Fix SC’s Corrupt Judicial Branch

By FITSNEWS || News broke this week that the brother of suspended S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell had given up his post on a state “judicial merit screening” committee. The decision – announced by interim Speaker Jay Lucas – made sense.  Harrell was indicted last month on nine counts of…

By FITSNEWS || News broke this week that the brother of suspended S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell had given up his post on a state “judicial merit screening” committee.

The decision – announced by interim Speaker Jay Lucas – made sense.  Harrell was indicted last month on nine counts of public corruption and his case will be adjudicated by the state’s judicial branch of government (while a federal probe into State House corruption is ongoing).

It stands to reason, then, that his brother should no longer be involved in the selection of judicial candidates …

But while Lucas deserves credit for recognizing this obvious conflict, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.

The process by which judges are elected in South Carolina is inherently corrupt … and must be radically reformed.

Currently, Palmetto State lawmakers decide which candidates get to run for judicial elections via their hand-picked screening committee.  After these candidates are chosen (a process that has nothing to do with “merit”), lawmakers vote on them – which as we’ve chronicled is an even shadier undertaking.

Meanwhile the head of the judicial branch – who is also legislatively elected (albeit corruptly) – has dictatorial powers over the entire system, including the authority to determine where judges serve, what cases they hear and how they are disciplined.

This leads to all sorts of corruption.

Attorneys, too, are under the thumb of the S.C. chief justice – who selectively investigates and metes out punishment in their disciplinary cases, as well.

FITS has exposed multiple scandals in the judicial branch over the years – including manipulation of the state’s bar exam to raise passage rates and rampant corruption within the court’s attorney discipline division.

Bottom line?  Members of the S.C. General Assembly have proven incapable of ethically handling judicial appointments – while the corrupt judicial branch they’ve created has proven incapable of ethically handling our legal system.  “Merit” plays no role whatsoever in who becomes a judge – or the decisions they make after they are appointed.  Like most things in this perpetually backward state, it’s all “who you know.”

This has to change …

We understand there are lots of ideas on how to reform judicial appointment in South Carolina.  Some favor going with the federal model, some support letting voters’ choose, while others endorse hybrid models.  It’s an important discussion to have – and to get right – but this can’t wait.

For that reason, we recommend lawmakers immediately ceding control of all judicial appointments to the executive branch – namely the governor’s office – with the S.C. Senate providing advice and consent on those appointments (i.e. the federal model).  If there’s a better solution than that for the long-term, we’re all ears – but the current system must be scrapped sooner rather than later.

The integrity of an entire branch of government depends on it …

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CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

Let me understand this. Haley is corrupt. Therefore judicial appointments should be given to her. Is that about right?

No Way October 9, 2014 at 9:07 am

Absolutely NOT!!!!
Public elections by the people!

Jackie Chiles October 9, 2014 at 9:08 am

Are you arguing with yourself?

CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

The people who elected all of the politicians that we say are corrupt? You, sir, are a mongoloid.

CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

Little frat boy screen name stealer at work again.

HD October 9, 2014 at 10:15 am

Why not register with Disqus and put an end to it?

CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 11:06 am

Because it is super ironic that libertarian Will Folks wants you to sign up with a service that can track you and yet he opposes monitoring by NSA, etc.

Don't change. October 9, 2014 at 9:05 am

Thank you, SC republicans! Your wonderful example in so many areas is helping to keep other states blue. Excellent work!

Thomas October 9, 2014 at 9:46 am

SC is arguably a Blue state. SC has been Blue since Reconstruction. Many simply changed parties when the winds shifted.

FedUp October 9, 2014 at 9:56 am

Lyin’Joe must go!

Don't Change October 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

You’re a voracious reader and support Joe Wilson. Thanks for proving it isn’t how much you read, but what you read. You guys are the gift that keeps on giving!

Thomas October 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Hint: place your mouse over my avatar, then read the caption.

Guero October 10, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Buckley, the white supremacist whose magazine was openly racist until it became impolite; yeah, that’s the SC model.

Legal begal October 9, 2014 at 9:06 am

The courts are are crooked and incompetent from Toal to the lowest Family Court judge. They are all controlled by Toal, the most crooked, controlling, conniving person ever to hold a position in SC. And our Republican Gen. Asses reelected her!
I know Toal very well; I put NOTHING past her!

