The purpose of the Committee is to report the collective opinion of members of the Bar surveyed concerning all candidates for selection to the South Carolina Supreme Court, South Carolina Court of Appeals, South Carolina Circuit Court, South Carolina Family Court and Administrative Law Judges.

The report is directed to integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. The investigation is to provide pertinent information to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission on the candidates for the Bench.

Confidentiality is the cornerstone of the work of the Committee, and in that regard, only the Chair or the Chair’s designee may make any comment on the work of the Committee. The results of the Committee’s investigation shall be made public upon completion and transmission to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission.

Structure of Committee
The Committee shall be com­posed of 48 active members of the South Carolina Bar—eight from each of the four judicial regions and 16 at large, each appointed by the President of the South Carolina Bar with the approval of the South Carolina Bar Board of Governors. The Committee shall represent a cross-section of the Bar of this state with due consideration given to experience in trial and appellate advocacy. The Chair of the Committee will be appointed by the President of the South Carolina Bar from the Committee membership. In the event that some of the members of the Committee cannot perform their duties or there is an extraordinary number of candidates, the Committee Chair with the approval of the Bar President may appoint additional members who previously served to assist in that nomination interval.
• Region I—Composed of 7th, 10th, 13th and 16th Circuits
• Region II—Composed of 5th, 6th, 8th and 11th Circuits
• Region III—Composed of 3rd, 4th, 12th and 15th Circuits
• Region IV—Composed of 1st, 2nd, 9th and 14th Circuits

Terms of Committee Membership
Members of the Committee will be appointed for terms of two years.

The Chair shall be appointed from the existing membership for a two-year term. The Chair shall appoint one subcommittee chair from each judicial region.

• The Committee’s report of prospective nominees to these courts is to include information concerning the candidate’s professional qualifications—integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

• Integrity is self-defining. The prospective nominee’s character and general reputation in the legal community are investigated, as are his or her industry and diligence.

• Professional competence encompasses such qualities as intellectual capacity, judgment, writing and analytical ability, knowledge of the law and breadth of professional experience.

• In evaluating experience, length of time admitted to the Bar is a significant factor to be considered. The Committee recognizes that women and members of certain minority groups have entered the profession in large numbers only in recent years and that their opportunities for advancement in the profession may have been limited. Substantial courtroom and trial experience (as a lawyer or a trial judge) is important for prospective nominees to both the appellate and the trial courts. Additional experience which is similar to court trial work such as appearing before or serving on administrative agencies or arbitration boards, or teaching trial advocacy or other clinical law school courses—is considered in evaluating a prospective nominee’s trial experience qualifications. Significant evidence of distinguished accomplishment in the field of law may compensate for a prospective nominee’s lack of substantial courtroom experience.

• Recognizing that an appellate judge deals primarily with records, briefs, appellate advocates and colleagues (in contrast to witnesses, parties, jurors, live testimony and the theater of the courtroom), the Committee may place somewhat less emphasis on the importance of trial experience as a qualification for the appellate courts. On the other hand, although scholarly qualities are necessary for the trial courts, the Committee believes that appellate court nominees should possess an especially high degree of scholarship and academic talent and an unusual degree of overall excellence. The abilities to write lucidly and persuasively, to harmonize a body of law and to give guidance to the trial courts for future cases are considered in the evaluation of prospective nominees for the appellate courts.

• The Committee considers that civic activities and public service are valuable experience, but that such activity and service are not a substitute for significant experience in the practice of law, whether that experience be in the private or public sector.

• In investigating judicial temperament, the Committee considers the prospective nominee’s compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, sensitivity, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice.

Rules of Procedure

RULE I: Scope of the Report
The report of the Committee will indicate information on the candidate’s professional qualifications gathered during the Committee’s process.

RULE II: Procedure to Be Fol­lowed by the Committee

Meetings of the Committee shall be procedurally governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. The majority of the Committee shall constitute a quorum for all business. Committee action will require the votes of the majority of members present and voting.

