Sunday, May 20, 2007
Outside groups thwart real justice in judicial elections
MAY 20, 2007 - - Judicial elections are, by their very nature,
political. But a new twist to what may be one of the most
important legislative votes of the decade is stirring up the
On Wednesday, lawmakers will pick from among three state
appellate judges to fill a seat on the S.C. Supreme Court
being vacated by Justice E.C. Burnett III, who faces retirement
at age 72. In the running for the seat are S.C. Court of Appeals
Chief Judge Kaye Hearn and colleagues Don Beatty and Bruce
Williams. The election is key because the winner likely will
be the next long-term chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Beatty, S.C. Court of Appeals judge
Hearn, Chief Judge of the S.C. Court of Appeals
Williams, S.C. Court of Appeals judge
Through the years, the state has developed a system in which
those interested in becoming a judge file paperwork to run
for a seat and then submit to a comprehensive review by a
judicial screening committee that includes input from lawyers,
citizens and legislators. The panel then recommends up to
three qualified candidates. They politick among state lawmakers,
who make the final decision.
For years, lawmakers have tinkered with the process to try
to take as much of the politics out of these judicial elections
as possible so members could vote for the candidate who would
make the best judge based on merit, not politics.
Some would argue legislators haven't been that successful
because of quiet "understandings" with judicial
candidates before they formally become candidates. But it
also can be argued that lawmakers are able to rise above the
gossipy political part of the process because they've got
thicker political skins. As a result, they can pick the best
qualified candidate for the job.
With all of that said, a new twist arose in the current judicial
election process that could lead to sweeping changes in how
judges of the future are selected.
encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to
something in SC Statehouse Report, please
send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for
length and clarity. One submission allowed per month.
Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint.
Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
What's happened is that conservative outside groups have
started twisting arms of lawmakers to get them to vote for
or against one of the three candidates in the Supreme Court
- The S.C.
Civil Justice Coalition, a business-backed conservative
group that wants tort reform and workers' comp changes,
sent letters to lawmakers with a self-serving analysis that
rated the three candidates based on the group's interpretation
of decisions related to business and the state's economic
- The Palmetto
Family Alliance, a conservative group that strives to
defend and strengthen so-called family values, attacked
two candidates on the hot button issues of abortion and
judicial activism. In an email to members, it said, "it
is not our way to scream at your with red type, but this
really is important." (Translation: We're screaming
at you about this vote.)
- The S.C.
Business and Industry Political Education Committee
(SCBIPEC) sent a memo to state lawmakers that one candidate
was a "business positive" vote while others would
be "business negative."
There's nothing illegal about what these groups are doing.
They have every right to exercise their rights of free speech
and give their opinion.
But just because they have the right doesn't mean they need
to use it. It's kind of like the guy who wears a ball cap
inside when eating Sunday dinner. Sure, he can do it, but
in the South, it doesn't show the best of manners.
What these groups essentially are doing is escalating the
race to the gutter in judicial elections. Instead of letting
lawmakers make up their minds based on the merit of candidates,
they're sending flaming salvos to lawmakers to more deeply
politicize the process. And in effect, they're issuing quiet
threats to legislators that they might use a "wrong"
vote against them in their own elections in 2008.
State Sen. Glenn McConnell, president pro tempore of the
Senate, said these campaigns from the outside are having an
impact on the process.
"People are thinking twice and looking closer now,"
he said. And while that may sound good to some, it also suggests
lawmakers may be flipping their votes because they're worried
about what outside groups think.
Former Sen. McKinley Washington of Ravenel said the influence
of outside groups could be detrimental.
"What you wind up getting is ideologues [on the bench]
instead of real justice."
Let's hope state lawmakers can ignore outside groups during
the Wednesday vote and cast ballots for the person who will
be best for the state. If they don't, look for other groups
to inject themselves into the process in the future - or for
state lawmakers to start looking at judicial elections by
the public, which would really politicize the process.
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at email@example.com.
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
Gun commentary is liberal doom and gloom
To the publisher:
While reading your Commentary in Monday's Sumter Item [Commentary,
5/13], I thought, if you'll pardon the pun, "What
a target rich environment". I had hoped that after all
the hand wringing over firearms had somewhat died down since
the Liberal Doom and Gloom predictions never came to pass;
that maybe some sense could be applied to the gun issues we
face daily as citizens of this nation. You have proved that
there are still miles to go before the hooplaphobes (those
that have an irrational fear of firearms) can ever calm down.
