South Carolina is one of two states (Virginia is the other) where the legislature elects judges. Under existing law (2-19-70(A)) currently serving members of the legislature are prohibited from being considered for election and retired/former members are prohibited from consideration for 1 year after the end of their service. That restriction however could fall under a bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.
HB 3979 as introduced on April 14 (text here) and co-sponsored by 91 out of 124 members of the House dealt with the question of the state’s Judicial Merit Selection Commission. Currently the Commission only sends the top 3 names to the legislature for a final vote. Under the bill as introduced all qualified candidates, not just the top 3, would be released by the Commission. This isn’t the first time such a proposal has come up; such proposals have been floated since at least HB 3414/SB 890 of 1999.
What made HB 3979 as amended interesting is what the amendment includes (text here): an exemption to the existing one-year-wait rule if the office being sought is “an at-large judicial office.” In South Carolina, Circuit Judges may be elected by the legislature to “at-large” positions allowing them to serve anywhere in the state. New provisions underlined, repealed provisions
NoA member of the General Assembly may not be elected to a judicial office while he is serving in the General Assembly nor shall that person be elected to a judicial office for a period of one year after he either:
(1) ceases to be a member of the General Assembly; or
(2) fails to file for election to the General Assembly in accordance with Section 7-11-15.
Provided, however, a member of the General Assembly is not ineligible to be elected to an at-large judicial office.
HB 3979 could now go directly to the House floor.