For many years South Carolina’s Judicial System has been questioned as to it’s practices and it’s officials, this is to include those who pick and choose Judges.
In the past few years more and more South Carolinian’s have begun to question the alleged legal practices that take place in this State. Ranging from Circuit Courts to the lowest of Courts, Family Courts. This in itself has surprised many people that a Court who deals with children and families actually is considered the lowest court on the hierarchy of the judicial system.
Senator Luke Rankin, House Representative Todd Rutherford and others who sit on the Judicial Merit Selection Committee at the State House have been questioned over their practices and choices of Judges and letting certain Judges remain on the bench.
In 2018, Judge Monet Pincus was before this Judicial Merit Selection Commission for reconfirmation for her position as an At Large Judge (Traveling Judge). Several individuals came to speak out against Judge Pincus and to prevent her from remaining on the bench. The Commission heard how this Judge ordered two young children to be taken to Montana for what is known to be a questionable psychological practice known as Parental Reunification Therapy. Judge Pincus was questioned on the fact that she ordered these children to be sent so far away and on what bases she made the order. At which point Judge Pincus produced a copy of the sealed order to refresh her memory. She was then questioned how she obtained a copy of this sealed order and stated, ‘Oh, I am a Family Court Judge I can enter the file when I want.’ She was also questioned on certain aspects when it became clear that her legal knowledge was not what you would expect from a Judge dealing with such major issues as children. Luckily, the parent involved in that case regained the children in appeals, being able to show the invalidity of Judge Pincus’s rulings.
The Commission chose to continue that hearing on a separate day due to the legal aspects that were being brought up, such as her obtaining a copy of a sealed court record without an order allowing her to do so. Even more people were present at the second hearing to speak out against Judge Pincus, but this time the Commission chose to hold a closed door hearing. Not allowing the individuals who were there to speak out to be part of the process and when the doors where opened the commission simply voted to reconfirm her. Not even looking at the documents that they had requested from the first hearing brought by the individuals who spoke out against her. Also to note here, that the Commission is required to give a full description to all Senator’s and House Representatives when a Judge is in question of being confirmed or re-confirmed, which did not happen with Judge Pincus or other Judges that go before this Commission.
Remember, that several of the individuals who sit on the Judicial Merits Commission are practicing Attorney’s themselves, such as Senator Luke Rankin who quotes his 99% success rate in the Courtroom on his law firms legal website.
Senator Rankin’s political career has come under severe criticisms from individuals for allegedly mis-using his position, to legal mis-representations. And more recently for running what many have called a dirty campaign to remain in office.
Another member of the Commission who is often seen with Sen. Rankin is House Representative Todd Rutherford. Rep. Rutherford’s career much like Rankin’s has come under many questions and criticisms, from the public and other government officials. Rep. Rutherford is also a practicing attorney and like Rankin is involved in the Santee Copper issue, most recently asking a judge to allow the $75 Million’s in attorney fees that were awarded from the settlement by Attorney General Alan Wilson, without any documentation to the firms billable hours.
Rep. Rutherford, has been seen on video from the State House many times in outbursts when other members object to issues being heard. In February of 2020 Rep. Rutherford can be seen angrily pointing for other members of the House to sit down when objecting to the way the vote was being done. 4 Members of the House of Representatives walked out in protest to voice votes being done instead of the required roll call vote, which would show how each member voted on the record.
In a more recent re-confirmation hearing more questionable behavior can be seen and heard from this very Commission who have a very sacred duty.
In the following videos you can hear how the Commission instead of questioning the actions of this Judge are really defending him on record. This Judge was questioned in complaint concerning Brenda Bryant, a Grand-Mother who has been made an enemy of the State, by this Judge’s Order.
Sadly, this is how this Commission handles most of the complaints received. Instead of questioning the actions of these individuals they simply justify the individuals actions. It has been documented that within the last 10 years no Judge has been held accountable for his or her questionable actions by anyone sitting on this Commission. It is hard to believe that not one complaint filed within the last 10 years has been valid.
Some have even began to question the number of Attorney’s who sit on this Commission. Should this Commission not be more balanced by either an equal amount of non-attorneys or should Attorney’s be limited on this Commission? For it could be argued that these Attorney’s are choosing their own Judges.
In last weeks Judicial Elections held at the State House a precedented incident occured. The joint bodies of the House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate followed the State Constitution by voting for these Judges by Roll Call Vote. This allows individuals to see who voted for what Judge.
State House Representative Jonathan Hill spoke out about Judge Miller to both bodies of Government. Rep. Rutherford objected to Rep. Hill’s speech stating this should have been brought up during the Commission hearing. Remember, Rep. Rutherford sits on this Commission as well. After Rep. hill was allowed to finish Sen. Rankin simply stated, he would like members to refer to the report this commission wrote pertaining to Judge Miller. As if saying, “Hey we wrote the report, go by what we say.”
Although several individuals from Judicial Reform groups felt this was a monumental win by having their elected officials follow the State Constitution and vote by roll call as required, they say there is still much work ahead to bring South Carolina out of the dark in Judicial Reform.