Following the appointment by the President of the Bar of the new members of the Committee and prior to any investigations, the Chair shall schedule an orientation meeting or conference call at which the new members will receive training concerning the procedures and rules of the Committee and instruction relating to the process of interviewing individuals. Existing members of the Committee are not required to, but should be encouraged to, attend these sessions.

Unless a Committee member objects, an investigation of an incumbent who has been rated under the survey of end-of-term judges conducted by the Bar and who is unopposed for re-election may be deferred with a report issued based upon the results of the survey and the collective knowledge of the Committee.

A questionnaire shall be prepared to assist each member of the Committee in accomplishing the investigative process. The sheet should be filled out for each contact for each candidate and should serve as a guide to the members during their interview process. These forms shall be destroyed at the end of the process.

Committee members shall be assigned to Subcommittees to investigate and report to the Committee on any candidate for a judicial position. Attention should be given to assignments to accomplish diversity (with attention to gender and race) on Subcommittees. One Committee member shall be appointed Subcommittee Chair by the Committee Chair. That Committee member shall contact his or her co-members for purposes of assuring that the rules of the Committee are complied with and to set up procedures to facilitate the investigation and reduce duplication of effort. Prior to the commencement of the investigation and the contacting of informants, the candidates shall be notified of the pendency of the investigation and forwarded a copy of the Rules of the Committee.

(a) Upon receiving the name of a candidate, the Committee members charged with investigating the qualifications of the candidate may begin their work. They shall request of the candidate the names of five attorneys who have opposed the candidate in a legal matter or trial. Candidates who are sitting judges shall be asked to provide the names of five attorneys who have appeared in contested matters before the candidate. Those persons will be invited to comment on the qualifications of the candidate.

(b) Each candidate will be invited to provide the Committee with any names under which the candidate has practiced law.

(c) The Committee members charged with investigating the qualifications of the candidate shall prepare a list of per­sons who are reasonably likely to have knowledge of the candidate’s qualifications and with whom interviews will be sought. Each such list should reflect a broad cross-section of the names of attorneys in the counties and the area of law in which the candidate practices. Efforts shall be made to include on the list male and female Bar members and minority Bar members. The Committee shall be ad­vised by statistics of the demographics of those contacted when possible.

(d) Absent unusual circumstances, the Committee members charged with investigating the qualifications of the candidate shall seek interviews with the following:
     (1) Fifteen (15) names selected at random from the list prepared pursuant to subdivision c of this section for the review of incumbent judges;
     (2) Thirty (30) names selected at random from the list prepared pursuant to subdivision c of this section for the review of candidates for vacant seats; and
     (3) Members of the bench in the county in which the candidate practices.

(e) The goal of the Committee shall be that reports will be issued only upon completion of at least fifteen (15) interviews for incumbent judges and thirty (30) interviews for candidates for vacant seats, indicating knowledge of the candidate. Any Committee member who receives negative or adverse comments concerning a candidate shall make reasonable efforts to contact the source or sources of such comment and report to the Committee the results of that contact.

(f) If, as a consequence of unusual circumstances, the Committee members charged with investigating the qualifications of the candidate are not able to fully comply with this section, the report to the General Assembly shall state the unusual circumstances, which prevented compliance.

At least three (3) Committee members charged with reporting to the Committee should personally interview the candidate, jointly if feasible. The interview should not be the first step in the investigation. Thus, the personal interview with the candidate shall be held after a majority of the calls provided in Section 2(c) have been conducted but leaving sufficient time prior to the reporting date for the candidate’s rebuttal of adverse comments. The subject matter of the substantial and credible adverse allegations received regarding the candidate’s character, integrity, legal knowledge and ability or other relevant information which, unless rebutted, would be determinative of the candidate’s unsuitability for judicial office, should be disclosed to the candidate, as specifically as possible without any breach of confidentiality of these rules and procedures. At the interview, such Committee members should discuss with the candidate, among other factors, his or her industry, judicial temperament, honesty, objectivity, community respect, integrity, ability, and legal experience. The discussion should be as specific as possible without any breach of confidentiality as provided for in these rules and procedures, and should include both positive and negative information. The purpose of an interview is to provide a candidate with a reasonable opportunity to respond to adverse information and to present any additional information which may support his or her qualifications.

