Altering the Membership of the JMSC
S.242 is an attempt to reform the judicial screening process by changing the membership of the screening body, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC). The JMSC is tasked with nominating up to three candidates for every judicial post to be voted on by the General Assembly. Under current law all 10 members of the committee are chosen by three legislative leaders, the House Speaker, the Senate Judiciary Chairman, and the Senate President Pro Tempore. S.242 would increase the size of the JMSC to 15 members. Under proposed law legislative delegations would nominate two members from each of the state’s 7 congressional district to be appointed by the Governor, and the Governor would appoint the one remaining member with the advice and consent of the Senate.
This alteration of the JMSC fails to fix the true problem in the way South Carolina selects its judges. South Carolina is one of only two states where the legislature nominates and elects judges. This was not the system envisioned by the founders. The Governor should be appointing judges with the advice and consent of the Senate in order to ensure clear accountability. S.242 doesn’t even give the Governor the sole power to select the membership of the JMSC (which shouldn’t exist), instead the Governor is given one appointment and token approval of the remaining members who are still selected by legislators.