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Leading SC Lawmakers Want Ex-Chief Justice Gone




Two powerful South Carolina legislative leaders have made it abundantly clear they are done with former S.C. chief justice Jean Toal – and are reportedly pushing to have her permanently removed from the state’s judicial branch of government.

Wait … didn’t Toal step down already?

Yes … and no.

Toal’s fifteen-year “reign of terror” over the state’s high court technically ended on December 31, 2015.  That’s when she was replaced by Costa Pleicones, who served one year as chief justice before retiring himself.

Both Toal and Pleicones stepped down due to the state’s retirement age restriction for judges.

Unlike Pleicones, though, Toal has not “gone gently into that good night.”  She’s still ruling on cases, as a matter of fact, basically serving as an emeritus at-large circuit court judge.  Also, the belated publication of a Supreme Court ruling involving a case that was heard in the waning days of her tenure has reignited legislative angst over her ongoing involvement with the state’s judiciary.

The case – which involved South Carolina liquor laws – threw the S.C. General Assembly into a tizzy last month.

Toal’s initial plan for her “retirement” as chief justice was to begin serving as a so-called “business judge” with the S.C. Court of Appeals.  She would have been compensated on a part-time basis – including expenses – while drawing benefits from the state’s struggling pension fund.

We exposed that scam, however, and to his credit Pleicones shut it down.

But Toal has continued to rule on a wide variety of matters, and legislative leaders – led by S.C. ways and means chairman Brian White (below) and S.C. judiciary chairman Greg Delleney – have finally had enough of the arrangement, we’re told.

(Click to view)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, White and Delleney are putting increasing pressure on new S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty – one of Toal’s longtime ideological allies – to put an end to Toal’s ongoing association with the branch of government she was supposed to have left over a year ago.

Specifically, White and Delleney want Beatty to “move Toal out of her (taxpayer-funded) office and not have her sitting anymore on the circuit bench – or anywhere,” one judicial source told us.

“Apparently it was communicated very clearly – and more than once,” the source added.

The recent “Wine Wars” decision pushed lawmakers over the edge, we’re told.

“When that (wine) case came out a couple weeks ago, legislators went ballistic that she is still on any opinions,” our source said.

That’s true.  We spoke with several lawmakers last week who confirmed they were extremely displeased that Toal continues to exert influence over the judiciary.  In fact “extremely displeased” is probably putting it far too politely.  They were pissed – to a lawmaker.  At the moment, Toal has no formal title – but she hears a variety of cases including non-jury decisions and motions in circuit court matters.

Why is she still hearing cases?

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“It’s a control issue,” one source in the judiciary told us.  “And like the high school quarterback who won’t quit coming back to games.  I hate to see her letting this happen. Why not do an elegant departure and let the new people have their time without trying to butt in?”

That’s a good point …

This website has made its views on Toal abundantly clear: We believe her reign over the judicial branch was a veritable dictatorship – one in which justice was not administered equally (for citizens, attorneys or judges).  Accordingly, we support those lawmakers who are pushing Beatty to dump her once and for all.

Having said that, one of our sources – who is close to Toal – praised her for her ongoing work and credited her with taking on several hard and controversial cases “other judges don’t want to touch.”  She also made an interesting observation.  She noted that our website – which has consistently called for an end to legislative interference in the judicial branch – was being hypocritical in praising lawmakers for calling on Beatty to fire Toal.

“You criticize legislative meddling in the judiciary but now you want to praise these lawmakers for meddling in the judiciary?” she told us.  “So much for FITSNews’ consistency on judicial reform.”

Fair point …

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