Votes on Dozens of New Judges Will Have to Wait in South Carolina
Dozens of open judgeships throughout the South Carolina courts will go unfilled amid an unresolved debate over the state’s system of judicial selection.
The South Carolina Senate ended Tuesday without approving a House resolution to set Feb. 7 as the date when both chambers vote to fill upcoming vacancies in the judiciary. That means it will be a while longer before key positions are decided, including the next chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
South Carolina is one of two states where the legislature holds almost complete power in picking judges, as opposed to voters or the governor. Lawmakers consider a pool of up to three candidates who have been deemed qualified by a 10-person Judicial Merit Selection Commission, and candidates must then get a majority of votes during a joint session of the General Assembly.
Some officials have taken aim at the system in the past year, saying it gives undue sway to legislators who also practice law. Critics says it lets “lawyer-legislators” handpick the people who will hear their clients’ cases, giving them an unfair advantage in the courtroom and undermining public trust.