Select a State:

State of South Carolina

Methods of Judicial Selection: South Carolina

Judicial Nominating Commissions

Created in 1997, the judicial merit selection commission considers the qualifications and fitness of candidates for South Carolina courts. The commission is composed of ten members. Five members are appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; of these five, three must be serving members of the general assembly and two must be selected from the general public. Three members are appointed by the chairman of the senate judiciary committee and two members are appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate; of these appointments, three must be serving members of the general assembly and two must be selected from the general public.

The judicial merit selection commission publishes upcoming judicial vacancies, including judgeships where incumbent judges are being screened for reelection. Individuals who wish to be considered for a judicial vacancy file with the commission. The commission investigates each candidate's background, conducts a personal interview with each candidate, and administers an exam on court procedure to each candidate (except retired judges). The commission receives assistance in screening judicial candidates from two sources: the South Carolina Bar's judicial qualifications committee and a citizens committee on judicial qualifications:

  • The judicial qualifications committee of the South Carolina Bar is responsible for interviewing bar members who have knowledge of the candidates' professional experience, ability, character, and other qualifications. The candidates provide personal information and complete a confidential interview process with the judicial qualifications committee. A report is then prepared, discussed, voted on, and issued, indicating whether the candidate meets or does not meet established criteria for judicial selection. In addition, the judicial merit selection commission invites all members of the South Carolina Bar to return questionnaires on the performance and qualifications of sitting judges and attorneys running for judicial vacancies.

  • There are five geographically-based citizens committee on judicial qualifications in South Carolina that screen candidates for judgeships in their respective regions. Citizens committees were created out of a desire for "broad-based grassroots participation" in judicial selection. The chairman of the judicial merit selection commission selects no more than eight members for each committee, and is expected to ensure that a wide range of interests is represented on each committee. The committee investigates and conducts personal interviews with each candidate, and interviews individuals who are familiar personally and/or professionally with each candidate.

Once the screening process is complete, the judicial merit selection commission prepares a formal report summarizing the qualifications of each candidate, classifying each candidate as qualified or not qualified, and nominating up to three individuals for each judicial vacancy. At this point, nominees are free to seek the support of general assembly members, and legislators are free to give pledges of support. A joint assembly is then scheduled to elect a nominee to fill each vacancy.