A deeply experienced trial attorney who has long fought for clients in court and beyond, Ashley Pennington brings to Burnette Shutt & McDaniel a commitment to protect the rights of others and a determination to see systemic reform.
His practice here focuses on civil rights law, such as federal Section 1983 Civil Rights lawsuits and South Carolina Tort Claims that allow victims of government wrongdoing to recover damages. These actions include personal injury lawsuits and cases involving excessive force by law enforcement and police-involved shootings. Ashley is also intensely interested in jail and prison reform throughout the state. He wants to improve the mental health services provided to those accused of crimes as well as for imprisoned individuals.
Ashley worked for decades as a criminal defense attorney for clients facing serious felony charges. He has spent most of his career defending difficult and complex murder cases, including persons facing the death penalty. He has never had a client sentenced to death, except those who chose to represent themselves.
Ashley led the public defender offices in Berkeley and Charleston counties for the last sixteen years. He supervised and mentored over forty full-time attorneys. In 2022, the South Carolina Public Defender Association created a new Ashley Pennington award, to be given annually to a young lawyer who exhibits tireless effort and zealous advocacy.
Much of Ashley’s motivation stems from a desire to solve the problems that he saw during his long career as a defense attorney. His offices developed holistic representation which provided the rehabilitative assistance that his clients needed to avoid the revolving door leading back to prison. These offices worked to connect clients with the services that they needed, such as housing assistance, employment counseling and more.
Ashley worked to develop a Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 2015 that promotes collaboration and fairness in criminal-justice policies in Charleston.
The founder of the non-profit SC Re-Entry Initiative in the 2000’s, Ashley continues to volunteer his time to help formerly incarcerated people successfully reintegrate into society.
Ashley graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law. He practiced in the Richland County Public Defender’s Office and as a federal public defender in Chicago before settling in Charleston.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina and Northern District of Illinois
- South Carolina
- University of South Carolina School of Law, Juris Doctor
- College of Charleston, Bachelor of Arts in History, magna cum laude
- South Carolina Bar
- Criminal Law Section
- Chair, 1999-2000
- Access to Justice Committee, 1994 to present
- Chair, 2002-04
- Criminal Law Subcommittee, chair 1996-98, 2000-01
- South Carolina Public Defender Association
- President, 1996-2001
- Vice President, 1991-96
- Board member, 2001 and 2015-2022
- South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Board of Directors, 1995-2005 and 2008-9
- Vice president, public relations, 1997 and 2001
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 1981 – present
- National College for Criminal Defense-Trial Practice Institute July 1981
- Death Penalty Trial College, August 1995
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Institute, June 2003
- SC Re-Entry Initiative (originally the Greater Charleston Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative), founder, February 2006
- HIS WAY Ministry, Board of Directors, 2007-2022
- Noisette Foundation, Board of Directors 2007-9
- Charleston Catholic School, Board of Directors, 2002-5
- Father to Father Project, Board of Directors, 2001-4
- Criminal Law Section
- SC Public Defender Association created the “Ashley Pennington Award” in 2022 for a South Carolina public defender exhibiting outstanding effort and advocacy for clients
- The President’s Volunteer Service Award, Bronze Recipient, 2005 Knights of Columbus Catholicity Award-Council 704, 2005
- South Carolina Public Defender Association Lawyer of the Year, 2002
- Order of the Palmetto from Gov. Jim Hodges, 2002
- South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, President’s Award, 1998
- Charleston County Bar Association Gedney M. Howe, Jr. Award for service to indigent clients, 1996
- Felony trial experience since 1980
- Lead counsel in capital cases since 1991
- Qualified as an expert in capital defense in SC in 2004 in a Dorchester County PCR
- Founder/Faculty at SC Public Defender Trial College, 2012-2022
- SC Bar Annual Criminal Law Update, presenter, 1997-2000
- South Carolina Public Defender Association seminar presenter:
- “Preserving the Appellate Record”
- “Mental Health Defenses”
- “Child Sex Allegation Defense”
- “Discovery and ‘Search and Seizure’ ”
- SC Magistrates Advisory Council Intensive Training Seminar, presenter, 2004