Zach Merritt grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and graduated from Richland Northeast High School in 2003. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English, Cognate in History from the University of South Carolina in 2009. He then received his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2013. He is admitted to practice in South Carolina Court and in the Federal District Court of South Carolina.
From an early age, Mr. Merritt was fascinated with trial advocacy and the unique blend of skills required to try a case. In law school, he focused on legal writing and research and both trial and appellate advocacy.
While in law school, he became interested in the criminal justice systems and the manner in which our society punishes people accused of crimes. It became clear that the current system is both a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and often produces unfair results.
During law school, he authored the South Carolina Juvenile Collateral Consequences Checklist, a publication devoted to informing families of the specific effects that a conviction in juvenile court has on a child’s basic rights and liberties throughout the course of his or her life. Mr. Merritt received funding from the South Carolina Supreme Court and other entities to pursue a statewide campaign informing the families and the professionals that work with children on a daily basis on this important area of the law.
He also became fascinated with the unique bundle of constitutional protections afforded to United States citizens accused of crimes, particularly those rights associated with the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights. He clerked with the South Carolina Commission of Appellate Defense and aided in the drafting of multiple appellate and amicus briefs in cases before the United States Supreme Court and the South Carolina Supreme Court.
From 2013 to 2015, Mr. Merritt worked as a legal and policy analyst for the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, the state agency overseeing the system for appointing lawyers for indigent people around the state. He also worked on a daily basis with Executive Director Patton Adams, former mayor of Columbia, on the various complex legal and financial issues facing the agency. At the same time, he helped achieve a state budget that bolstered funding for public defenders around the state. This was accomplished by educating the Legislature that a strong defense for people accused of crimes is critical to the integrity of South Carolina’s court system and ensures that taxpayer money is not squandered on needlessly incarcerating people. He also designed a statewide training program for all incoming public defenders in the state focused on criminal defense litigation. Additionally, he developed a report with state and national leaders on the wide range of issues arising in criminal defense litigation, such as mental health issues and challenging DNA evidence in court.
In 2015 and 2016, Mr. Merritt left the world of policy to gain real experience trying cases in the 16th Circuit Public Defender Office. Like many young lawyers throughout the state, he chose the York County Public Defender office due to its reputation as a gladiator training camp for trial attorneys. While there, he tried over 20 cases over the course of a year and a half with numerous victories at the trial and appellate level.
In 2016, Mr. Merritt was hired by Michael Brown as an associate attorney. He relishes the unique opportunity to work as an apprentice with one of the State’s most experienced criminal defense attorneys on a variety of high profile and complex cases.