South Carolina: House approves plan to create a statutory Commission on Judicial Conduct; diminishes Supreme Court’s power to name members

An ethics reform package (HB 3184) passed by the South Carolina House last week would recreate the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct in statute and diminish the state supreme court’s power to name the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s members.

The current 26 member Commission on Judicial Conduct is created by Rule 502, South Carolina Appellate Court Rules and chosen entirely by the Supreme Court. The new 24 member Commission would have only 1/3 chosen by that court.

  • 8 chosen by the Supreme Court, including 6 judges
  • 4 chosen by the Senate (2 attorneys, 2 non-attorneys)
  • 4 chosen by the House (2 attorneys, 2 non-attorneys)
  • 8 chosen by the Governor, (4 attorneys, 2 non-attorneys)

Aside from the massive shakeup in the membership, HB 3184 provides, “the commission’s organization, authority, powers, duties, and responsibilities are delineated in Rule 4, [Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement], Rule 502, [South Carolina Appellate Court Rules].” Moreover, it does provide that “All judicial misconduct investigations, inquiries, hearings, and accompanying documents are confidential and only may be released pursuant to this subsection” and makes such an unauthorized release a crime.

HB 3184 is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.