South Carolina and Virginia stand alone in using legislative-only judicial elections. Candidates for all judicial offices (VA) or higher courts (SC) are selected solely by election of the House and Senate. Additionally, in South Carolina lower court judges (Magistrates Court) are appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the local senator for the area.
SB 858 would keep the existing election/appointment system in South Carolina but curtail the lawyer-legislators in the process. Under SB 858 a member of the House or Senate would be prohibited from voting on any judge “if the member represents a client in any court in the unified judicial system of this State.” (emphasis added)
Additionally a senator would be prohibited from appearing before a magistrate recommended by the senator to the position. This clause in particular echoes those introduced recently in Massachusetts and Missouri to keep lawyers who nominated or recommended judicial candidates out of the candidate-turned-judge’s courtroom.
SB 858 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.