South Carolina’s most famous good government gadfly scored a major victory before the state’s Supreme Court this week – one that could potentially have far-reaching ramifications on state policy.
Actually, he scored a pair of wins …
In addition to prevailing on the substance of his argument, the court’s ruling could also have a tremendously positive impact on other citizen plaintiffs seeking to hold their government accountable for its actions – including a case brought against the state by the founding editor of this website.
Ned Sloan, who leads the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation, prevailed this week in a 2015 case revolving around whether government resources could be used on a private project. In addition to ruling in his favor, the high court also concluded that circuit court judge Casey Manning erred in determining that Sloan did not have standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place.
The case in question involved state funds being used on a project in a private neighborhood in Aiken, S.C.
Remember this scandal? We didn’t at first. In fact we had to go all the way back into our archives to find it …
What happened? A pair of “Republican” state lawmakers – former Senator Greg Ryberg and current Senator Tom Young – used their influence to route state transportation dollars toward bridge inspections in a gated community.
“This sort of resource allocation is totally inexcusable under any circumstances,” we wrote at the time.
The court – led by chief justice Donald Beatty – agreed with us. More importantly, it agreed with Sloan that such expenses were unconstitutional.
Here’s the key passage from Beatty’s majority opinion …
We find the inspection of the bridges did not serve a public purpose. We do not doubt that the inspection was conducted to assuage safety concerns. However, the owners of the bridges were the beneficiaries of the inspection, not the public at large, whose access to the bridges is limited to the authorization provided by the homeowners. In short, it is not the public’s responsibility to pay the maintenance costs of bridges located within a gated community that seeks to exclude the public from enjoying the use of the bridges. Thus, because it did not serve a public purpose, we find the inspection was unconstitutional.
Amen to that!
Once again, we find ourselves in the unexpected position of praising Beatty – whose ascension to the high court this website staunchly opposed.
Beatty got it 100 percent right in this case, though …
Not only that, Beatty correctly ruled that Sloan had a “public interest” standing enabling him to bring this action in the first place – which could bode well for a lawsuit filed by FITSNews’ founding editor Will Folks.
That suit seeks to challenge the constitutionality of a recent tax hike passed by the “Republican” S.C. General Assembly.
Sloan has made a name for himself over the years challenging government laws, programs and (in this case) individual expenditures that he believes run afoul of the constitution. In addition to this challenge, he currently has a case pending before the high court on a 2016 infrastructure borrowing bill.
Sloan’s challenge in that case was also dismissed by judge Manning, incidentally.
Here’s the court’s ruling …
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(Via: S.C. Judicial Department)
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