State House

Embattled South Carolina Judge Faces Equally Embattled Judicial Selection Panel

Will there finally be accountability for Bentley Price?

Bentley Price
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After being found unqualified by the South Carolina Bar’s judicial qualifications committee last month, embattled circuit court judge Bentley Price of Charleston found himself before the similarly embattled South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) this month. Price has been the subject of a great deal of scrutiny over the past few years after doling out some questionable sentences – and accepting some questionable pleas – in the S.C. ninth judicial circuit.

Several high-profile recent cases have highlighted Price’s dangerous predilection toward leniency for violent offenders … (here and here).

Despite the bar finding him “unqualified,” Price is not abandoning his bid for another term on the circuit court bench. Why not? Because a powerful lawyer-legislator, S.C. House minority leader Todd Rutherford, is said to have encouraged him to remain in the running. Not only that, several lawyer-legislators who have benefitted from Price’s questionable rulings – and publicly defended him in the face of withering criticism – were reportedly rallying to his defense.

An “unqualified” finding by the bar is generally a kiss of death for candidates seeking to make their way through the Palmetto State’s exceedingly political judicial selection process. However, Price’s institutional support runs deep despite the fact he has been repeatedly – and rightfully – excoriated by those adversely impacted by his lapses in judgment.

Of interest? The JMSC hearing for Price was held on the same day a House judicial reform panel heard proposals for changing the way judges are picked in the Palmetto State.

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“For those of you unfamiliar with this ongoing institutional racket, the Palmetto State is one of only two states in America in which powerful lawyer-legislators picks judges,” our founding editor Will Folks has frequently noted. “As we have seen in far too many cases, the politicians picking the judges turn around and reap the rewards of this influence by receiving preferential treatment on behalf of their clients.”

As anticipated, Price’s hearing was long – and contentious.

The JMSC received a total of 822 ballot box survey responses regarding Price. Ballot box surveys are requests sent to all members of the South Carolina Bar – asking them to weigh in on the performance and qualifications of sitting judges and attorneys running for judicial vacancies. These surveys are kept anonymous and are utilized by the commission during public hearings to direct their questioning of the candidates.

Of the 822 surveys returned, nearly 200 of them provided additional written comments for consideration. The commission stated while several had positive comments, 76 returned surveys expressed additional concerns. The concerns brought forward by respondents included comments about Price’s “quick and or erratic mood swings,” his “handling of certain criminal matters” and “concerns about inappropriateness of treatment of women.”

When asked to respond to concerns about his treatment of women, Price was incensed.

“I think that that was the only thing that I took complete and total offense to was that somebody would say that I treated women, any different women, lawyers, women, anything, any different whatsoever,” Price said.

Will Price’s powerful allies on this panel be enough to keep him in his seat? Or will there finally be some accountability for his ongoing endangerment of public safety in the Palmetto State?

We will find out soon …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at jenn@fitsnews.com.

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7 comments

J Doe November 20, 2023 at 6:15 pm

This story is a total letdown. Dylan tweeted some pretty juicy nuggets during the hearing and promised a full story. A week later, this is all we get? Good thing the Post and Courier gave the hearing a pretty thorough treatment, because clearly you’re not up to snuff.

Reply
J Doe Needs A Life November 20, 2023 at 10:07 pm

Why are you so angry and full of hate? Don’t you know you cannot hide in the shadows? Your MAC address is recorded and your ISP, too.

Watch for your real name to be exposed?

Reply
J Doe November 20, 2023 at 10:14 pm

You think Will Folks is going to dox someone who comments on his articles?

Reply
J Doe Needs A Life November 20, 2023 at 10:09 pm

Over 50% of SC circuit court judges do not obey the Judicial Canons.

Reply
Happy Jack Top fan November 20, 2023 at 11:37 pm

Ms. Woods’s article, which is informative, does not appear to be what Mr. Nolan suggested. I thought Ms. Woods did a great job of explaining the S.C. Bar’s ballot box system. The comment about certain Commission members encouraging the Honorable Bentley Douglas Price to stay in the race is interesting. I am wondering if the information is the result of an anonymous source or journalistic opinion. Maybe some clarification is in order. I am still hoping to find out what conclusions as to the SLED report were discussed as he was at the scene when police arrived at David Aylor’s residence. I also wonder if anyone bothered to ask how the S.C. Supreme Court would issue a writ requiring him to do his duly required obligations as a judge when failing to rule on whether certain documents in the Beach case were privileged and given this refusal why does he want a second term for a job he has refused to perform? I have heard he moves cases fast but yet has a high reversal rate on appeal. Including the case the witnesses testified about which was messed up with a grant of Summary Judgment in favor of attorney Alice Paylor’s clients. Within a short time of Judge Price assigning the case to himself. She is the Charleston County School Board attorney which is at the center of that shit show. In fact one of the other orders he gave Paylor’s clients was reversed by the court of appeals. Any discussion about this favoritism? I am hoping Fits will still give us some coverage on Judge Price’s hearing. If not than Doe you just might be correct!

Reply
B B BROCKMAN Top fan November 21, 2023 at 11:08 am

While all these issues are being discussed about judges, why is no one mentioning Mullen?

Reply
B B BROCKMAN Top fan November 21, 2023 at 11:09 am

I leave a comment, and no matter what I say, I get the reply, “looks like you’ve already said that.

Reply

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