S.386 – Constitutional Amendment to Have Justices Appointed, Eliminating Judicial Merit Selection Commission

S.386 would amend the state constitution by having the governor appoint the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Circuit Court judges rather than having them elected by the legislature. The bill would also strike from the state constitution the language establishing a Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) to screen and nominate judicial candidates. Finally, the bill would remove the constitutional prohibition of the election of sitting members of the General Assembly to judicial office.

Allowing the governor to appoint justices is a key element of the needed reforms in South Carolina, as is removing the legislative domination over the judicial selection process through the makeup and function of the JMSC. Under current law the commission is entirely appointed by the legislature, which is a far cry from the independent judicial selection committee recommended by the American Bar Association.

However, the constitutional language preventing sitting members of the General Assembly from becoming judicial candidates is a much-needed protection from legislative corruption, and its removal is very concerning.

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