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Alan Wilson: Supreme Court Should Clarify SC Succession




This website hasn’t had the occasion to praise S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson in quite a long time … but this week he got something right.

Wilson waded into the ongoing debate over South Carolina’s confused executive succession … arguing that the state’s Supreme Court should hear a petition brought by S.C. Senator Tom Davis that aims to clarify the matter.

“It is in the public interest that the Court resolve the issues of constitutional succession raised in the Petition and Complaint,” Wilson wrote.

State lawmakers – who elect justices and judges in the Palmetto State – are trying to block the court from hearing the case.

To recap: Under constitutional language approved by voters in 2012, governors in the Palmetto State were granted the authority to fill vacancies in the lieutenant governor’s office – beginning in November 2018, anyway.  However, when the S.C. General Assembly codified this constitutional change, they inserted an effective date of May 2014 for this particular provision (and several others).

Hence the confusion …

If the legislature’s effective date is valid, it would mean a previous executive succession that took place back in June 2014 was unconstitutional.  More importantly, it would mean current S.C. lieutenant governor Henry McMaster would have the authority to name his own replacement in the exceedingly likely event his office becomes vacant this month.

McMaster is poised to ascend to the governor’s office this year – assuming Nikki Haley is confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

As it stands now, McMaster’s vacant office would be filled automatically by the president of the State Senate (whoever that happens to be the time) – but some are arguing that he has the right to appoint a successor.

Davis praised Wilson for his ruling.

“The attorney general agrees with me that the court should exercise its original jurisdiction,” he said in a statement.  “I commend the Attorney General for taking this position and for recognizing that no legislative remedy to the current predicament exists – that only the Court can resolve the current ambiguities regarding the effective date of the amendments to our state constitution pertaining to the lieutenant governor.”

Davis went on to commend Wilson for “offering legal guidance so the Court will be fully informed in making its decision,” and for acknowledging that “our state attorneys general have, in the past, provided conflicting legal opinions on this succession issue.”

Here’s a copy of Wilson’s return …

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