an administrator. She is now principal and executive director of the Mingo Creek Academy, an early-childhood education program located on the former campus of Tara Hall Home for Boys.

“We’ve always said, talking about retirement, ‘always leave on a positive,’” Comeletia Pyatt said.

Isaac Pyatt was assigned to central traffic court after he was appointed magistrate in 1996.  The other five magistrates held court around the county. The chief magistrate at the time, Hughey Walker, was lobbying for a central magistrate’s court. County Council was questioning whether the county actually needed six magistrates.

Walker stepped down in 2002. Pyatt was named chief magistrate by Jean Toal, chief justice of the state Supreme Court. County Council again questioned the need for six magistrates. Toal and the solicitor said the growing caseload required six and the vacancy was filled.

With Pyatt’s retirement, the county has four magistrates. Kin McKenzie, who was the magistrate for Murrells Inlet, was suspended last year by the current chief justice, Donald Beatty, for “dereliction of duty” following a complaint by Pyatt.

Tony Love, who takes over as chief magistrate, said McKenzie’s fate is in the hands of the chief justice.

“It’s going to be hard on schedules and on weekends,” Love said.

Magistrates are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Pyatt’s seat is within Sen. Ronnie Sabb’s district.

Love plans to follow the example set by Pyatt. “You’ve got to love the job,” he said.

That’s not a cliché. It’s something that set the tone for Pyatt’s court.

“That has been my motto from day one, because if I wasn’t happy, I would make a whole lot of other people miserable,” Pyatt said. “I tried my best to leave the problems on the outside and deal with what I had to deal with on the inside.”

He tried to make sure his staff did the same.

“I try very hard to be a good leader. I try hard to be the person, the go-to person whenever you need somebody to go and talk to,” Pyatt said.

One morning last week, he got a phone call that showed he has done more than try. It was from the brother of a woman who died when a boat carrying six passengers to Sandy Island sank in the Waccamaw River on a night in February 2009. Two other people, including Pyatt’s 18-year-old nephew, also died.

“He said, “Judge, I just got to tell you something.’ He said, ‘I tried to pattern my life behind you.’ He said, ‘You made such an impact on my life.’ He said, “Now I have a family, and I need to do that for them,’” Pyatt recalled. “I didn’t realize the impact that I’ve made on other people.” 

He added that he had help from his family and his faith.

Love was appointed in 2015 after retiring from the Highway Patrol after 25 years. He had brought cases before Pyatt as a trooper. 

“He was fair,” Love said. 

They formed a bond working together on the same side of the bench. Pyatt called him “my brother from another mother.” “He will lead this summary court to the next level,” he added.

Working with Pyatt reinforced what Love learned as a young trooper: that he needed to approach everyone as an individual.

“You could be the one thing that makes a difference,” Love said. “Anybody can have a bad day.”

When Love arrived in 2015, Pyatt thought he was a good choice.

“I think he will make a fine magistrate,” he said at the time. “He’s a fair guy.”



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .