Judges Facing Complaints Must be Rescreened by JMSC Before Reappointment

H.4494 would require any magistrate or municipal judge who is seeking reappointment to be rescreened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) if during their term they were disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct in relation to a complaint, or if they are facing a pending complaint with the Commission. If the magistrate or municipal judge is still found qualified by the JMSC they may be reappointed by the council of the municipality, or Senate delegation and Governor respectively.

This reform misses the central problem with our state’s judicial system. South Carolina judges are unilaterally chosen by the legislature, and are thus beholden to legislators. The JMSC which H.4494 would have rescreen incumbent judges is entirely controlled by three legislative leaders (the Speaker of the House, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate) who appoint all ten members of the committee. If the goal is to remove corrupt and or incompetent judges from the bench a far better reform would be to abolish the JMSC and have the head of the executive branch appoint judges with the advice and consent of the Senate.

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