COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – A bipartisan House Ad-Hoc Committee examining judicial reform in South Carolina heard from some of the state’s prosecutors for close to five hours Tuesday.
The Ad-Hoc Committee was formed to study the process of selecting and retaining judges in South Carolina. Tuesday’s meeting was the second time the committee has met since it was established.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson urged the panel to consider legislation that would change the make-up of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, also known as the JMSC.
Currently, the judicial vetting panel is made up of 10 members, six of those members are required by statute to be members of the General Assembly. All six, are currently lawyer-legislators.
Wilson suggested the governor have the ability to appoint members to the JMSC.
Representative Micah Caskey (R-Lexington), a current member of the JMSC, said if appointees from the governor have legal backgrounds, or are lawyers themselves, there could also be the perception of influence as well.
“You’re substituting who the conflict goes to,” Rep. Caskey said. “I think there is value in having people who are accountable to a constituency, albeit not the statewide constituency in that position.”
The Ad-Hoc Committee also heard from two elected solicitors Tuesday. Both men were part of a group that penned a letter last month urging the removal of lawyer-legislators from JMSC. They also provided specific examples of wrongdoing to the committee Tuesday during their testimony.
First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said it’s unfair that lawyer-legislators who are part of the screening panel argue cases before these judges.
“Under this system, the judiciary arguably becomes an employee of the legislature. Not a co-equal branch of government,” Pascoe said.
The committee is expected to meet again later this month to hear from law enforcement and the public. The panel is planning to have recommendations for the rest of the House of Representatives by February.