South Carolina General Assembly
110th Session, 1993-1994

Bill 3362

Indicates Matter Stricken
Indicates New Matter

                    Current Status

Introducing Body:               House
Bill Number:                    3362
Primary Sponsor:                Corning
Committee Number:               25
Type of Legislation:            GB
Subject:                        Judicial Nominating
Residing Body:                  House
Current Committee:              Judiciary
Computer Document Number:       CYY/15120SD.93
Introduced Date:                19930203    
Last History Body:              House
Last History Date:              19930203    
Last History Type:              Introduced, read first time,
                                referred to Committee
Scope of Legislation:           Statewide
All Sponsors:                   Corning
Type of Legislation:            General Bill


Bill  Body    Date          Action Description              CMN  Leg Involved
____  ______  ____________  ______________________________  ___  ____________

3362  House   19930203      Introduced, read first time,    25
                            referred to Committee

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(Text matches printed bills. Document has been reformatted to meet World Wide Web specifications.)



Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. There is created a South Carolina Judicial Nominating Commission to assist the General Assembly in the selection of qualified justices and judges to judicial vacancies in courts of record within the state court system. The commission consists of eighteen members, six of whom, one from each congressional district, must be attorneys-at-law admitted to practice in the courts of this State for at least five years who are not members of the General Assembly; six of whom, one from each congressional district, must be citizens of this State who are not attorneys-at-law or members of the General Assembly; and six of whom must be members of the General Assembly, three from the Senate and three from the House of Representatives. The president of the South Carolina Bar, with the advice and consent of its board of governors, shall appoint the nonlegislative, lawyer members. The Governor shall appoint the nonlawyer, nonlegislative members. Each legislative body shall elect its respective members. Appointments by the president of the South Carolina Bar must include three attorneys primarily representing plaintiffs and three attorneys primarily representing defendants. Appointments by the Governor and the president of the South Carolina Bar must be made without regard to race, creed, color, sex, or national origin.

No member of the commission is eligible for nomination, election, or appointment as a judge or justice of the state court system while he is serving on the commission and for a period of three years after he is no longer a member. Any member of the General Assembly nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission must resign as a member of the General Assembly upon nomination by the commission if he intends to seek election to such judicial office.

SECTION 2. The terms of the members of the commission are for six years and until their successors are appointed and qualify. The terms of the legislative members do not extend beyond their terms in the General Assembly. Vacancies on the commission must be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term by appointment in the same manner as provided for the original appointment. Members of the commission must be paid the usual mileage only, as provided by law for members of boards, commissions, and committees, to be paid from the general fund of the State for each day the member is on official business of the commission.

SECTION 3. The commission shall meet at least once annually and at the other times as designated by the chairman. The commission, at its first meeting and annually, shall elect a chairman who shall serve for a term of one year and until his successor is elected and qualifies. A member may succeed himself as chairman. The commission at its first meeting shall organize and adopt rules for the purpose of governing its internal proceedings. Ten members of the commission constitute a quorum at meetings of the commission. The commission may employ clerical and stenographic assistance as is necessary to effectuate the provisions of this act upon the appropriation of sufficient funds for this purpose by the General Assembly.

SECTION 4. It is the responsibility of the commission to determine when judicial vacancies are to occur in the state court system and expeditiously investigate in advance the qualifications of those who seek nomination to the commission. If possible, the commission shall make nominations to the General Assembly during the opening week of its regular session for vacancies which in the normal course of events will occur by creation of new judgeships or by expiration of terms before or during that session. For vacancies created by death, resignation, disciplinary proceedings, or disability, the commission shall send to the General Assembly nominations for each vacancy as promptly as conditions permit.

SECTION 5. Upon the completion of the investigation, as provided in this act, the chairman of the commission shall schedule a public hearing concerning the qualifications of the candidates. A person who desires to testify at the hearing, including candidates, shall furnish a written statement of his proposed testimony to the chairman of the commission. The statement must be furnished no later than forty-eight hours before the date and time set for the hearing. The commission shall determine the person who shall testify at the hearing. All testimony, including documents furnished to the commission, must be submitted under oath and persons knowingly furnishing false information, either orally or in writing, are subject to the penalties provided by law for perjury and false swearing. During the course of the investigation, the commission may schedule an executive session at which a candidate, and other persons whom the committee wishes to interview, may be interviewed by the commission on matters pertinent to the candidate's qualification for the office to be filled. In a reasonable time after the hearing the commission shall render its tentative findings and reasons for its findings to each candidate.

As soon as possible after the completion of the hearing, a verbatim copy of the testimony, documents submitted at the hearing, and findings of fact must be transcribed and furnished to each candidate and anyone else upon request.

A candidate may withdraw at any stage of the proceedings, and if he does, no further inquiry about, report on, or consideration of his candidacy may be made.

SECTION 6. Notwithstanding the provisions of this act, when there is no known opposition to an incumbent, there appears to be no substantial reason for having a public hearing, and no request is made by at least ten members of the House of Representatives and five members of the Senate for a public hearing, the commission chairman, upon recommendation of the commission, may determine that the public hearing is unnecessary and will not be held, but no election may be held before that determination.

