There was some rare good news on the accountability front earlier this week when embattled South Carolina circuit court judge Bentley Price – the poster judge for dispensing excessive leniency to violent offenders – was denied another term on the Palmetto State bench.
That’s right … denied.
As our research director Jenn Wood reported last week, Price was facing withering criticism before the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) after repeatedly doling out questionable sentences – and accepting 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,” Wood noted.
Previously, Price was found unqualified by the South Carolina Bar’s judicial qualifications committee. This week, he failed to clear the ten-member JMSC – which deadlocked 5-5 on whether to advance his candidacy. Because he failed to receive a majority of votes, Price was not deemed “qualified” to stand for an election before the full S.C. General Assembly.
Who voted for Price? Who voted against him? As of this writing, we do not know. The secretive, legislatively controlled panel which hears these nominations – and then handpicks which judges go before a joint session of the legislature for election – does not release that information. At least not yet. But we do know in light of his failure to be nominated, Price’s term as a circuit court judge will expire on June 30, 2024.
For victims of violent crime in the Palmetto state, that day cannot come soon enough …
This week, Wood conducted an interview with Molly Vick – a victim of violent crime who was subsequently re-victimized by Price’s habitual accommodation of violent offenders. We actually knew about Molly’s case before we met her – having covered it extensively at the time it was “resolved” by the court system in September 2022. In fact, Molly’s case actually helped light the fuse on the judicial reform movement – sparking outrage over the way she and several other female victims were treated and outrage over how the powerful politicians overseeing the system responded to the injustice they endured.
Vick previously sat down with me for an interview in early October. In her newest interview with Wood, she walked through Price’s bid for another term – including his hearing before the JMSC (which she attended).
“I was interested in the entire process,” she said of her decision to attend the hearing. “I wanted to see how the committee conducted these hearings.”
“It was hard to be quiet,” she added.
According to Vick, her interview with our media outlet helped her gain an appreciation of the full extent of the injustice inherent in the current system – which has only intensified her desire to fight for reform.
“After I interviewed with y’all, people that I have never heard of or spoke to reached out to me telling me their own stories,” Vick added. “I know I’m not a special case – which is scarier to me.”
While Price’s defeat is undeniably good news for those who care about public safety in the Palmetto State, much work remains to restore the integrity of our courts, bolster judicial independence and regain public confidence in this corrupted, co-opted branch of government. Specifically, the lawyer-legislator cabal which installed Price – and so many other judges like him – remains as intact as ever and obstinately defiant toward even the most minuscule change.
This media outlet has been leading the charge against this cabal for years – and will continue to do so moving forward.
Mark my words: Until this corrupt system is fully and forever vanquished, we will refrain from rejoicing in the defeat of one judge who – while an egregious offender – represents a mere symptom of the disease.
Again, we are a long way away from the system of justice we deserve … but this media outlet has no intention of stopping until we get there.
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 (soon to be eight) children.
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