Published June 10, 2009
Third-year law student Justin Williams loves his home state of South Carolina. It was that love that prompted him to file suit against Governor Mark Sanford.
"I love the state of South Carolina. I love it dearly," said Williams, a former USC student body president. "In my travels, I've always run into people who don't have very positive things to say about our state, especially about our educational system."
Williams was one plaintiff in the case that ultimately led to the South Carolina Supreme Court ordering Sanford to accept the $700 million stimulus package.
Because a significant portion of the $700 million is intended for education and because Williams is a student, he was concerned with Sanford's choice.
"Any student who believed strongly enough that the governor needed to take the money could have brought a lawsuit," Williams said. "I know it may seem a little complex, but it's not that hard.
"Williams said he considered himself to be a "conservative Democrat," and that bringing a lawsuit against the governor had nothing to do with personal politics.
"There's nothing wrong with being fiscally conservative, but not at the expense of children's education," Williams said.
After visiting schools on the I-95 corridor, Williams said he experienced a reality check.
"A lot of those schools are in horrible shape. It was really despicable," he said. "It really hurt my heart that we have children in the state who, in my opinion, don't get adequate education or don't get the education that a child in the United States should get."
Attorney Dwight Drake said the case was simple, but left him with mixed emotions.
"It's a happy occasion - not just for us as participants - but more importantly, for the school children of South Carolina," Drake said. "It feels good to be a part of that. It also was a little sad and frustrating that we had to go to such efforts for something that was rightfully ours to begin with."
Drake said Sanford's leadership was a tragedy.
"What got to me was the outrage that Governor Sanford was going to deny colleges, universities, college students, K-12 students the benefit the $350 million this year and another $350 million the next year," Drake said. "He was going to deny them the resources that are so desperately needed while all the other 49 states were taking them and using them and putting our children and students further behind."
Drake said that seeing young people, like Williams, stand up for themselves and others makes him feel good about the future."
Justin's a third-year law student. Before he's gotten out of law school, he's already won his first case," Drake said. "To see young people get involved ... it's really heartwarming and gratifying."
This story was filed by UWIRE, which offers reporting from more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Read more at www.uwire.com