SC's Dark Secrets October 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I’ve seen the SC Supreme Ct pull some pretty unethical crap before and cover it up. I put nothing past her, either. And her history goes deep before the days when the internet made it easy to track the corruption. The old newspaper reports should be clipped and scanned in, and made a record on the internet that is searchable – Like when she tried to hold a former Williamsburg Country Sherriff in contempt of the Supreme Court for talking to reporters about a complaint he had filed against a Williamsburg Country magistrate judge. His lawyers threatened to sue Toal in US District Court for civil rights violations if they dare try punish him for exercising a 1st amendment right. Jean tried to tell the Sherriff he could not talk about his complaint to others. She was facing federal criminal charges if she held that Sheriff in contempt. You wont find that story on the internet. But it was in the local papers across the state back in that day ( around 1996 or so ). Its on micro flim at the state news and a few other news papers. I had the clippings and filed then away. But cleaned out old stuff a few years back and tossed the print.

Thomas October 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

I have voted for Judges. I have seen how Federal Judges are nominated and confirmed. I have seen how SC appoints Judges. In every case, it stinks to the Highest Heaven. Having had legal profession tendencies myself, I often planned (fantasized) a career until circumstances changed my direction. Here goes. I suggest a path towards being a Judge. Similar to our military’s chain of command where rank must be earned and time must be put in, achieving bench marks for qualifications to be a judge takes the politics out and awards acumen. These bench marks, medals, promotions using the military analogy, are given by a reformed Judicial Branch. That is as far as I can go now…needs more study.

FedUp October 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

Just say No to Joe!

Simple Tom? October 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

Joe Wilson? You are a fucking dupe, aren’t you.

Thomas October 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hint: place your mouse pointer over my avatar and read the caption.

HD October 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

There is no ideal method of populating the state judiciary. Each system with which I’m familiar has its problems. Popular election invites the potentially corrupting influence of campaign contributions. I also don’t think that the most qualified people are willing to go through the process of a political campaign. The current system in SC looks better in the abstract than it actually works in reality. The Judicial Merit Selection Commission does a decent job of screening candidates. The biggest problem is that the Legislature tends to view judicial elections as just another political vote (particularly the non-lawyer members). Of all the possible selection methods, I prefer a system that utilizes a judicial nominating group in each circuit (or statewide for SCt and Ct of App) that screens applicants and forwards the best three candidates to the Governor for appointment. The most important element of this system is the manner in which the nominating group is appointed. The Governor should play a role, but not exclusively. i haven’t given it enough thought to have any suggestions as to whom else should be involved in that part of the process. Once appointed, a judge or justice should be subject to popular retention votes every six years. If he/she loses, the seat is vacant until filled by the same process as before.

That’s the best I can come up with on short notice. (I’ve been a legislator who voted for judges, a member of the predecessor screening group – The Judicial Screening Committee, and a candidate (unsuccessful) for judge).

SamAdams2010 October 9, 2014 at 10:34 am

Modified. Legislative appointment then election; if successfully elected, continue with lifetime seat subject to impeachment.

nitrat October 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm

No judge should ever have a lifetime appointment.
It’s not the aristocracy, though many seem to think so.

SamAdams2010 October 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Have to disagree there. Some court decisions are not politically acceptable and never will be, although the correct decision for larger reasons. Lifetime appointments protect the individual from the tyranny of the majority. If they serve then are held to an election with a judicial record, the voters can gauge the character of the judge. That’s enough.

hawk4hire October 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm

But I would also forbid the legislative branch from sponsoring candidates. And PLEASE get rid of magistrates who dont have a legal education.

SC's Dark Secrets October 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm

That has been a major problem in SC for decades (magistrates who do not know the law and violate the law more than you can shake a stick at). Magistrates need to be lawyers; not bench warmers. But then, there are even lawyers on the bench who are wacked out. All should be subjected to alcohol and drug testing on a monthly basis.

Judge Aphrodite K (not really) October 9, 2014 at 10:06 am

The way potential judges, especially court of appeal and supreme court, have taken to lobbying the legislators as they are up for judgeships is profoundly corrupt. It involves several weeks of staying in Columbia, going to breakfasts, cocktail parties, offices and even stalking legislators in the parking garages in the morning to ask for support. Really.

