Lawyers who have defended cases in Berkeley County, S.C. are reportedly salivating over reports of missing and mishandled court records –  a situation that could result in convicted felons being set free. Meanwhile citizens who have availed themselves of the county’s judicial system (or who have been forced to turn over personal information to the local courts) are worried their data may be compromised.

Details at this point are murky, but FITS has confirmed that the S.C. Attorney General’s office uncovered evidence of “substantial records neglect” in Berkeley County.

According to our sources, this neglect was uncovered as part of an investigation into a missing $30,000 in the local court system.

“We are looking at potentially a decade’s worth of missing court records,” our source said, adding that “court records also appear to have been stored in rental units and in some cases at the county sheriff’s office.”

Uh-oh …

“It’s the worst I’ve seen as far as these cases go,” our source said.

State law (code section 14-17-510) requires county clerks of court in South Carolina to “preserve with care all papers, books and furniture pertaining to or connected with his office.”

“The clerk shall not in any case permit either the books or records to be removed from his office,” the statute continues, adding that “every clerk shall be held responsible for the books, papers and furniture in his office.”

Obviously the loss or mishandling of court records could be a boon to defense attorneys – potentially resulting in overturned convictions and inmates being released from prison. Then there’s the possible loss of personal information tied to family court cases – including Social Security numbers, bank account information, confidential medical records, etc.

FITS is conducting further interviews in Berkeley County related to this issue … expect follow-up reports soon.