Attorney General Alan Wilson hosted a panel discussion, with more than 30 legislators in attendance, on the critical need for judicial reform with Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Dr. Oran Smith of Palmetto Promise Institute.
“We currently have an imbalance of power in our judicial system. That must change,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson. “By letting the Governor, or the executive branch, appoint the members to the JMSC and removing the legislators from serving on the JMSC, we can deliver meaningful judicial reform that is truly accountable to the people.”
In South Carolina, judges are selected through the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) and voted on by the legislature. The JMSC currently has 10 members, 6 being sitting legislators. All the commissioners are appointed by the legislative leadership.
Attorney General Wilson continues, “Having legislators serve on the JMSC, especially with no involvement from the Governor, breeds mistrust and potential for abuse–real or percieved. In our current system, power is concentrated with the legislature and accountability is dispersed. That needs to change.”
During the panel discussion, Dr. Oran Smith provided historical context for how South Carolina’s current judicial process came to be and how other states select judges. South Carolina is one of only two states where the legislature elects judges.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson shared how her time as a prosecutor opened her eyes to the need for judicial reform.
“We’ve all seen some judicial candidates that made it through, and we scratched our head because they shouldn’t have. And we’ve all seen some that should have made it through but did not,” said Solicitor Wilson. “When I go into court against a lawyer legislator on the other side, I’m going against someone who can hire and fire the judge I’m appearing before. We need to change the make up of the JMSC to ensure one group doesn’t have an advantage and judges aren’t put in an uncomfortable position.”
Attorney General Wilson will continue to push for serious judicial reform and host discussions across the state leading up to the next legislative session in January.
In March, Attorney General Wilson led a bipartisan law enforcement coalition calling for judicial reform. Read the release here.
In May, Attorney General Wilson hosted a private roundtable with 30 pastors and faith leaders from across the state.