S.C. Representative Joe White admonishes lawmakers on stalling Judicial Reform

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David Hucks
David Huckshttps://myrtlebeachsc.com
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

This afternoon on at the S.C. Statehouse, Representative Joe White took on the General Assembly for letting judicial reform die in 2024 by stalling legislative action until the term’s crossover period.


A sealed order arranged by a lawyer/legislator who serves on the  Judicial Merit Selection Commission—working with a friendly judge  just one day before that judge is to retire illegally gets that murderer and in-prison gang leader, Jariod Price, released16 years before it is legally possible. 

A confessed murderer is denied bond three times until he hires a  lawyer/legislator who serves on the JMSC as his counsel. That  lawyer tells his client’s mother that they “have to wait for the right  judge” before they ask for a bond. Now, two years later, that  murderer is walking the streets of Rock Hill awaiting trial as the victim’s family has to encounter him and wait for justice. 

A young Orangeburg man, from a wealthy family, is accused of  raping three different young women, one of whom eventually commits suicide due to her trauma. Because his family hires the  right lawyer and is connected to a powerful lawyer/legislator, he  serves no time for the alleged rapes. 

It’s not just criminal cases, it’s also civil cases. A judge rules against  a powerful JMSC member in a civil trial, and even though he has  served 15 years without serious complaint, he is ruled “unqualified” by that JMSC the next time he applies for reappointment. 

Those who defend the system will say,  

“Those are all anecdotal!” 

Of course, they are! For the powerful to have power, they cannot  abuse it routinely. They must be selective to protect that status. 

We have been told the system works because we prosecuted Alex  Murdaugh.

To that I say, “After Seventy years of using and abusing the system to his advantage!” 

Should South Carolina adopt reforms to increase the independence  and accountability of our judiciary by improving transparency and  reducing conflicts of interest in the process of reviewing judicial  qualifications and electing judges. 

That was question number two on the Republican Presidential  Preference ballot on February 24th

Ninety-one percent of the respondents answered that question YES! 

For over two years, I have been the only elected statehouse  representative who has traveled the state explaining to South  Carolina citizens how we elect Judges in South Carolina. 

I have spoken to groups in my district, which includes all of  Newberry County and part of Lexington County. I have spoken to  groups in North Augusta, Barnwell, Myrtle Beach, Anderson,  Greenville, Camden, Florence, Sumter, Orangeburg, Winnsboro, and  Blythewood.  

As I was running for office, I explained to constituents, one at a time,  how the South Carolina Judicial election process works. 

We the People get it!

We the People understand it! 

We the People know that allowing Criminal Defense Attorneys to  pick our judges is wrong. 

It’s a simple, common-sense question. 

Answer me this: 

If you are a Gamecock fan, do you think that Clemson’s coaches  should be allowed to pick the referees for this fall’s classic? 

Or maybe you are a Tiger fan. Do you think that South Carolina’s coaches should be allowed to pick the referees for this fall’s classic? 

How ridiculous! How absurd! 

We the People know that lawyers who are also legislators SHOULD  NOT have the power to decide whether a potential judge is qualified  or not. 

We the People know that the Judicial Merit Selection Commission needs a serious course correction! 

For over two years, the leadership of the General Assembly has  known that We the People want Judicial Reform. 

Last year, the Speaker of the House, Sumter County Representative,  Murrell Smith formed an Ad Hoc Committee to study that very issue. 

He appointed York County Representative, Tommy Pope to head that  Ad Hoc group.

Representative Pope has repeatedly told me that he made it clear to  Speaker Smith that he would do it “only if there was a desire to  come up with a serious reform bill.” 

In February, with bipartisan leadership by Senator Climer and  Senator Harpootlian, Senate Bill S1046 was debated and eventually  passed by the South Carolina Senate.  

After much delay, on February 28th, House Bill H5170 was read for  the first time in the South Carolina House of Representatives. 

In its original form, S1046 was a pretty good Bill. It addressed almost  every issue that “We the People” believe needs to change.  

What are those issues? 

1. The Executive Branch (the Governor) must have the ability to  appoint members to the JMSC. 

2. No trial lawyer who is also a legislator should be able to serve  on the Commission that qualifies potential judges. 

3. All candidates deemed qualified by the JMSC must have their  names submitted to the General Assembly for consideration. 4. The JMSC must become independent of the Legislative Branch. 

How excited I was when I saw that original Bill! 

But S1046 in its final Senate version is a disaster! 

As approved by the Senate, the Governor would have appointments,  but those appointments are dictated by the Legislature.

