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South Carolina Senator Tries To Torpedo Judicial Reform

Status quo defenders seize on Murdaugh trial to perpetuate their corrupt system …

Being tied down in Walterboro, South Carolina for the last six weeks covering the double homicide trial of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh was arduous … but it gave me a much-needed break from dodging the feces flung in Columbia, S.C. by (poop emoji)-filled Palmetto State politicians.

And thank God for that …

Unfortunately, this break is over … and my return to South Carolina’s capital cesspool (err, city ) was marred by the rank opportunism of one particularly (poop emoji)-full politician from Charleston, S.C.

I’m referring to state senator Chip Campsen – a hardcore social conservative/ fiscal liberal/ crony environmentalist who embodies everything that’s wrong with this state’s self-serving, change-averse, results-challenged legislature.

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During remarks on the floor of the S.C. Senate this week, Campsen sought to appropriate unto himself and his legislative colleagues honors belonging to S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman – who presided over the Murdaugh trial with grace and distinction. Campsen also had the gall to suggest Newman’s fair and well-reasoned rulings throughout the trial were somehow synonymous with a universally held judicial ethos – one in which Palmetto State robes treat clients of lawyer-legislators no differently than anyone else.

Let me be clear: Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I noted on multiple occasions throughout our live coverage of the Murdaugh trial, Newman is an outlier – an exception to the rule. The man is a proverbial “lone reed,” or as I noted on social media this week “an island of integrity in a sea of corruption.”

How does South Carolina’s “justice” system usually work? Like this …

And this …

And this …

And this …

And as our Murdaugh readers are well aware, like this …

And this …

And this …

Nonetheless, Campsen shamelessly exploited (and attempted to expropriate) Newman’s command performance during a lengthy dialogue with state senator Dick Harpootlian, who was back in Columbia after spending the past six weeks in Walterboro representing Murdaugh.

Listen to this utter trite …

(Click to view)

FITSNews/ YouTube

Campsen should be embarrassed for wasting taxpayer time on such self-indulgent bloviation. Unless the Senate was debating a bill aimed at reforming how judges are selected (which it should be doing, but isn’t) there was absolutely no point to this conversation.

It was two politicians rhetorically fellating each other in defense of their failed system …

“I have an opinion on this,” Campsen said.

Really? You don’t say …

“One of the criticisms against the way we elect and choose judges in South Carolina is that they’ll be beholden to legislators once they get on the bench,” Campsen said.

“Didn’t happen in this case,” Harpootlian interrupted as the chamber erupted in laughter. “Did not happen in this case, trust me, okay? I’ve got a couple of big black and blue marks on this rear end of mine that will affirm that.”

That much is accurate … although it’s worth pointing out Newman (in addition to being a man of integrity) is retiring at the end of his current term, meaning he won’t be up for judicial screening or legislative election again. Ever.

So even if Newman were susceptible to political pressures emanating from the legislature (which he isn't) ... as a retiring judge no such pressure can be applied to him.

Nonetheless, Campsen wouldn't let it go ...

"I always/ often hear this criticism that if the General Assembly elects judges then they're going to be beholden to lawmakers and I just wanted to make that point - that didn't happen to you in this trial," Campsen said to Harpootlian.

In addition to defending the failed status quo, Campsen proceeded to excoriate the concept of popular judicial elections.

"The scales of justice don't have any fingers to stick into the wind," he said. "(But) that's what will happen if we have popularly elected judges."

Maybe so ... but anything is better than a system which has enabled institutional corruption, shredded the rights of victims, empowered violent criminals and materially eroded public safety.

That Campsen would hold up an honorable man like judge Newman in an effort to perpetuate that system is simply beyond contemptible ... but then again he's a career lawyer-legislator who has been in the General Assembly for a quarter century.

I suppose "contemptible" kind of goes with the territory at this point ...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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12 comments

Carla Golden Top fan March 8, 2023 at 5:53 pm

If only Judge Newman were the rule rather than the exception!

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jbl1a March 8, 2023 at 8:38 pm

Seriously the computer reading the article????? It sucks. BTW what ever happened with Sen Tom Davis’ drunk charge. Did the lawyer legislator electing judicial system work for him?????

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Anonymous March 9, 2023 at 6:57 am

Carla, sorry to disappoint but Judge Newman has a terrible track record of leniency and cowtowing to lawyer legislators. If you get a chance peruse some of his past cases. The Murdaugh case is an anomaly and that’s only because he was in the national spotlight.

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Nancy Bryson Top fan March 9, 2023 at 10:24 am

Yep.

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David B. Reynolds March 9, 2023 at 8:51 am

Thank goodness you’re back uncovering these parasites again! Nail them to the wall!

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Nancy Bryson Top fan March 9, 2023 at 10:23 am

Way too much oily genuflecting on the part of Will Folks vis-a-vis Judge Newman. Is it motivated by the ethnicity of the judge? I would imagine so. Judge Newman did pretty well up until the sentencing, when he presumed to admonish Alex for the fact that his forbears had in that courtroom harshly sentenced many offenders. What do Alex’s “antecedents’ ” presumed wrong-doing have to do with Alex and his misdeeds? Shades and hints of reparational-thinking on the part of Judge Newman.

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Marzette Bedford-Billinghurst Top fan March 9, 2023 at 10:38 am

Nancy you sound like you belong to the camp of take slavery out of the books. We didn’t do it and it makes us look bad. What does race have to do with Judge Newman’s presiding over this case? The judge admonished Alex himself (and yes Daddy is culpable) for sending people to death row for lesser crimes. Harshly sentenced? Shades and hints of denying history on your part.

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Will March 9, 2023 at 12:11 pm

Wow. Nancy Bryson, you may be unaware of how bigoted your whole comment is, but it’s fairly repulsive, overall.

I want to thank the author for this piece. I too, viewed this exchange between senators and felt like I needed a shower. How smarmy. And of course, Campsen is up for reelection soon.
Judicial reform is very obviously needed and has been the case for decades.

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Gerry March 9, 2023 at 2:53 pm

No worries anyway. House Judiciary Chairman Weston Newton isn’t allowing judicial reform to be taken up anyway.

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Jordan Smith March 11, 2023 at 7:48 am

Ok, so Nancy could be right about one thing. I think there was too much treatment of the judge as a celebrity. As for the comments “Shades and hints of reparational-thinking” I think the comments at sentencing were more symptomatic of a system caught with its pants down and avoid serious review by the general public. It was designed to say that look we took care of a bad apple, nothing to worry about here. The case against Murdaugh was circumstantial, as the prosecution said, and without his testimony my opinion is there would have been a hung jury. Murdaugh’s testimony, did him no good, but proved beyond and the preclusion of any doubt that the state’s judicial system has serious systemic flaws. But sides of that court room are doing there level best to convince you otherwise.

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Blake Sanborn Top fan March 13, 2023 at 5:00 pm

Chip Campsen will never get my vote again. And yeah I live in his district. Boycott Ft Sumter Tours too!

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william austin Top fan March 30, 2023 at 11:35 pm

I thought Harpootlian was a terrible lawyer. The entire country cringed as he stumbled, bumbled, and fell around the courtroom. Griffin was a little better, but neither offered up a compelling defense. As far as Campsen and the hoolititians go; as time goes by more and more people will be moving into Carolina that could change the political makeup. If not, it will remain a system run by the few people who go out and vote. There’s enough unregistered and nonvoters in every district to swing an election. The person who does the work to get these votes can make a difference. Otherwise, status quo.

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