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SC Judicial Selection Process Again Under Scrutiny

Judge’s withdrawal over “bad temperament” allegations raises more questions about judicial selection process …

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A ten-year veteran of the South Carolina circuit court was effectively removed from her post this week after attorneys complained she was condescending to them in court.

Wait … what? 

That’s right.  S.C. circuit court judge Kristi Harrington of Berkeley County withdrew her nomination to be reappointed to the bench this week.  Harrington stepped down after a legislatively controlled panel heard testimony which revealed that she (gasp) insisted upon attorneys being punctual in her courtroom and frequently lectured them in what one referred to as a “school-teacher tone.”

Wow …

So to recap, there were no allegations of bias or misconduct … these attorneys simply didn’t like Harrington’s tone.

According to reporter Seanna Adcox of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, Harrington was on the verge of being dismissed by the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission for a “bad temperament” on the basis of multiple anonymous complaints submitted by lawyers who appeared before her in court.

She ultimately withdrew her reappointment nomination after she was questioned about having allegedly had improper contact with lawmakers – who vote on all Palmetto State judges.

This news site has never had any issue with Harrington.  We’ve heard from multiple people who dislike her, but again – we’ve never heard any of Harrington’s detractors question her integrity as a judge.

“She’s old school,” one Charleston, S.C. attorney told us.  “She expects you to respect the institution.  She’s gotten in my face before.  I didn’t think I deserved it at the time, but I don’t think she’s unqualified and I certainly don’t think disliking someone is a good enough reason to get rid of them.”

We concur …

Harrington, 48, has long had a reputation for being tough on attorneys and their clients.  “Hang ’em Harrington” is one of her nicknames, in fact.

Again, though … is that grounds for dismissal? 

Frankly, this situation strikes us as the latest example of the need to reform the way judges are selected in South Carolina – something this news site has written about extensively over the years as scandal after scandal has rocked the process.

As we reiterated earlier this year, “from the selection of judicial candidates by a committee packed with lawmakers to the actual legislative voting on their ‘merits’ – the entire system is rigged and needs to be replaced.”

For years, we’ve argued that the state’s executive branch – i.e., the governor – should appoint judges with the advise and consent of the legislature.  Unfortunately lawmakers refuse to give up their power, and so the corruption continues unabated.

South Carolina’s judiciary needs to be independent – and that’s never going to happen so long as the legislative branch of government controls every facet of the appointment process.

Also, it sounds to us like there are some lawyers in the Charleston area who need to put on their big boy/ big girl pants.

Whatever one may think of Harrington, “she hurt my feelings” is simply not a good enough reason to run her out of office on a rail.

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