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SC: Judicial candidates win nomination despite complaints

By   /   December 3, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Rick Brundrett | The Nerve

HE’S BACK: Jenkinson was renominated to the bench, despite complaints.

COLUMBIA — Bill Simpson Jr. and his father say they don’t believe Gordon Jenkinson deserves to be on the bench.

The Manning residents filed sworn, written complaints against Jenkinson, a Williamsburg County Family Court judge based in Kingstree, and testified last week against his re-election to the 3rd Circuit seat.

But their complaints didn’t sway the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, a legislatively appointed and dominated screening committee that nominates judicial candidates for elections decided by the 170-member General Assembly. By law, three lawmakers – the Senate president pro tempore, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and the House speaker –  appoint the commission’s 10 members, six of whom must be lawmakers.

Following screening hearings over the past two weeks, the commission nominated eight of 10 judicial candidates, including Jenkinson, who had sworn affidavits filed against them opposing their nomination, according to Jane Shuler, the commission’s chief attorney.

The Nerve last week reported that the commission nominated the state’s top court administrator, Rosalyn Frierson, and two other attorneys for family court seats, despite a report by the South Carolina Bar, the state’s professional organization for attorneys, contending that the candidates are unqualified for the seats.

The commission dismissed more than half of the sworn complaints against the other 10 candidates, Shuler said, though she declined to release them to The Nerve, citing a state law that says unless presented under oath at a screening hearing, all records presented to the commission must be “kept strictly confidential.”

The law also says such records are exempt from disclosure under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

As for the candidate complaints that were not dismissed, Shuler said she couldn’t publicly release them until an official screening report is issued next month, adding, “Because we could reopen the hearings, I really can’t release anything until the report becomes official.”

Simpson Jr. and his father provided The Nerve last week with copies of their affidavits against Jenkinson, who is running unopposed for his seat.

“They (certain judges) just do whatever they want to do, and we just want to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Simpson Jr. told The Nerve.

Read the full story at The Nerve.