A little know fact about Family Court Orders in South Carolina is that the Judges don’t actually write the orders.
In most cases, it’s the common practice in South Carolina to allow the winning attorney of a family court case to write the verbal orders issued by the Judges. This practice allows the attorney who are writing these orders to use a specific language for benefit of their client. Many have questioned the ethical concerns behind this practice, as Judges simply read over the order, most often weeks after their instructions were given.
The specific purpose of Judges writing orders is to ensure no bias from either side is written into an order from the court and to ensure these orders are in guide with the law.
South Carolina state law requires that a copy of a proposed order be sent to opposing counsel for review prior to being submitted to the judge, even if one is Pro Se. But many times this is not done.
In many cases involving Pro Se litigants (Self Represented), they have never received a proposed order for review. We asked 75 Pro Se Litigants in the State if they had ever received an order for review prior to the judge signing it. All 75 individuals stated “No”. Nor were they ever asked by a Family Court Judge if they had reviewed the order.
Pro Se litigants are viewed as a nuisance to the courts and often are bypassed in the legal process. Most Judges and Lawyers who practice in this arena pay little to no attention to arguments brought by Pro Se Litigants, even if the argument is based on factual law.
Even if a Pro Se litigant wins a hearing usually the judge still orders opposing counsel to write the order to ensure proper legal terminology, which again also allows a biased order infavor of the losing client by legal terminology.
As Family Court Judges are paid $178,000 a year, one would easily believe these judicial officers could write a court order to ensure no bias from either side is shown.
The excuse that is given most often is that family court judges do not have law clerks working for them, who could aid in this matter.
Perhaps one solution to this issue is to cut a judge’s salary to cover the cost of supplying them with law clerks. This simple fix would ensure greater fairness in the family courts and cut down on biased orders issued by this same court.
For many families who deal with the legalese language of these court orders, many find out too late that the issued order does not match the verbal instructions given by a judge during a proceeding. And are unable to file an appeal as they only had 10 days to do so.
Are ethical guidelines being ignored in family courts?
Is this practice of allowing the winning attorney to write the other even legal?