Old Lawyer October 9, 2014 at 10:08 am

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is the real problem with Toal being corrupt and out of control. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has had innumerable opportunities to reign her in, but that office has repeatedly turned a blind eye to her methods. Now, with Bill Nettles’ being in the top position there in SC, Toal has had her power and corruption sky rocket. She funded Nettles’ children’s trust funds with her changing the Bar exam results. He has spent 7 years covering her to the Feds. Pitiful situation.

anonymous October 9, 2014 at 10:52 am

Reggie Lloyd had the goods on Toal and let her go. That was before Nettles. Street talk on Assembly Street is that Nancy Wicker is Toal’s ace in the hole in the UST’s office.

nitrat October 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Reggie Lloyd had the goods on every GOP bigwig in the state who snorted cocaine with Ravenel and he let that go, too.
If he hadn’t, the feds might not be here now.

SC's Dark Secrets October 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Yes. SLED even tipped off TRavs father that the feds were watching his son. And his father even told him. Weeks after that, Little Tommy got busted. The name of the SLED agents never were reported in any news outlet that I know of. But their names were floating up and down Broad Street in Charleston.

Lobeco October 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

One of the snitches who turned on T Rav is now sitting in the Lexington County Jail – for meth possession and other such charges….. I did not take his collect call.

John October 9, 2014 at 10:29 am

To recap:
The Legislature is corrupt and therefore should not select judges.
The Governor is corrupt and therefore should not select judges.
Voters are idiots (see Greene, Alvin and Haley, Nikki as examples) and therefore should not select judges.

Guess we are left with some sort of divine appointment, a la the Old Testament. Well played, God.

Dave Chappelle October 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Well played.

Maybe all positions of all branches can be filled this way. Hooray!

nitrat October 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

Yes, that idea worked out so well with Lillian Koller, Abraham Turner, Catherine Templeton and how many others?

Judicial Watch Is Watching October 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm

A complaint once was filed with the SC Supreme Court against a sitting judge in South Carolina. It went to Jean Toal’s cronies . The complaint was backed up with documents and even a SC Attorney General opinion that the Judge had no jurisdiction in a matter and violated court rules and constitutional law. Much to many’s amazement, a notice came back in response from the Toal’s cronies about the complaint saying not to talk about the complaint with anyone. Weeks after that, another letter came. That letter said the judge, who clearly broke the law and acted outside their powers, was found to have done nothing wrong. Lawyers were shocked. But they knew the system was corrupt, too ….. This is absolute true story …. and there are many others that have not spoken out yet. But maybe they will …. Maybe they should. This good old boy system needs to exposed for what it really is. Maybe you should expose it before you get exposed. Do you have what it takes? Or are you afraid? Judicial immunity should never be absolute in the State of South Carolina. But those who work in the SC Judicial system don’t give a shit about no laws. They do what they want or think is right, then wait to see if the law will catch up with them. This time it is. The People are the Law. And the People are coming for them. You can’t stop it any longer. The old ways don’t work for them anymore.

Old RC lawyer October 10, 2014 at 8:43 am

I agree with you. However, I believe it is worse than you state here. What you describe as Toal’s cronies are in many of the cases, lawyers on whom Toal has enough dirt to destroy them if they do not do as she commands. It’s her political power that she lives for. The ability to absolutely control other politicians is what she thirsts for. She needs to go.

JHT October 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Goddamnit FITS, for once I agree with you. The perfect system would be for the Chief Justice to be appointed for life, with hereditary rights to her lineage, and that all judges be appointed by the chief justice to serve at her pleasure. The Chief Justice should also have goddamn taxing authority so as to avoid having to rely on appropriations from the General goddamn Assembly, and she should also have her own personally militia and a James Bond-type license to kill. And a 747. That’s about it.

James Smith October 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Jean, I love you!

Vince Sheheen October 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Jean, I love you! Please help me!

Vince Sheheen October 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Uncle Bob said he will make whatever calls you need to get out of this Harrell thing, if you just help me.

BVDG October 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Jean, I love you! Thank you again for telling LMC to dismiss those charges against you know who.

BVDG October 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

ps. I made a mint off of that case.

NMRS October 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Jean, I love you! Thank you for letting you know who skate on those ethics charges – again.

Brad H - a s October 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Jean, I love you! If there are any DUI issues you need disposed of, just let me know and put it in MY magistrate’s jurisdiction. As you know, I own him and your ODC said it was okay.

