The State has a different sort of story for this category:

Robert Lominack became a defense attorney to help people. But starting this year, he’s trying to help before they end up in a lawyer’s office.

The 32-year-old lawyer traded the courtroom for the classroom — along with about a 50 percent pay cut. He teaches Latin at Hand Middle and Dreher High schools in Richland 1, far away from his work on high-profile death-penalty cases in South Carolina.

“I just got burned out,” Lominack said. “It’s a tough job. It’s one that if you can’t put 100 percent into it, you’ll do more harm than good.”

The towering workload wasn’t the problem.“It was emotionally draining because your clients were in such a terrible place in their lives,” he said.


Lominack didn’t anticipate that either of his passions would became careers.

The Greenville native found them during his freshman year at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. He majored in Latin because he liked it, and whetted his interest in the defense of capital punishment during a freshman political science course.

The summer before law school, he volunteered to clerk for attorney David Bruck during the trial of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who was spared a death sentence after she was convicted of drowning her two young sons in 1995.

After law school, Bruck invited Lominack to work with him.

“To call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience would be a real understatement,” Lominack said. “Not many people get to say they learned from David Bruck.”

Bruck is saddened by Lominack’s decision to stop practicing law, but said he understands the young lawyer’s motives, which he called “heartfelt and admirable.”

He understands that Lominack wants to impact people’s lives before things go wrong.

“I know that feeling, and when you’re trying to defend somebody from the death penalty who has committed a horrible crime, part of that job requires a painstaking re-creation of that person’s life,” Bruck said. “And you often see a point when things could have turned out differently if someone had cared about them a little more.”

“That weighed heavily on Robert,” Bruck said. “I think he thought that person could be him.”

Indeed, Lominack said his clients’ childhoods made a huge impact on him.

Lominack found that one of his clients was homeless as a child. Teachers learned of the situation and provided him with clothing, bedding and food.

“They were nice to him when nobody else was,” Lominack said.

He worked on some of South Carolina’s highest profile death penalty cases, including Quincy Allen’s murder trial this year in Richland County and the 2003 murder trial of C. Robert Northcutt in Lexington County. Both received death sentences.


When Hand Middle School teacher Llewelleyn Shealy heard from her husband, who is also a lawyer, that Lominack was considering becoming a Latin teacher, she got in touch with him.

“I said, ‘Latin? Really?’” she recalled. “‘Well, I think you could probably get a job at my school.’”

Hand principal Marisa Vickers had been on the lookout for a Latin teacher during her 12-year tenure at the school. The language is in high demand among parents and students who know it can boost verbal scores on the SAT college entrance exam.

Lominack’s previous profession is a bonus.

Students may see Latin isn’t just good for SAT scores, but perhaps as a gateway to a career such as law, Vickers said.

“It’s important for our students to see the real world application of things,” she said.

While most students don’t know about Lominack’s past career, it made an impression on Stephen Browning when he heard about it.

“That’s kind of cool that he was a lawyer and now he’s a teacher,” the eighth-grade Latin student said.

Lominack will earn his teaching license through the state’s alternative certification program, which is a three-year process.

While there are some similarities between teaching and law, like deadlines, writing reports and lots of prep work, Lominack said the work load isn’t very different.

He’s exhausted, but it’s not the same kind of exhaustion as trying to save people from death row.

“I’ve been shocked at how hard it is to do it well and keep students’ attentions,” he said.

Bruck, his old mentor, sees a great future for him in the classroom.

“He has a great deal to give — a lot of energy,” Bruck said. “He’s really quite a wonderful young man, and I think he’s changed direction rather than burned out.”