Politics

SOUTH CAROLINA JUDICIAL BUDGET: The Cost of Justice or overpayment

In this article we will be examining the South Carolina Judicial Budget and some attached sections that bring up questions.

The Judicial Budget begins on page 157 of the State Budget for 2021-2022 under the heading;

THE COURTS.

The first part of its breakdown is the State Supreme Court and we see that the Chief Justice Justice Beatty earns $212,160 a year for his role as head of the Supreme Court. And that the Associated Justices of the State Supreme Court earn a combined Salary of $808,228. Comparatively to some other states these salaries are low.

The Supreme Court will receive a total of $5,275,388 for carrying out the highest Justice in South Carolina.

The next section is the Board of Law Examiners (this is comprised of 12 Attorneys throughout the State) who will receive a combined salary of $314,000. This breaks down to approximately each attorney earning $26,166 each. The departments total budget is $870,000 including the above salaries.

Next is a very controversial department, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; remember these are the individuals who are suppose to hold attorney’s and judges accountable for misconduct but have failed to do so in over 10 years. The Salaries for this department comes to $1,000,000 while their operating costs is a mere $125,000. This office has come under fire in recent years for their lack of doing their jobs, but seem to be getting paid very well.

The Commission on Conduct is another department that has been questioned for their lack of doing their jobs of holding attorney’s and judges accountable. The salaries here come to $416,500 and the total for this agency is $568,500. One question that has come to light in recent years is why are there 2 separate departments with the same job earning two largely different amounts?

Total Courts Section of Budget comes to $7,838,888.

Court of Appeals:

The Chief Justice here earns a salary of $200,036, again compared to some states this salary is low. Associated Appeals Court Judges share a combined salary of $1,576,040. The Court of Appeals also has unclassified positions (salaried) in the amount of $3,015,000. The combined Court of Appeals budget is $6,250,676, this means that after salaries are paid the State Court of Appeals will run on $1,459,600 to overturn or affirm cases brought before them.

Circuit Court:

Circuit Court Judges will share a combined salary of $9,405,745 among 58 judges. This breaks down to approximately $162,168 per Circuit Court Judge. Also included are salaried positions in the amount of $6,750,982. This means that out of the total $18,866,727 for the Circuit Courts only $2,710,002 is spend on justice.

Family Court:

The Family Court system has in the past few years been accused of many Constitutional Rights Violations and outright wrong doings by not only the Judges but also the individuals who work within this closed off Judicial Department.

Family Court Judges will share in a combined salary of $11,214,120, this is divided by 64 Judges. This means each Family Court Judge will take home approximately $175,220 per year. These judges will earn approximately $13,052 more than circuit judges who have more training for their jobs. Within this closed off Judiciary other salaried positions come to $3,925,000. After all salaries subtracted from the $17,527,220 total for Family Courts only $2,388,100 are left for Family Court Justice. (Authors Note: South Carolina Family Courts are considered among one of the worst Court systems involving children and families. Also it is important to note here that the South Carolina Domestic Relations Courts are a court of equity (property courts). This is also why children are viewed as property in this court system.)

Guardian ad Litem:

Another curious part of the budget that we will add here due to it’s involvement in the secret circle of Family Courts is the $8,403,733 budget for Guardian ad Litems, this can be found on page 121 of the State Budget.

Guardian ad Litems (GAL’s) are individuals used by the Family Court Industry as voices for the children, who are considered property in this system. GAL’s are paid by the parties involved in private actions in family courts when children are involved, these are almost always attorneys or judges. In abuse cases GAL’s can be lay persons or volunteers who are supposed to do an independent investigation to determine what is in the child/children’s best interest. It is important to understand here that whether a lay guardian or attorney guardian neither can give recommendation for custody, but in most cases always do.

Last year the Daily Counter filed a Freedom of Information Act form with the State Court Administration concerning this part of the budget. We received no reply on it and even individuals who work in this section of the courts where unaware of why a section of the budget was dedicated to GAL’s. To date no one has answered the question as to who is drawing on these funds.

This budget section looks like this:

Hourly wages in the amount of $4,368,125, salaried wages in the amount of $190,000, other personnel services in the amount of $438,880 and finally operating expenses in the amount of $3,406,728. Giving this section a total of $8, 403,733, with no one knowing who is drawing on this fund. Several attorneys and retired GAL’s whom we have spoken with concerning this account have theorized this sounds like a slush fund for Family Court attorneys and judges.

If GAL’s are drawing on this account this could be very well considered that they are working in the interest of the state and not for the best interest of the children. We would also like to note here that GAL’s have no oversight! This means that there is no one to complain to if one feels the GAL is violating the law, outside the Family Court who assigned them.

In the past a few groups have tried to get legislation to create a citizens oversight committee to monitor GAL’s, but have failed to do so due to lack of Legislator support.

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