South Carolina House passes judicial reform measure

Quality of Life
May 8, 2024

Palmetto Promise Policy Analyst Felicity Ropp was quoted in this article by T.A. Defoe in the Center Square.

(The Center Square) — The South Carolina House passed a bill to reform the state’s Judicial Merit Selection Commission, changes that stem from the Ad Hoc Committee to Examine the Judicial Selection and Retention Process House Speaker Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, assembled.

Proponents say S. 1046 increases transparency and accountability and gives elected officials a greater say in selecting judges.

“This bipartisan bill ensures South Carolina’s judicial system is transparent, effective, and will make more qualified applicants eligible to be considered for judgeships by the legislature instead of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission controlling the process,” Americans for Prosperity-South Carolina State Director Candace Carroll said in a statement.

The House voted 112-6 in favor of the measure following the state Senate’s unanimous passage in March. The bill now returns to the Senate to consider the House’s changes.

“We are particularly glad the House amendment addresses the serious issues with South Carolina’s magistrate system,” Palmetto Promise Institute Policy Analyst Felicity Ropp told The Center Square via email. “The amendment limits magistrates’ service in ‘holdover’ capacity, establishes a better screening process, and ensures transparency in sitting magistrates’ disciplinary records.

“Both the House and Senate’s versions of S.1046 contain much-needed reforms—requiring livestreaming of JMSC meetings, raising the cap on judicial candidates advanced by the JMSC, establishing clearer campaign guidelines for candidates, and adding executive appointments to the JMSC,” Ropp added.

Ropp lauded lawmakers for advancing the measure in response to South Carolinians’ ethics concerns in the Palmetto State’s judicial selection process.

“All lawmakers involved are treating the issue with the necessary gravity and care and have been extremely gracious to all those who have reached out to make their voices heard on this subject,” Ropp said. “We have no doubt that whatever final product is reached by [the] conference committee, the reforms enacted will be a marked improvement over South Carolina’s current judicial selection process.”