State House

Letter: South Carolina Judicial Reform Needed Now

Lawyer-legislators must be removed from panel which picks judicial candidates …

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Dear Editor,

On October 8, 2022, I watched the lengthy video interview of attorney Alexandra “Ally” Benevento by Will Folks of FITSNews. Ms. Benevento is an attorney with the Strom Law Firm, LLC. During that interview, Ms. Benevento presented her case in defense of the process by which South Carolina elects its judges. 

No other state chooses its judiciary the way we do in the Palmetto State.

Just four days prior to my viewing the interview, a circuit court judge invited me to be his guest at a court proceeding.  The judge knew I was interested in judicial reform.

“Joe, next week is a general sessions court week in Newberry,” he texted me. “I am informed that two big cases are set to plea on Monday. This would be a good opportunity for you to observe and learn about the system.” 

“Monday is good. What time do I need to be there?” I replied.

On Monday, October 10, 2022, I went to the courthouse.  To be there watching the proceedings as five guilty pleas were done was a tremendous civics lesson for this soon-to-be freshman legislator. But something that was said between plea deals in the judge’s chambers was – and still is – a haunting experience.

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As I walked into the judge’s chambers, I recognized attorney Benevento and immediately said to her, “You did a great job on your FITSNews interview.”  

Ms. Benevento thanked me, but the next words that were spoken by Ms. Benevento’s boss were chilling. 

Attorney Pete Strom, a member of the S.C. Judicial Merit Select Commission (SCJMSC) – the commission that determines who our judges will be – turned immediately to the circuit court judge and said, “We don’t have anything to worry about as long as Murrell is the Speaker.”

My mind raced! What did that mean? Why would one of the most powerful and expensive criminal defense attorneys in South Carolina, a criminal defense attorney who sits on the SCJMSC, say such a thing? 

Who is the “we” in this statement? And why does Murrell Smith being the Speaker make any difference?

I do not pretend to be able to answer those questions. But I do believe it is time to tell our legislators to end the practice of allowing lawyers who are also legislators to be responsible for selecting the judges they will eventually plead cases in front of.

I ask the citizens of South Carolina to demand that H. 4183 be passed because it will end the practice of lawyer-legislators being appointed to the SCJMSC.

Sincerely,

(Click to View)

Joe White
State Representative, S.C. House District 40

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3 comments

jbl1a June 26, 2023 at 4:23 pm

Nothing to worry about as long is Murrell is speaker and Caskey is the lapdog.

Reply
Anonymous June 28, 2023 at 10:33 pm

Buried,Lexington County Magistrate Court having to settle lawsuit over stepping on Citizens constitutional rights, is a problem.
But who cares, until it affects you, right?

Reply
Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan June 30, 2023 at 9:38 am

Attorneys, judge, law enforcement and elected officials will continue to serve up rigged injustice so long as that combined system continues to function under the status quo. Recent Murdaugh exposure showed a century of that South Carolina’s system of unabated power, influence, greed and injustice. The people of South Carolina need to wake up

Another thing I don’t understand is why court schedules must work around legislative sessions for attorneys serving as legislators, i.e. Dick Harpootlian. That is NOT right in my eyes.

Reply

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