SC's Dark Secrets October 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Seems there are several cases in South Carolina whereas court reporters having been losing transcripts or the clerk of courts have been losing them. Even audio recordings have gone missing well before court rules allow them to be erased. Strange? No. Cover ups and corruption, protect others? What do you think?

Old RC lawyer October 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I know this to be true.

Depth of Corruption is Deep October 10, 2014 at 1:58 am

Hard to appeal a case without transcripts, especially when stenographer records and audio backup both mysteriously go missing. Reconstruction of the lower court hearing would have to be done. There was a story in the State News just recently about missing judicial records.

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 12:53 am

of the Week! Judge Paul W. Garfinkel of Charleston South Carolina.

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 12:59 am

Amazing what you can find on the internet >>> “Attention Judge Garfinkel Victims:

I am collecting Judge Paul W. Garfinkel (Charleston, SC) victim stories for a book I am writing about Garfinkel and his victims

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 1:07 am

This is the SC Judge (now practicing attorney) who was thrown off the beach …. Note in her bio how she says she “left” the bench …

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 1:20 am

Dusty Rhoades says: December 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm I just came across this blog on Dec. 23rd while searching for something else. Every one still misses the point of my comments. It may be because the reporter didn’t report all that I said. I was trying to point out that I never see attorneys publicly taking negative positions about particular judicial selections. They only speak out when it is in favor of a judge and conveniently never have any public comments regarding judicial selections. Where were all these brave protectors of judicial selection in the past? I sure don’t remember seeing any of them when I was involved with one that I ended up testifying about in the senate chamber. I did hear alot of private agreement from many attorneys, as to my position. None of the attorneys though were willing to state their positions publically because they were afraid of judicial retribution. Becoming a judge in South Carolina has always been primarily or solely based on political support and merit of the selection rarely, if ever, has anything to do with the selection using the election process through legislative votes. Where were all the attoneys who so much are concerned with good judge selections when the panel in 1996 found legislator Huff unqualified, but went on to be elected to the Ct. of Appeals by the legislature anyway? That is one or two of many examples that illustrate my point that as a general rule practicing attorneys take only public positions, regarding a judge, that won’t cause the attorney to have to worry about judicial retribution. My comments, as quoted in the newspaper were not specific as to this particular dispute but as to my opinion and statment of the obvious, that almost no attorneys are willing to do anything but take the safe approach publicly. It has been my experience over my 27 year career, that no attorney is likely to do otherwise. Segars-Andrew, based on my experience, seems to be a decent person and who obtained political support to get elected to the post. I about choked when I read the comments of some of the attorneys quoted as being of the opinion she was the best or one of the best judges in the state, when some of those same individuals voiced opinions of something far less and moderate in private. I’ve had many cases before her over the years. I, personally, have found her to be no better or worse than judges are overall. She has certainly tried to make improvements with drug court, to her credit. She has also made a number of substantial errors which I and others have appealed successfully. Politics has,is, and will continue to affect and even control all judicial selections and stating otherwise is a naive or false representation of the selection process. I would hope no attorney would state with a straight face, that only the best candidates are always chosen in the political election process by the legislature. Until the process changes, no candidate for a judicial position will obtain the position without the political support, regardless of the merits, or lack of such, of any candidate for a judgeship. Public statements by attoneys regarding sitting judges aren’t going to change either and rest assurred thay will not reflect any realistic chance of actual courage, based on that nagging fear of judicial retribution. Everyone, have a good holiday in the meantime. Judicial politics will continue anyway. – See more at:

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 1:23 am

Gregory Forman says: December 25, 2009 at 7:35 pm Dusty, To respond to your comment, I don’t dispute that attorneys are afraid to attack sitting judges. What should one expect? Unless a large group of attorneys decided to fight the reelection of a particular judge, it would be professional suicide to attack a sitting judge as to attack the judge without defrocking him or her just leaves a potentially vengeful judge on the bench. Even a successful attack on a sitting judge will probably engender ill will from all other sitting judges. – See more at:

