AS CORRUPTION EXPANDS … REFORM MEASURES LANGUISH
Last December, S.C. Rep. Chris Corley filed several pieces of legislation aimed at reforming South Carolina’s notoriously corrupt judicial election process.
These bills never received so much as a hearing … yet another example of what happens (or doesn’t happen) when “rogue legislators” challenge the status quo at the S.C. State House.
In the Palmetto State, lawmakers elect judges. Not only that, they run the committee that screens the candidates for these elections.
Is this system corrupt? Yes … without doubt.
It also invariably results in the election of liberal judges.
Anyway, Corley’s bills – H. 4402, H. 4404 and H. 4406 – called for the popular election of judges in the Palmetto State from the family court system all the way up to the Supreme Court. They also would have forbidden judgeships from being granted to the “spouse, child, parent, sibling, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law” of a state lawmaker.
As for the best method of choosing judges, we’ve never really cared whether it was via popular election or gubernatorial appointment – so long as corrupt lawmakers were removed from having any say in the selection process.
Ideally we’d love to see a pro-free market, pro-freedom governor appointing strict constructionists to the bench … but we understand there is a case to be made for popular election.
That’s the case Corley will continue to make. In fact not only will he be pushing the same bills again next session, he also plans to submit another piece of legislation aimed at doing away with the corrupt practice of lawyer-legislators voting on the judges who hear their cases.
“I am going to pre-file a bill that says no member of the General Assembly who is also a member of the South Carolina Bar Association may vote in judicial elections,” Corley told us recently.
We support Corley in his efforts. If lawmakers refuse to relinquish their vice grip over the judicial branch of government, they should at least take steps to eliminate this blatant conflict of interest.
As S.C. Rep. Jonathan Hill recently noted “any other method would be better” than the current system – which allows lawmakers to “stand in court to prosecute or defend their clients to the very judges they helped elect.”
“A wink and a nod is all it takes to remind a judge contemplating ruling against the attorney-legislator of who he is beholden to for his job,” Hill added.
Branches of government are constitutionally separated precisely to avoid such corruption. Unfortunately in South Carolina, there is only one branch of government: The expensive, corrupt one.