We will be releasing our latest edition of the FITSNews’ political stock index today, but there’s little doubt it will include yet another positive plug for South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson – who has been riding a wave of momentum following his office’s successful prosecution of convicted killer Alex Murdaugh.
Wilson’s office deserves the plaudits it is receiving for this victory – even if the Murdaugh conviction was one (egg) juror’s last-second dismissal away from a vastly different outcome.
Murdaugh’s conviction (and the inspirational integrity of S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the proceedings) did much to restore faith in the Palmetto State’s notoriously corrupt judicial branch of government. But what Wilson is doing now is far more important to the long-term health of justice in South Carolina.
Simply put, he is putting the political capital he amassed during the Murdaugh trial to good use … with the goal of bringing about transformative change in an area of government where it is desperately needed.
And has been desperately needed for years …
In the pages of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, Wilson penned a guest column earlier this week arguing that “South Carolina needs meaningful judicial reform now more than ever.”
“A hallmark of good government is when each branch of government has an equal check on the two other branches,” Wilson wrote. “However, our current system has removed the executive branch from having any meaningful checks on the judicial branch to the benefit of the legislative branch.”
“For there to be any effective judicial reform, two things must happen: First, the executive branch of government must be equally represented in the selection of judicial candidates, and second, it must have the ability to provide ongoing oversight over judicial conduct,” Wilson continued.
Regular readers of our news outlet know that this has been a front-burner issue for us for many years … and with good reason.
Powerful lawyer-legislators in the S.C. General Assembly handpick judges, set their salaries, control their budgets … and then reap the ill-gotten rewards of this control. As I have often noted, South Carolina is one of only two states in America in which lawmakers elect judges – making the judicial branch of government in the Palmetto State nothing more than a legislative annex, perpetually bending to the will of the powerful lawmakers who control it.
It’s actually worse than that, though. A clique of influential legislative leaders choose which candidates their colleagues vote on in a cozy “screening” process that more often than not presents the legislative body with a fait accompli.
(Click to view)
As S.C. first solicitor David Pascoe noted in a guest column on our news outlet just today, this clique of lawmakers “routinely predetermines the outcome of judicial elections by exercising extraordinary power to limit the number and types of candidates legislators will consider.”
According to Pascoe, the entire process is “clouded in secrecy and often dictates the outcome before legislators cast a single public vote.”
Sadly, state lawmakers have refused to heed calls to reform this opaque system. And the fatal consequences of their failure keep adding up … while victims are continually made to suffer. And public safety continues to erode.
Can Wilson change that?
We will know more this coming Monday (March 27, 2023) when he joins Pascoe, ten other solicitors and fourteen sheriffs in a “bipartisan coalition of law enforcement leaders.” This coalition will push for “legislative action” on judicial reform, I am told.
Obviously, I will reserve judgment on Wilson’s specific judicial selection reforms until he articulates them. But his calls for incorporating the executive branch in the selection of judges – and for “ongoing (executive) oversight into judicial conduct” – are solid starting points.
Hopefully, his coalition’s engagement on this issue will help facilitate a long-overdue shift away from South Carolina’s current, corrupt injustice system and toward something the Palmetto State has lacked for centuries … a system of justice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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“ongoing (executive) oversight into judicial conduct” is THE DEATH of whatever judidical independence is left.
In Israel, a younger democracy than the U.S., even the army is protesting “King” Natanayahu’s plan to reduce judicial independence. Israel does’t even have a constitution yet. One of the main elements of the social contract, sicne Jean Jacques Rousseau and his contemporaries articulated it, is separation of powers.
Executive involvement in judicial SELECTION, yes. But on-going executive supervision of judicial FUNCTION? Heck, NO.
Great article. Sc is in a judicial corruption crisis
South Carolina’s governors are term-limited; its attorneys general are not. If “ongoing (executive) oversight into judicial conduct” means the attorney general is THE “executive,” Alan Wilson becomes, not only king of South Carolina, but also its Ceasar. You see, in Ancient Rome, Ceasar had both executive and judicial powers. Remember, Saint Paul, a Jewish Roman Citizen, traveled to Rome to complain to Ceasar about having received 40 flogs minus one despite Roman Citizenship Immunity. So, not only does Alan Wilson become Ceasar, he gets to bequeath the throne to his children and grandchildren at infinitum. Sounds like the story of the Murdaughs that FITSNews is so attacking but wants repeated with a different name. Just as Alan Wilson has now proven he can convict anyone (even if innocent) he wants, FITSNews has now proven he can seep to the jury all kinds of falsehoods. God save us from the new South Carolina Ceasar and his paid propagandists.
So, the mountain labored and begat a mouse. A proposal to divide the elected legislature into first-class non-lawyer legislators and a second-class lawyer legislators who cannot FULLY exercise their legislative powers of sitting on committees does NOTHING to reform the judiciary. It also does NOTHING to even diminish the power of lawyer legislators unless you want to also bar them from VOTING on whatever judicial candidates the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (“JMSC”) puts out. And all this happened because the attorney general, ALL solicitors, and ALL elected sherifs are mad because a lawyer legislator, who happens to be a democrat, gave a criminal defendant, who happens to be rich white male, the vigorous defense to which ALL criminal defendants are entitled. That is the same “stinking thinking” diagnostic of addictions. I, for one, want to be safe from the underlings Leon Lott trains in bad driving, lying, and stealing. Weren’t Mickens (killed a Sumter elderly man in a car crash), Dan Johnson (convicted of misconduct in office) and Randy Scott (drug addict using the PTSD excuse) Leon Lott trainees? Heck, Leon Lott’s own description of a presumed-innocent detainee as a monster got that detainee killed by five other inmates at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Who is going to prosecute Lott himself for such reckless conduct? I want to be safe from Lott retaliating against ME for writing this.