By Rick Brundrett | The Nerve
COLUMBIA — South Carolina is only one of two states in which its legislative leaders control the makeup of a panel that nominates judicial candidates, The Nerve found in a review of judicial screening committees nationwide.
Unlike in South Carolina, where the Legislature also mainly controls which judges are elected — from the Supreme Court down to trial-level Circuit and family courts — in Tennessee, the governor appoints nominated judges to that state’s appellate courts, while judges in lower courts are selected in public elections.
By law, six members of South Carolina’s 10-member Judicial Merit Selection Commission are state lawmakers — an organizational structure not found anywhere in the country, The Nerve’s review found. In contrast, no state lawmakers serve on Tennessee’s 17-member nominating commission.
Nominating, or screening, commissions play an important part in how judges are selected in many states. In South Carolina, the General Assembly can elect only those judicial candidates nominated by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission.
The stakes are even higher this year in South Carolina, as the screening commission for the first time will nominate candidates for six new family court seats and three additional Circuit seats created by the Legislature in this year’s legislative session.