After the interview, a candidate may submit to the Committee additional information or material in response to adverse allegations raised in the interview; the interview should be scheduled, when practicable, at least two to three days before the Committee meeting when the final reports of the candidate are to be determined. For good cause, the Committee may waive compliance with these time requirements. No provision of these rules shall be construed as permitting the disclosure to the candidate of information from which the candidate may infer the source, and no information shall either be disclosed to the candidate nor be obtainable by any process which would jeopardize the confidentiality of communications from persons whose opinion has been sought on the candidate’s qualifications.

Before a report is issued containing information that would raise serious questions as to the ability of the candidate to serve on the Bench, the membership of the Committee should be enlisted to participate in contacting additional individuals concerning the candidate. The purpose of this section is to expand the knowledge of the entire Committee concerning a candidate before a report is issued.

The form and manner of any individual Committee member’s report to the Committee shall be left to the discretion of the Chair. However, each Committee member shall report the number of interviews sought and held and the numerical breakdown of ratings.

The Chair shall be responsible for assuring that the rules of the Committee are followed by all Subcommittees and the Committee. The Chair should not serve on any Subcommittee but will, during the evaluation process, monitor the work of the Subcommittees. The Chair may attend the interview of a candidate. The Chair shall monitor the selected names of the potential interviewees to assure that diversity (with attention to gender and race) exists in the list of names selected by the Subcommittee.

Candidates will not be interviewed by the entire Committee, nor will they be allowed to appear before the Committee in connection with their nomination.
If a candidate for whom the Committee has recently issued a report offers or is nominated again for the same court, the Committee shall determine if an additional investigation is required. In determining whether to reinvestigate or confirm its prior action, the Committee shall consider all relevant factors, including the following:
(1) whether there may be facts or information not previously investigated or concerning acts or occurrences since the previous investigation;
(2) the extent to which additional facts or information would aid the Committee as to determination of a material issue;
(3) the extent to which affording a candidate a further opportunity to re-but adverse information would assist the Committee in determining a material issue or merely be cumulative; and
(4) the nature and extent of the previous investigation and its timeliness.

A previously completed investigation should not be deemed timely if more than twelve (12) months have lapsed between the time of the completion of the prior investigation and the filing for the subsequent judicial position.

If the Committee determines that it will conduct further investigation and evaluation, it will decide whether the investigating Committee members shall be those who conducted the initial investigation or whether new investigators are to be named.

(a) When a candidate offers or is nominated for judge of an appellate court and a report is made to the General Assembly following the investigation, and that candidate subsequently offers or is nominated for judge of the circuit court or family court, the Committee may conduct a summary consideration and issue its report on the person as a candidate for the circuit court or family court based on the previously completed investigation if the information contained therein is sufficient. In determining whether such information is sufficient, the Committee shall follow the procedure set forth in Section 6 of this rule. If such information is insufficient, or if the information raises questions as to the ability of the candidate to serve on the other court, a separate and full evaluation shall then be made of the person as a candidate for the other court position.

(b) When a candidate offers or is nominated for judge of the Supreme Court and a report is made to the General Assembly following the investigation, and that candidate, within a reasonable time thereafter, offers or is nominated for judge of the Court of Appeals, the Committee may issue its report based on the previously completed investigation.

(c) When a candidate offers or is nominated for judge of the Circuit Court or Family Court, with a report made to the General Assembly, and that candidate subsequently offers or is nominated for an appellate court position, a separate and full evaluation shall be made.

