Politics

South Carolina Leader: ‘Worldview’ Trumps Gender For Court Appointments

Shane Massey: “I would love to have a female justice on the state’s supreme court … but I’m not making that pick based on gender.”

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A leading member of the South Carolina Senate remains steadfast and unapologetic after making controversial remarks about the state’s all-male supreme court during a televised proceeding earlier this month.

On January 8, 2024, S.C. Senate majority leader Shane Massey and minority leader Brad Hutto were questioned about the Palmetto State’s controversial judicial selection process — an issue very familiar to our audience.

South Carolina is one of only two states in America where lawmakers elect judges. As reported over and over and over again, this process is notoriously corrupt and continuously yields unsatisfactory results. It is also yielding unrepresentative results, according to a group of women leaders.

Last year, the S.C. General Assembly replaced the only woman on the state supreme court with a man — making ours the only state in the nation without a female on its court of last resort. On February 8, 2023, a joint session of the S.C. General Assembly chose appeals court judge Garrison Hill to fill the seat of outgoing justice Kaye Hearn, who stepped down after reaching the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges.

Hill was campaigning against two female candidates – both of whom had longer tenures on the court of appeals than he did. Nonetheless, they both bowed out within hours of the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) permitting candidates to seek endorsements — or “commitments” — from lawmakers.

Fueling further controversy? The Palmetto State’s all-male bench was reestablished amidst vigorous statewide debate over a six-week abortion ban. In fact, justice Hearn authored the lead opinion in the January 2023 ruling striking down that ban.

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‘ON YOUR SIDE’

Andrea Mock (Facebook)

During this year’s S.C. Press Association legislative preview day — a gathering at which lawmakers discuss pre-filed bills and political priorities ahead of the upcoming legislative session — veteran WLTX TV-19 (CBS – Columbia, S.C.) anchor Andrea Mock revived the topic of our all-male supreme court.

Massey and Hutto’s answers to Mock’s questions have sparked outrage among judges, academics and attorneys, according to S.C. Women In Leadership (WIL) – a group working to triple the number of females running for elections and appointments in 2024.

“Our judiciary needs to look like our population,” Hutto said. “We vote on individual judges one at a time, without taking into account what the end result may be, and then, the end result may be … we got all men on the supreme court.” 

To gain a better understanding of his remarks, FITSNews called the minority leader five days prior to publishing this article – but we never heard back from him.

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“I would prefer to have a court that looks like South Carolina,” Massey said when it was his turn to answer the question. “But I’m not going to vote for somebody who has a worldview that is inconsistent with where I think the state ought to go.”

FITSNews reached out to Massey for context on his commentary, and within minutes the legislative leader called us back and agreed to an on-the-record conversation.

“I would love to have a female justice on the state’s supreme court,” Massey told us. “But I’m not making that pick based on gender. I’m not making that pick based on geography. I’m not making that picked based on any of those factors. To me, judicial philosophy, how you interpret the constitution, what your worldview is, those things matter when we’re selecting judges. They certainly matter to my constituents.”

While Massey maintained his original comments were taken out of context by WIL, he nonetheless acknowledged all three candidates in the last legislative session were qualified for the court. According to him, his decision to support Hill boiled down to worldview

“I interviewed all three of them,” Massey said. “All of them had a track record. All of them were qualified, all of them were very bright … but from my personal perspective, I felt like judge Hill was going to resolve constitutional ambiguities in a way that was more consistent with how I believe the constitution should be interpreted.”

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‘DOWN WITH IDENTITY POLITICS’

Alaina Moore (Facebook)

While women account for half of judges on the Palmetto State’s court of appeals, they make up just 15 percent of the S.C. General Assembly. The lack of female representation in the state’s legislature ranks South Carolina No. 49 in America, according to numbers from WIL.

Not everyone is up in arms about that, however.

“Enough with the identity politics,” said Alaina Moore, co-founder of Palmetto State Watch. “Enough with the good ol’ boy system, as well. Both sides of the aisle play the same identity criteria game when it works in their favor. Our focus should be on electing an originalist to the bench.”

While Moore’s nonprofit hyper-focuses on state legislative issues, it does not appear as though this lack of judicial diversity will be drawing its attention anytime soon.

“This play of identity politics is a symptom of a much wider issue that identifies with nothing other than who is allowed to hold the power, which frequently benefits the government and not the governed,” Moore said.

S.C. supreme court justices serve ten-year terms – and there is no prohibition to the amount of terms they can serve. Current chief justice Donald Beatty — the only black member of the court — will reach mandatory retirement age this year. Per the JMSC, the only candidate who was found qualified and nominated to assume his position is justice John Kittredge — one of four white men on the bench.

“I certainly understand why [WIL] would not want someone like me to make a decision on judges based on philosophy or based on worldview, because this group’s worldview is going to be very different from mine,” Massey concluded. “And frankly, the group’s worldview is very different from the overwhelming majority in legislature.”

BANNER VIA: S.C. PRESS ASSOCIATION

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THE PRESS RELEASE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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4 comments

jbl1a January 24, 2024 at 7:56 am

Dont care who they are. They need to be the best qualified, experienced and balanced candidate.

Reply
Jeff Mattox Top fan January 24, 2024 at 9:10 am

So these women (what is a woman?) are advocating for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion on the plantation board of trustees,, AKA the SC Supreme court? Massa please put more women in the plantation management. It’s always better to have one of your own whip you than it is someone not like you. That would be tyranny don’t you know.
Whether black, white, male, female or LGBQRSTUV sits on the high court the beatings will continue until morale improves.
Who rules the plantation matters very little considering the fact it is a a great human farm that provides the illusion of freedom while extracting the most amount of human labor with the least amount of force.
“murica was the great experiment in “free range” human farming. That experiment is coming to a close and the plantations are positioning for a Great Reset and a New World order where the “farm animals” will own nothing and be happy chewing their cud.

Reply
CongareeCatfish Top fan January 24, 2024 at 10:02 am

Really looking forward to a CJ Kittredge….but I bet a certain Legislator who pulled some extremely janky Xmas break 5th Circuit hijinx isn’t.

Reply
What He Said January 24, 2024 at 10:31 am

1-Timothy 2:12

KJV: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
RSV: “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.”

There is still much wisdom to be found here.

Reply

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