South Carolina: amended Senate plan for veterans courts still puts prosecutor in charge but drops effort to let the prosecutor pick and train the judges

I mentioned back in the March the several legislative efforts this year to create veterans courts programs. Of these, South Carolina’s HB 3014 stood out for its structure. Under the plan as approved by the House in 2013 and carried over into the 2014 session, the local prosecutors (circuit solicitor) and not the courts would  administer the program. The state’s chief justice would assign judge(s) to the division but only “upon the recommendation of the circuit solicitor.” Moreover, the judge assigned would be required to attend training established by the prosecutor. Finally, the judge assigned could not be paid a salary and must serve on a voluntary basis.

Last week however the Senate approved a floor amendment that effectively dropped all these provisions and details regarding the prosecutor’s power to pick and train judges. The amended version does, however, leave with the prosecutor the discretion as to whether or not to set up such a veterans treatment court in the first place. The new authorizing provision now reads in operative part.

Each circuit solicitor may establish a veterans treatment court program. Each circuit solicitor that accepts state funding for the implementation of a veterans treatment court program must establish and administer at least one veterans treatment court program for the circuit within one hundred eighty days of receipt of funding. The circuit solicitor must administer the program and ensure that all eligible persons are permitted to apply for admission to the program.

HB 3014 as amended by the Senate is now on the Senate’s Third Reading calendar.