(d) When a candidate offers or is nominated for Administrative Law Judge, with a report made to the General Assembly, and that candidate subsequently offers or is nominated for an appellate or trial court position, a separate and full evaluation shall be made.

In the report of the qualifications of candidates, the numerical count of the Committee’s vote shall not be stated. Candidates shall be found well qualified, qualified or unqualified.

Candidates generally will be reported on in the order in which their names are given to the Committee. When it is requested that a candidate be considered out of order, the reasons therefore shall be stated to the Chair who will then determine whether it will so consider the candidate.

The report of a judicial candidate submitted to the Committee shall be based only on the individu­al merit of that particular candidate. The criteria for establishing the merit of a candidate shall be based among other appropriate factors on industry, judicial temperament, honesty, objectivity, community respect, integrity, ability and legal experience as is more fully set forth in the Preamble.

The Chair of the Committee or the Chair’s designee shall transmit the Committee’s report to the judicial candidate. Thereafter, the Chair or Chair’s designee shall transmit the Committee’s report to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission or such other body as is then designated to screen judicial candidates, and to the public. When possible, this report shall be made to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission and the public at least two days prior to the public hearing.

RULE III: Confidentiality

This rule prohibits disclosure of any information of any nature which might compromise the confidentiality of the source of the information. If during the course of its investigation the Committee obtains information which is credible and which patently disqualifies a candidate, the Chair or the Chair’s designee may, in its discretion, informally advise the Judicial Merit Selection Commission of this information prior to the making of a final report. The Chair or the Chair’s designee shall not answer any question from the Judicial Merit Selection Commission which may jeopardize the confidentiality of the Committee’s sources. No other member of the Committee will comment in any way.

All phases of the Committee’s activity, i.e., the results of interviews with any respondents, the vote or comments of any individual Committee member or the vote of the Committee as a whole, as well as any other matters connected with the investigation are absolutely confidential and shall not be disclosed to anyone other than another Committee member or an appropriate staff member of the Bar. No copy or duplicate of writings connected with the activities or the Committee shall be distributed to the Board of Governors or the General Assembly, except the final report with the general reasons therefor, which are submitted to the General Assembly and to the public.

A Committee member, in respect of persons whose names are submitted to the Committee for consideration of their qualifications for appointment to the bench, shall not disclose to others in any manner, except for the purposes of confidential inquiry in connection with the Committee’s consideration of such person:
(a) The names of any such person whose name has been submitted to the Committee;
(b) Whether any such person’s name has or has not been submitted to the Committee, or any information regarding when the candidate will be considered by the Committee;
(c) The discussion, deliberations or actions of the Committee concerning any such person;
(d) Any information concerning such person obtained during investigation or at a meeting of the Committee nor his or her own opinion concerning that person; and
(e) The “Personal Data Questionnaires” of persons whose names have been submitted to the Committee.

Upon transmittal of the final report of a candidate to the General Assembly each member or former member of the Committee shall immediately destroy all papers, files and documents of any kind relating to the candidate or deliver to the South Carolina Bar staff such items for immediate destruction.

Members of the Board of Governors, designees of the Board of Governors and employees and agents of the Bar are prohibited from disclosure of confidential information received by them in the same manner as provided in this rule for Committee members.

Each member of the Committee shall take, subscribe to and file an oath of confidentiality. The oath shall be kept on file with the Bar.

Upon a claim of breach of confidentiality, a three-member Special Committee shall be appointed by the Board of Governors to investigate such claim. If the claim is found to have merit, a report shall be made to the entire Committee and the President of the Bar. The report shall include a recommendation as to whether or not the Committee shall request the Board of Governors to remove the member or members from the Committee. The Committee shall also report the failure of any Committee member to cooperate in the investigation of the claim. No member of the Committee against whom a claim of breach of confidentiality is brought shall serve on a Special Committee investigating said claim.