You bewail the very idea of allowing teachers, administrators,
and others carry concealed firearms on school property. Never
mind that these folks have passed the State's mandatory training
and SLED background checks in order to be qualified for the
license to carry a concealed weapon. You cast the same aspersions
that have been around since the whole CCW Permit Act was passed.
"Blood will run in the streets!" "People will
pull out their guns to settle the least argument"! etc.
None of these have happened. You voice concern that, perhaps
innocents might be harmed in a citizens attempt to put an
end to a situation such as Virginia Tech. Over the years,
in armed citizen, firing to protect themselves, have proved
to be more accurate than the average law officer who goes
to the range and qualifies once a year. There have been no
cases of citizens firing 41 shots like the NYPD has been known
to do while scoring only 3 hits and those were not serious.
All in all, Mr. Brack of the S. C. Statehouse Report I
can only believe that you cannot have given rational thought
to what he had written and must have simply been passing along
the Brady Matra (sic) without doing his homework. But
then, that group seldom does.
-- Rev. Joel Osborne, Sumter, S.C.
Publisher's note: The above letter came
in at more than 1,300 words. Since the Report's Feedback
policy limits responses to 250 words, the above letter --
and the one below -- were edited for length.
Gun article shows Brack is liberal writer
To the publisher:
After reading your article this morning, I have come to the
conclusion that you are another one of those well educated
liberal writers that do very little work other than quoting
other people and their work. As far as the Second Amendment,
I don't think I need you to interpret the amendment because
if I remember it right, it makes no distinctions between rifles,
pistols, or shotguns. You need to write this in the palm of
your hand so you will have it with you at all times to read.
A person wanting to kill people, indiscriminately, can find
no better place than a school, church, or bar, where firearms
are illegal to be carried by all including conceal carry permits.
Only law enforcement officers, at this time, are allowed to
carry firearms in these locations. How long do you think it
will take to get police to one of these locations, 5, 10,
or 15 minutes depending on the site? Then you have additional
time of the law enforcement trying to find out what is going
on and where to go in the building and waiting for back up
to arrive. Therefore, during this time, you are putting yourself
at the mercy of the gun man and at Virginia Tech, he showed
I think you would be better off sticking to what is taking
place in the State House rather than trying to interpret the
Constitution the way you see it and quoting other liberals.
Before you take all the firearms away that people have for
protection (pistols), think about how long it would take the
police to reach a house in a good neighborhood and how long
it takes them to reach a crime ridden neighborhood. The pistol
may make the difference whether the person lived or died.
-- Dan Packard, Florence, S.C.
- 4/22: Enjoy
seeing them while you can, Janie Behr, Florence,
- 4/15: Great
piece, Pat Jobe, Greenville, SC
- 4/4: SC
should take head out of sand, Daniel Berler, Mount
- 4/3: Don't
condemn people for choices, Elizabeth S. Bunker,
Fountain Inn, SC.
- 4/2: Sanford
would be good veep, Terry L. Bowyer, Lyman, SC
- 3/26: House
off-base on ultrasound vote, Ree Mallison, West Columbia,
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive
news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and
TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed
with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more.
Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less
for business subscribers. More: SC
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge. There's
a new limited paid version for individuals that costs about
$30 per month. More on subscribing.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."
In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:
- Hot news
-- an early peek on something really big that will happen
at the Statehouse. We continually beat other news organizations
in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget
cuts to wetlands proposals.
- Agenda -- a weekly forecast of
the coming week's floor agenda
- Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes
look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
- Palmetto Politics
-- Tidbits from the world of South Carolina politics.
- McLemore's World -- an early view
of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
- Tally Sheet -- a weekly review
of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in
- Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs
Down of major political/policy events for the week.
- Calendar -- a weekly list of major
meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
- Megaphone -- a quote of the week
that you'll find illuminating.
To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at:
South Carolina Statehouse Report
Publisher: Andy Brack
| Assistant Editor: Betsy
Phone: 843.670.3996 · Fax: 843.722.9887
Subscription or sponsorship Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have an event for the SC Statehouse Report calendar?
E-mail details to: email@example.com
or fax to above number.