Casey Edwards stood up to SC Gov. Mark Sanford, fighting for stimulus money to win Wings of Justice
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on June 10, 2009
While there has been a lot written about the Southern Republican governors who didn’t want to take all of the stimulus money for their states, South Carolina felt like the state that needed the money more than the others did.
The Gamecock State has the highest unemployment rate outside of Michigan. And numerous schools, along the stretch of I-95 known as the “Corridor of Shame,” were in really horrible shape.
One of those South Carolina school students, Casey Edwards, a senior at Chapin High School, decided to do something about that, and filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mark Sanford to require him to accept the money.
“The fact that we’re going to turn down money when we desperately need it, really bothered me,” Edwards told CBS News.
Gov. Sanford had been willing to take the money, but only to pay down the state’s debt. The crumbling school infrastructure — that would have to wait, again. His actions seemed geared more toward running for higher office, perhaps in 2012, than the people of South Carolina.
Edwards filed a lawsuit in April, but that suit was rejected as being premature, since the state General Assembly hadn’t acted yet. But that didn’t deter Edwards, who subsequently filed a second lawsuit, along with University of South Carolina law student Justin Williams.
The South Carolina Supreme Court heard this suit, and ruled unanimously last week that Gov. Sanford must apply for the disputed $700 million in federal stimulus money. The court also issued a writ of mandamus, ordering the governor to apply for the money.
Edwards’ initial lawsuit was a wake-up call that inspired others to jump in to fight for the stimulus money, something that had been lacking before the lawsuit.
Most 18-year-olds learn a little bit about how government works from time spent in the classroom, but Edwards got a broad education on how government works by getting involved. Even though Edwards was graduating and leaving the school system, she understood that the children behind her deserved a better school infrastructure.
One of her attorneys, Dick Harpootlian, summed it up very well at the news conference reacting to the court’s ruling:
“For an 18-year-old to step up to the plate and go head to head with the governor, it takes courage and intelligence and she’s got both of them. I’m proud of her.”
We are too. Edwards wasn’t ready to just accept the situation, so she rose up and took action. And she received the satisfaction of knowing that what she did made a difference. For having the courage to rise up to fight for fixing the crumbling school infrastructure in South Carolina, we gladly give her the Wings of Justice award.