SECTION 7. A person who desires to be considered for nomination as justice or judge may make application for consideration by the commission. A person or organization may submit to the commission the name of a person desired to be considered for nomination. The commission shall observe the confidentiality of the names of all applicants for judicial vacancies except for those submitted by it to the General Assembly for consideration for election.

SECTION 8. Except as otherwise provided in this act, the responsibility of the commission includes, but is not limited to, the investigation of, the character, reputation, legal ability, physical health, mental stability, experience, and general suitability to exercise judicial office of all persons being considered by it. The commission shall select from these persons and submit to the General Assembly the names of the three candidates whom it considers best qualified for the judicial office under consideration, except that of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, for which the commission is authorized, in its discretion, to submit the name of only one person for that position. If the commission concludes that there are fewer than three applicants qualified for a vacancy, other than that of Chief Justice, it shall submit to the General Assembly only the names of those determined qualified with a written explanation for the smaller number. Each person the commission nominates must be rated as very qualified or qualified by the commission.

The nominations of the commission for the Supreme Court and any judgeship, the qualifications for which are specified in the State Constitution, are not binding on the General Assembly, and it may elect a person other than those nominated by the commission to those offices. However, the nominations the commission makes for those judgeships, the qualifications for which are not contained in the State Constitution, are binding on the General Assembly, and it must elect one of the persons so nominated by the commission. The General Assembly may reject all persons so nominated, and if it does, further nominations in the manner required by this act must be made until the office is filled.

The commission is authorized to obtain information relative to a candidate from a state agency, including, but not limited to, the State Court Administrator, the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, the Board of Commissioners on Judicial Standards, and a law enforcement agency.

SECTION 9. The State Court Administrator shall notify each judge and justice of the expiration of his term of office at least one hundred twenty days before the end of the term. Unless the judge or justice notifies the State Court Administrator in writing within thirty days after receipt of the notice that he will not seek reelection, he is considered a candidate to succeed himself. If no other nomination is made by the commission and the name of a judge or justice is submitted by the State Court Administrator to the Judicial Screening Committee, the General Assembly that receives the names of qualified candidates from the committee, in joint session by recorded public vote, shall determine whether or not the judge or justice is retained in office.

If a majority of those voting vote to retain the judge or justice in office, he is reelected for a new term. If a majority of those voting vote against retaining the judge or justice in office, the commission expeditiously shall proceed in accordance with the provisions of this act to submit nominees to the General Assembly for the vacancy which is created by the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.

SECTION 10. Records, information, and other material that the commission has obtained or used to make its findings of fact, except the materials, records, and information presented under oath at the public hearing, must be kept strictly confidential. After the commission has reported its findings of fact or after a candidate has withdrawn his name from consideration, the records, information, and material required to be kept confidential must be destroyed.

SECTION 11. The commission in its discharge of its duties may administer oaths and affirmations, take depositions, and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, correspondence, memoranda, and other records considered necessary in connection with the investigation of the commission.

No person is excused from attending and testifying or from producing books, papers, correspondence, memoranda, or other records before the commission on the ground that the testimony or evidence, documentary or otherwise, required of him may tend to incriminate him or subject him to a penalty or forfeiture. However, no individual may be prosecuted or subjected to a criminal penalty based upon testimony or evidence submitted or forfeiture for or on account of a transaction, matter, or thing concerning which he is compelled, after having claimed his privilege against self incrimination, to testify or produce evidence, documentary or otherwise, except that the individual so testifying is not exempt from prosecution and punishment for perjury and false swearing committed in so testifying.

In case of contumacy by a person or refusal to obey a subpoena issued to a person, a circuit court of this State, or circuit judge within the jurisdiction of which the person guilty of contumacy or refusal to obey is found, resides, or transacts business, upon application by the commission, may issue to the person an order requiring him to appear before the commission to produce evidence if so ordered or to give testimony touching the matter under investigation. A failure to obey an order of the court may be punished as a contempt of court. Subpoenas must be issued in the name of the commission and must be signed by the commission chairman. Subpoenas may be issued to persons whom the commission designates.

SECTION 12. Persons nominated by the commission must be selected without regard to race, creed, color, sex, or national origin.

SECTION 13. Of those persons first appointed to the South Carolina Judicial Nominating Commission under this act, two nonlegislative, lawyer members, two nonlawyer, nonlegislative members, and two legislative members must be appointed for terms of two years each, and two nonlegislative, lawyer members, two nonlawyer, nonlegislative members, and two legislative members must be appointed for terms of four years each.

SECTION 14. The provisions of Chapter 19 of Title 2 of the 1976 Code do not apply to the screening of candidates for the judiciary.

SECTION 15. Section 2-19-10 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:

"Section 2-19-10. Whenever an election is to be held by the General Assembly in Joint Session joint session, including members of the judiciary, a joint committee, composed of eight members, four of whom shall be members of the House of Representatives and four of whom shall be members of the Senate, shall must be appointed to consider the qualifications of the candidates. Each body shall determine how its respective members shall be are selected. Each joint committee shall meet as soon after its appointment as may be practicable and shall elect one of its members as chairman, one as secretary, and such other officers as it may deem consider desirable."

SECTION 16. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.