COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Changes could be coming to the way South Carolina selects most of its judges.
A new bipartisan committee met for the first time Tuesday at the State House. The Ad Hoc Committee to Examine the Judicial Selection and Retention Process was formed amid calls for judicial reform in South Carolina.
Representative Tommy Pope (R-York) told the committee they’ll be focused on three areas, how the state’s select judges and possible changes there, looking at the system as a whole and what the General Assembly do to enhance the practice of being a judge and to enhance the public’s confidence in judges.
Currently, South Carolina is one of two states where the General Assembly elects the state’s judges. State lawmakers choose judges from a pool of up to three candidates the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) has deemed qualified for judicial office. This happens after the JMSC screens candidates and reviews feedback from surveys, citizen review groups and the South Carolina Bar Judicial Qualifications Committee (JQC) for these candidates.
Tuesday morning, the Ad Hoc committee heard from the man who is in line to be the state’s Chief Justice. Supreme Court Justice John Kittredge said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” when discussing the state’s current system.
Kittredge was invited to speak to the committee and stressed his comments were his viewpoints and did not represent the judicial branch.
He suggested lawmakers make some changes and see what results come from it.
One proposition that has gained some traction, is allowing the state’s Executive Branch, specifically the Governor, have appointees on the JMSC.
Justice Kittredge said another issue that could impact confidence in the judicial system is diversity on the bench. “”Public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the system is important. I am absolutely convinced that diversity is critical in that regard,” he told lawmakers.
The committee also heard from judges and lawmakers from other states about their judicial systems. The committee is expected to meet again next week.
Recommendations from the committee for the rest of the House are expected to be finalized before the start of February.