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Judicial selection in South Carolina

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in South Carolina
Seal of South Carolina.png
South Carolina Supreme Court
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   10 years
South Carolina Court of Appeals
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   6 years
South Carolina Circuit Courts
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   6 years
South Carolina Probate Courts
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Judicial selection in South Carolina follows the method of legislative election of judges. South Carolina is one of the two states in the county, the other being Virginia, where elections are held in the General Assembly.

Selection by court

Supreme Court

Justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court are elected to ten-year terms in the South Carolina General Assembly. Since 1997, the South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission has screened and selected candidates to submit to the legislature. After the commission recommends three candidates to the legislature, it has the option of choosing one of the three or rejecting the entire slate.[1]

Supreme Court justices are not subject to term limits or a mandatory retirement age in the state. Staggered terms expire every two years.[2]

The chief justice of the court serves a ten-year term and is elected by the legislature.

In order to serve on the court, the following requirements must be met:

  • be a United States citizen;
  • be between 32 and 72 years of age;
  • a resident of the state for at least five years; and
  • licensed as an attorney for at least eight years.[3]

Court of Appeals

Judges of the South Carolina Court of Appeals are elected by the state legislature for a six-year term.

Interim vacancies are filled with the legislative election of a replacement. Like Supreme Court justices, appellate court judges are also screened and nominated by the South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission. Once appointed, the new judge then completes the unexpired term before standing for re-election.

The chief judge for a six-year term by the general assembly.

The qualifications for serving on the court are the same as those of the South Carolina Supreme Court.[3]

Circuit Courts

Judges of the South Carolina Circuit Courts are elected by the general assembly for a term of six years. Judges at this level are also nominated by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission.

The chief judge of each court serves a six month term and is chosen by the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The qualifications for serving on the court are the same as those of the South Carolina Supreme Court.[3]

Family Courts

The judges of the South Carolina Family Courts are elected by the general assembly for six-year terms. Three candidates are nominated by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, and the General Assembly appoints one.[4][2]

Masters-in-Equity

Masters-in-Equity are chosen via gubernatorial appointment, but with the advice and consent of the General Assembly. Applicants are screened and nominees forwarded by the Merit Selection Commission. Uniquely, the commission makes its recommendation to the county's legislative delegation in which the Master would serve. The delegation ultimately nominates the candidate, while the governor appoints the judge. If he or she disagrees with the nominee, the governor may reject the choice of the delegation, though the latter then puts forth another candidate.[2]

Magistrate Courts

Magistrates in South Carolina serve four-year terms.[5] They are selected via gubernatorial appointment but with the advice and consent of the South Carolina Senate.

To qualify for service, nominees must pass an eligibility test and have an undergraduate degree.[2]

Probate Courts

The judges of the South Carolina Probate Courts are the only judges chosen by the voters in popular elections. They serve four-year terms.[6] Probate Court judges have been elected in the state since 1890.[2]

Municipal Courts

The South Carolina Municipal Courts are run individually by the municipality in which they reside. Because of this, rules for the courts vary by jurisdiction.[7] Terms are set by each municipal council, and can be no less than two years and no more than four.[2]


Reform efforts

South Carolina Capitol Building

2010

The most recent effort at reform comes from a lawsuit filed by Judge Frances P. Segars-Andrews of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Family Court in the case Frances P. Segars-Andrews v. Judicial Merit Selection Commission, et. al. Segars-Andrews was not recommended for re-election by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) in 2010. Following the decision, the judge challenged it on the grounds that the composition of the JMSC violated the separation of powers and legislative members are essentially "dual office" holders. The latter is prohibited in the South Carolina Constitution.

The case was heard in the state Supreme Court, based on original jurisdiction. The court ruled in favor of JMSC, finding that the constitution does not prohibit legislators from serving on the commission.[8]

Criticism of current system

During this lawsuit, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the challenge. It contended that the JMSC "serves a 'gatekeeper' to keep many qualified, diverse, and independent people screened out of the selection process."[9]

1996

In 1996, voters approved the South Carolina Referendum 4B. This constitutional amendment created the Judicial Merit Selection Commission to screen and select nominees for vacancies on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, and Family Courts.[2] The commission was instituted the following year.[10]

Need for commission

Prior to the formation of the commission, a joint committee of the General Assembly houses would review applicants and recommend nominees for vacancies on the courts. That committee was not bound by statute or specific qualifications for candidates. Also, it was unable to remove an applicant from the process based on lack of qualification. Under this system, quite often judges were former colleagues of the legislators.[11]

See also

External links

References

South CarolinaSouth Carolina Supreme CourtSouth Carolina Court of AppealsSouth Carolina Circuit CourtsSouth Carolina Masters-in-EquitySouth Carolina Family CourtsSouth Carolina Magistrate CourtsSouth Carolina Municipal CourtsSouth Carolina Probate CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of South CarolinaUnited States bankruptcy court, District of South CarolinaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitSouth Carolina countiesSouth Carolina judicial newsSouth Carolina judicial electionsJudicial selection in South CarolinaSouthCarolinaTemplate.jpg