- South Carolina State Senators hand-pick Magistrate judges in each county – almost always in secret
- Political allies and former colleagues appointed to bench
- Legislators protect judges that break the law
- Demand your state legislators make powerful appointments at regular, public meetings in your county so you can attend and hold them accountable – CLICK HERE
Magistrate court is the busiest of our legal system and one that many South Carolinians will experience in their lifetimes.
I know I had to go once for speeding tickets.
Besides traffic tickets, Magistrate judges make decisions on DUI, landlord-tenant disputes and small civil cases (under $7,500).
It’s vitally important that our judges are independent, understand the law and have ethical standards.
Unfortunately, our state legislators have turned Magistrate courts into dumping grounds for their political cronies.
State legislators install their hand-picked judges in secret.
And when crooked judges misbehave or break the law, state legislators support their corruption by re-appointing them.
A new report released this week by the SC Policy Council shed light on this unconstitutional and corrupt process.
Here’s what they found:
“While magistrates are technically appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, the governor may only appoint someone who is first recommended by the Senate delegation of the county where the magistrate will serve.”
Essentially YOUR state Senators appoint Magistrate judges in each of the counties they represent.
Researchers also found that in 29 of our 46 counties, only one or two state Senators are responsible for installing all of the Magistrate judges.
And state Senators who are also lawyers CAN represent clients in the Magistrate courts where they hand-selected the judge.
That kind of power is unconstitutional.
Our Founders did not want the judicial branch to be owned by legislators.
Here’s the kicker…
…most of these appointments are also done in secret.
Magistrate judges in each county are supposed to be recommended by the state Senators that represent the county – also called a “Legislative Delegation”.
If your county’s Legislative Delegation never holds a public meeting, the politicians simply make the appointments in secret.
A few months ago in Pickens County, state Senator Rex Rice told a group of residents that they make powerful appointments over private email.
I’m not kidding.
NO public meeting.
NO vetting candidates.
Behind closed doors.
It’s how state Senators sneak their corrupt buddies on to the bench.
One of the best examples of this corruption?
Disgraced former state Representative Mike Pitts.
You may remember Mike Pitts as the state legislator who was caught in a scam to get his sister a taxpayer-funded gig administering a therapy program for our veterans.
Mike was able to allocate $1 million from the state budget for the successful “Herd 2 Human” program.
But after Pitts’ sister didn’t get a $75,000 contract, the program designed to help our heroes was dissolved and the remaining funds were spent on furniture and a new bus at Lander University.
Mike was found unqualified for that job – and rightfully so.
But thanks to his old pal state Senator Danny Verdin, the disgraced former legislator was quickly, quietly and secretly appointed as a Magistrate judge in Laurens County.
NO public meetings.
NO vetting of Mike Pitts.
And because Danny Verdin is the ONLY state Senator that represents Laurens County, this kind of corruption is technically legal.
Magistrate Judges also get away with crimes because of their cushy relationship with state Senators.
The Charleston Post & Courier reported on a Magistrate judge in Chester County – Judge Angel Underwood.
Underwood received a 12-month suspension for NOT recusing herself from cases involving her husband, the notoriously corrupt Chester County Sherriff.
Judge Underwood has also been accused of conspiring with the Sherriff’s department against defendants and even forging the signature of other Magistrate judges.
While Judge Underwood’s husband was convicted of federal corruption and abuse...
- NO public meeting
- NO way for taxpayers to have a voice
- NO transparency
Here’s how we can stop A LOT of this corruption…
…pressure YOUR state legislators to hold regular, public Legislative Delegation meetings in your county.
If state legislators are forced to come out from the darkness of the Statehouse and make these powerful appointments in public back at home, A LOT of these corrupt appointments will stop.
If state legislators are forced to give the public an opportunity to vet candidates for these very important positions – like Magistrate judges – they will be A LOT more hesitant to install their law firm partners, cousins and political allies.
If we start showing up to county Legislative Delegation meetings and demand an end to the secret appointments and corruption, things will change for the better in this state…and quick.
WHAT CAN YOU DO RIGHT NOW?
A couple things...
- DEMAND YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS HOLD “DELEGATION” MEETINGS AND MAKE APPOINTMENTS IN PUBLIC
If these corrupt politicians are forced to hold meetings in your county and appoint our judges in public then we can hold them accountable.
More sunshine = less corruption.
Tell them they need to fill these positions in public at a regularly scheduled meeting in the county so you can attend.
No more appointments over private email.
No more corruption.
However, I highly encourage you to edit the email and make it more personal.
Your personalized, passionate message will have more impact.
Simply click on the link and edit the email how you see fit.
No threats or foul language. It just needs to be clear that you want them to stop the secret appointments and open the process up to the public.
2. WHO ARE YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS? AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING ABOUT THIS?
Do you know who funds their campaign?
Do they have conflicts of interest?
We’ve compiled all of this information and created “profiles” on YOUR state legislators. It’s personalized on one website just for YOU.
All you have to do is click here and enter your email address.
We plan on updating these profiles every day, so be sure to check back for new information.
Share these profiles with your friends and neighbors.
And if you know something about YOUR state legislators that we didn’t include, send me an email.
If you need any assistance contacting your state politicians, don’t hesitate to call me.
President, Freedom Action Network of South Carolina
(843) 990-3336 - cell