If a person interviewed by the Committee makes public comment about the interview which is not an accurate reflection of the interview, the Committee may defend its process only to the extent necessary.

RULE IV: Conflict of Interest

This rule is intended to establish standards and procedures to assist the   Committee and its members in avoiding conflicts of interest, bias or prejudice that may interfere with the Committee’s ability to discharge its duties.

If a Committee member has or has had any significant familial, professional, business, social, political, or other relationship, either adversarial or allied, direct or indirect, with a candidate, he or she shall immediately disclose to the Committee Chair the nature and circumstances of the relationship.

If the Com­mit­tee member having such a relationship determines that it would unduly influence his or her consideration of the candidate’s qualifications, the Committee member shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in the investigation, deliberation, and ultimate report of the candidate involved in the conflict as well as other candidates for the same seat and refrain from attempting to influence other Committee members’ evaluations of the candidates.

If a Committee member is disqualified pursuant to this section, the report of the Committee shall reflect the identity of the member and the race in which he or she did not participate. The reason for the disqualification shall not be reported.

Factors to be considered in determining whether the relationship requires disqualification include remoteness in time of the relationship, duration of the relationship (transitory, recurring, or long term), and the extent to which the relationship is distinguishable from a casual, incidental contact.

If a Committee member determines that a particular relationship does not require disqualification, and the Chair determines that the relationship does require disqualification, the Chair’s determination shall prevail.

A disqualified Committee member is not precluded from providing information concerning a candidate in the way such information would be provided by one requested to provide information by interview; provided, however, that a Committee member providing information pursuant to this provision may not be identified during the hearing.

As a condition of appointment, each Committee member agrees that:
(a) During his or her service on the Committee, he or she will abstain from endorsing or participating in any judicial candidate’s campaign for office, and will refrain from appearing before or voting on any other committee or commission involved in the judicial selection process; and

(b) Service on the Committee results in a relationship between Committee members that may create a conflict of interest if Committee members who have served together later evaluate one another. Therefore, no Committee member shall offer for or accept a nomination for a South Carolina judicial position while a member of the Committee and for a minimum of one year after leaving the Committee.

RULE V: Information Available to the Com­mit­tee

Staff shall advise all members of the Committee which Committee member shall be Subcommittee Chair for conducting the investigation of each candidate and which Committee members are assigned to the investigation.

All members of the Committee shall receive from staff each candidate’s current Personal Data Questionnaire or, in the event the Questionnaire is not received, each candidate’s biographical material received from the Judicial Merit Selection Commission.

When the “Personal Data Questionnaire” pertaining to said candidate is more than one year old at the time the investigation commences, staff shall obtain an updated “Personal Data Questionnaire” from the candidate.

RULE VI: Appointment and Removal of Committee Members
Committee members, including the Chair, are appointed by and serve at the will and pleasure of the Board of Governors and may be removed from the office with or without good cause.

RULE VII: Amendment of Rules
The Committee may adopt, with approval of the Board of Governors, amendments to these rules.

RULE VIII: Severability
If any provision of these rules and procedure or the application of any such provision to any person or circumstances shall be held invalid, the remainder of these rules and procedures, to the extent that they can be given effect, or the application of such provision to persons or circumstances other than those as to which they are held invalid, shall not be affected thereby, and to this extent the provisions of these rules and procedures are severable. Judicial Qualifications Committee created by the House of Delegates January 17, 1992; policy amended June 2, 1994. Membership on the Committee increased to eighteen by vote of the House of Delegates June 3, 1993, to twenty-four on June 2, 1994, to twenty-five on June 7, 1996 and to forty-eight on May 14, 2009. Categories amended on June 7, 1996.

Rules adopted by the Board of Governors June 18, 1992. Rules amended by the Board April 14, 1993; May 3, 1993; October 6, 1993; December 9, 1993; March 17, 1994; June 2, 1994; December 8, 1994; April 25, 1996; October 3, 1996; November 13, 2003; and May 14, 2009.