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 1:28 am

Dusty Rhoades says: December 25, 2009 at 11:50 pm Greg, Your last line is exactly the approach that I’ve been talking about. Based on what you stated, it is obvious that you aren’t aware of a number of details that have not been made public or even widely known to attorneys generally. If you knew those details, I’m sure you would draw different conclusions. I won’t state them here. Call me sometime and I’ll be glad to go down the list. One detail I will point out to you here, is that immediately following the judge’s vague complaint filed by her, she received a far more specific documented complaint against her, made by me. Despite what I am fairly certain attorneys assume and conclude is that I have come out damaged from some or all of my disputes that became public, in fact, I have been successful and certainly not damaged. It has never been important to me to make those results and points public, but instead to let adversaries save face and conclude the matter ultimately successful. I can assure you that as long as you are over prepared, sincere, and never “blink” , the successful result is always very attainable. It is also important not to publicly gloat or fail to allow the adversary to save face publicly, which would include some allowance of the adversary’s sometimes false public representaions of the final result. For what it is worth, I have never suffered any retribution at all. Retribution might be the result if complete preparation(and I do mean “complete”), sincerity of approach, and never “blinking” are lacking. Most attorneys, politicians/judges have no realistic understanding how many punches I can take and how exhaustive my preparation is for these fights. I wish more attorneys would take a similar approach to the really hard work to try and improve the process, including not always backing down to a judicial bully. Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of attorneys will always take the “Dick Cheney Chicken Hawk” approach when the situation calls them to act….find something else to do and seek deferments/excuses for having to take action,hide or disappear when attack/harm potential exists, and, ultimately, send or defer to others to deal with it. Call me if you want to know the details I referred to above that I’m sure you aren’t aware of. Dusty – See more at:

Good Grief! October 10, 2014 at 1:31 am

In late 2009, South Carolina’s Judicial Merit Selection Review Commission ruled that Judge Segars-Andrews was unqualified (aka, incompetent) to serve on the bench. The Commission vote was 9 to 1 in concluding that Judge Segars-Andrews was an ignoramus. …

Its Worst Than This October 10, 2014 at 1:37 am

The Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys and Public Officials

South Carolina
Title Filter Display # 5101520253050100All # Article Title 1 ? Justice Donald Beatty of South Carolina; ethical dwarf 2 ? Judge Edward Cottingham Sr. of West Columbia, SC; moronic loser 3 ? Judge George Ferguson of Abbeville, SC; pervert 4 ? Former Judge James Hughes, Jr. of Myrtle Beach; pervert, potty-mouth 5 ? Judge Shirley Johnson of Goose Creek, SC; repeat offender 6 ? Judge Walter Martin of Greenwood, SC; arrogant bully 7 ? Justice Costa Pieicones of South Carolina; greedy, lifetime porker 8 ? Chief Justice Jean Toal of South Carolina; scofflaw, arrogant, moron, liar 9 ? Former Judge Janet Reese of Pickens, SC: convicted tax cheat 10 ? Judge Francis Segars-Andrews of Mt. Pleasant, SC; imbecile 11 ? Former Judge Francis Simon of Beaufort, SC; pervert, dirty-old-man

anonymous October 10, 2014 at 8:45 am

I agree with all of the above but for Pleicones. I believe he is an honest man and intends to do the right thing. He could have stayed in private practice and made much more money. I often believe he believes he should have done that.

Its Worst Than This October 10, 2014 at 1:43 am

The state of South Carolina presented Walter Rutledge Martin with a law license in 1994 after he graduated from Stanford University Law School.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel found Walter guilty of the following misconduct.

Former Gov. Mark Sanford was duped into appointing Walter as a Magistrate Judge. Walter didn’t get the appointment because he was the most qualified attorney in the area. He got it because he had proven to be a reliable lackey for the local political hacks.

In one matter, Walter became upset when a defendant appearing before him had the audacity to question the bond he had just set.

Walter responded by asking the defendant if he was calling him a liar. When the defendant responded, “No, I’m not going anywhere,” Walter replied, “Okay, because I’ll beat your ass if you call me a liar.”

As is the case with most arrogant bully’s like Walter, he had the chutzpah to blame his conduct on his disabled son, who he claimed kept him awake until 2:00 a.m.

As a consequence of his misconduct, the enablers for Judicial Misfits sitting on the South Carolina Supreme Court punished Walter by gifting him with a complimentary reprimand.

As we speak (ca. October 2014), Walter continues to sit as a Magistrate Court Judge in Greenwood, South Carolina. ….


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