Justice James was born in 1960 in Savannah, Ga. and grew up in Sumter. He is the son of Ren F. James and the late George C. James. He is married to the former Dena Owen. They have a daughter, Alston, and a son, George. Alston is enrolled at U.S.C. in a master's program and George is an attorney in Columbia.
Justice James graduated from Wilson Hall in Sumter and graduated cum laude from The Citadel in 1982, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1985.
In 1985, Justice James began working in Sumter with the firm of Richardson, James & Player. He became a partner and practiced with his father, the late George C. James, the late Henry B. Richardson, Jr., Thomas E. Player, Jr., and his brother, John E. James, III. In 2000, the firm merged with the firm of Lee, Erter, Wilson, Holler & Smith and became known as Lee, Erter, Wilson, James, Holler & Smith, LLC. Justice James was a partner in that firm until his election to the circuit court bench.
Justice James was sworn in as a Resident Circuit Judge for the Third Judicial Circuit on July 1, 2006, replacing the retiring Howard P. King. He has a served as a Business Court Judge and was the 2009 recipient of the Matthew J. Perry Civility Award from the Richland County Bar Association. Justice James was elected to the Supreme Court on February 1, 2017 and was sworn in on February 7, 2017.
Justice James and his wife are members of Trinity United Methodist Church in Sumter; he has served as chairman of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and is currently lay leader. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Wilson Hall School and is chairman of the Athletic Committee of South Carolina Independent Schools Association. He has served in the past as a board member of the Sumter Unit of the American Cancer Society, Sumter Habitat for Humanity, and the Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments. He is a past member of the Sumter Sertoma Club. He has also been a Dixie Youth baseball coach and a YMCA youth basketball coach.
In addition to his membership in the South Carolina Bar and the Sumter County Bar Association, Judge James is a member of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. He is a former member of the South Carolina Defense Trial Attorneys Association, and the Defense Research Institute. He has been admitted to practice in all of the courts of this state and in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.