As approved by the Senate, it would be possible for two-thirds of the  people on the JMSC to be lawyer/legislators rather than the current  sixty percent. 

As approved by the Senate, instead of the current limit of three  potential candidates being sent to the General Assembly for a vote,  the limit would increase to six—a slight improvement. 

S1046 does make the JMSC independent of the Legislative branch. 

It is possible to amend S1046 to make it acceptable, but getting the  House to do so, and then getting the Senate to concur is a  monumental task. 

Now I want to address the House Judicial Reform Façade. 

That is correct, I said façade! 

I looked up that word to be sure it was the correct word. Here is the definition from the Oxford Dictionary: 

An outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less  pleasant or creditable reality. 

What makes H5170 a façade? 

The process! The timing!

I will begin my explanation by giving you another definition,  Crossover. 

Every year, the General Assembly has a date called the Crossover  date. 

Simply put, the Crossover date is the date at which no Bill that has  not been passed by one chamber can be debated and passed by the  other chamber. 

That date this year is next Wednesday, April 10th

H5170 has not passed out of the Judicial sub-committee headed by  Representative Jay Jordan.  

The process is that bills are first approved by sub-committees, then  sent to the full committee, and then to the floor for debate. 

At this point, it is not possible to have H5170 debated, amended,  and passed by the House before next Wednesday. 

What I am about to say is controversial. 

What I am about to say is conjecture. 

What I am about to say is my opinion of what we have witnessed  since last fall. 

Last fall, Speaker Smith appointed that ad hoc committee to look at  Judicial Reform. 

It looked good, didn’t it? 

That committee had multiple “public input” hearings.  Several Solicitors testified in good faith.

Several citizens—victims of the current judicial system testified. Attorney General Alan Wilson testified. 

I attended several of those hearings and watched others on TV. I had hope! 

It all looked good. Representative Pope insisted that something real  was going to come from this. 

The optics were good. 

The Session began in January. On day one, I asked Representative  Pope when they would have a bill for us to look at. He assured me  they were working on it. Two weeks later, I asked again. Once again,  assurance! 

Before we took a furlough week in February, I went to Representative  Pope again. “We will have a bill on the Speaker’s desk on Tuesday when we return from furlough,” he said, “Joe putting this together is  as difficult as pushing a rope.” 

Tuesday after furlough, nothing. I asked again on Thursday. “Next  Week,” was his reply.  

Finally, on February 28th, a house “Judicial Merit Selection  Commission” reform bill was presented. 

As stated earlier, since no sub-committee, no full committee action  has been taken, House Bill H5170, even if debated and passed this  session will not be taken up in the Senate this session, and therefore cannot become law this year.

I cannot prove that the slow process has been intentional, but I can  tell you that EVERY TIME either the House or the Senate want to pass  legislation they coalesce the troops and get it from first reading to  approval in record time. 

Look at how rapidly the “Scout Motor Legislation” to spend $1.3  Billion of South Carolina taxpayer money to entice Volkswagen to  come to South Carolina went from concept to reality—twelve days. 

Look at how rapidly H4927 (the creation of the Executive Office of  Health and Policy Bill) took to pass the House.—5 weeks! 

I can only conclude that H5170 was purposely “slow-walked” to  ensure it had no possibility of becoming law. 

If the Speaker wanted Judicial Reform, we would have passed a bill  in the House this year. 

Having said all that, the ONLY BILL that could become law this year  is S1046. 

I have made Representative Jay Jordan, the Chair of the Judicial subcommittee that is responsible for the bill aware that I have an amendment to S1046, 

I have made Representative Weston Newton, the Chair of the  Judicial Committee, aware that I have an amendment to S1046. 

That amendment simply says:

Since there could potentially be a conflict of interest for a member  of the General Assembly who regularly appears before or has  business before or is involved in the courts of this state to serve on  the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, no member of the General  Assembly so situated shall be appointed to the Judicial Merit  Selection Commission. This includes but is not limited to a member  of the General Assembly who is a practicing attorney, paralegal, law  clerk, social worker, or person who serves as guardian ad litem. 

Today, I am asking the South Carolina Press Corp to let the public  know what is happening in the name of judicial reform. 


I am asking the citizens of South Carolina to write, text, call, or email  your State Senator. 

I am asking the citizens of South Carolina to write, text, call, or email  your Statehouse Representative. 

When you contact them DEMAND REAL JUDICIAL REFORM, NOW! The only way that happens is by amending S1046.

I am confident that other amendments will be submitted once the  debate on S1046 begins. 

I believe it is still possible to achieve real Judicial Reform this year,  but the only way that happens is by constituent pressure on your  elected legislators. 

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