There have been many cases decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court over the years. Below are a number of important cases decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court that have had an impact on the state.
Harrell v. Attorney General of State of South Carolina, 409 SC 60 (2014). Private citizen brought complaint to House Ethics Committee alleging ethical violations by the Speaker of the SC House of Representatives, Robert Harrell. Question for the Supreme Court was whether a referral from the House Ethics Committee was required before the Attorney General, Alan Wilson, could initiate a criminal investigation/impanelling state grand jury. Supreme Court found that no referral from the House Ethics Committee was necessary for the AG to bring the investigation. However, it was remanded to determine if Alan Wilson should be disqualified from participating in the state grand jury proceedings. Click Here for the full opinon.
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552 (2013): A non-Native American couple in South Carolina sought to adopt a young Cherokee girl over the objections of her Cherokee father who asserted his parental rights. The child was initially placed with the South Carolina family by the birth mother. The South Carolind Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the South Carolina Family Court which applied the Indian Child Welfare Act and transferred physical and legal custody of the child to her biological fatehr. By a 5-4 vote, the United States Supreme Court reversed the South Carolina Supreme Court decision and remanded the case for further hearings to determine who should have custody of Baby Girl. In so doing, the United States Supreme Court held that the Indian Child Welfare Act provisions on active efforts to prevent the breakup of a Native American family and heightened burden of proof for termination of parental rights did not apply to this private adoption proceeding. The United States Supreme Court also held that the section of the Indian Child Welfare Act that deals with adoptive placement preferences did not preclude adoption by prospective non-Native American adoptive parents where no individuals within the Act's placement preferences had formally sought to adopt the child. The child was ultimately adopted by the South Carolina couple. Full Case Materials
Turner v. Rogers, 131 S. Ct. 2507, 180 L.Ed.2d 452 (2011) (holding that the fact that the father completed his prison sentence did not render moot his claim that he was entitled to counsel at his contempt hearing, the Due Process Clause did not require provision of counsel at father's civil contempt proceeding, and that the father's incarceration violated the Due Process Clause). Full Case Materials
Ahrens v. South Carolina, 2011 WL 1643563 (2011): Working retirees who chose to return to work for the State after retiring brought this case challenging the requirement that they make employee contributions to the Retirement Systems. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the forms signed by the working retirees indicating that they would not be required to make contributions did not create a contract between the State and the retiree. The Court determined that the statutes that initially allowed retired members to return to work without making contributions could be amended to require the working retirees to make such contributions. As a result, the State Retirement Systems will continue to collect and retain employee contributions from working retirees.
Price v. Turner, 387 S.C. 142, 691 S.E.2d 470 (2010): An indigent father appeared in family court without a lawyer for failing to pay child support. The judge held the father in contempt and sentenced him to 12 months in jail unless he paid the nearly $6,000 arrearage. The father appealed, arguing that he had a constitutional right to an appointed lawyer before being sentenced to one year imprisonment for civil contempt. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the father did not have a constitutional right to a lawyer because he could avoid the sentence by paying his outstanding support. This case was argued to the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2011. Full Case Materials. US Supreme Court Materials
Segars-Andrews v. Judicial Merit Selection Comm’n, 387 S.C. 109, 691 S.E.2d 453 (2010): Pursuant to the South Carolina constitution, justices and judges are elected by the General Assembly. The Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) is charged with evaluating the qualifications and fitness of all judicial candidates for election and re-election. Only candidates found to be qualified by the JMSC can be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration. This opinion established that the South Carolina Supreme Court could not intervene in decisions made by the JMSC absent an unconstitutional exercise by the JMSC of its powers. To intervene in the JMSC’s decisions would violate separation of powers. Full Case Materials
Sanford v. South Carolina State Ethics Comm’n, 385 S.C. 483, 685 S.E.2d 600 (2009): A writ of mandamus can be issued by the Supreme Court to enforce a legal right. Governor Sanford petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the State Ethics Commission to comply with statute and regulations regarding confidentiality. The Governor asserted that the State Ethics Commission should not be permitted to publicly disseminate any investigatory reports about its ethics complaints against the Governor. The Speaker of the House also petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the State Ethics Commission to issues all of its investigations materials. The Supreme Court denied the petitions and did not issue the writs because neither the Governor nor the Speaker of the House met the requirements for a mandamus. Full Case Materials
Whaley v. CSX Transp., Inc., 362 S.C. 456, 609 S.E.2d 286 (2005): This opinion clarifies where venue is proper or where an action may be brought when a corporation is the defendant. Full Case Materials
Sloan v. Sanford, 357 S.C. 431, 593 S.E.2d 470 (2004): In one of many cases brought by Edward Sloan, a concerned taxpayer/citizen, the Supreme Court held that a constitutional provision which prohibits the Governor from holding "any office or other Commission (except in the militia) under the authority of this State, or of any other power" does not prohibit the Governor from serving in the Air Force Reserve. Full Case Materials
State ex rel. Condon v. Hodges, 349 S.C. 232, 562 S.E.2d 623 (2002): Established when the Attorney General is authorized to bring an action against the Governor. Full Case Materials
Simmons v. Tuomey Regional Med. Ctr., 341 S.C. 32, 533 S.E.2d 312 (2000): Imposes a nondelegable duty on hospitals with regard to physicians who practice in their emergency rooms. Full Case Materials
Drummond v. Beasley, 331 S.C. 559, 503 S.E.2d 455 (1998): This case is one of a number of cases that have come to the South Carolina Supreme Court focusing on the Governor’s veto power. This particular case established that the Governor may only veto those parts of legislation labeled by the legislature as items or sections and may return vetoes with multiple items or sub-items included within a single objection in appropriation bills. Full Case Materials
Whitner v. State, 328 S.C. 1, 492 S.E.2d 777 (1997), cert. denied 523 U.S. 1145, 118 S.Ct. 1857, 140 L.Ed.2d 1104 (1998): In this controversial case, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a viable fetus is a "child" within the meaning of the child abuse and endangerment statute, and therefore the mother could be charged under the statute for ingesting crack cocaine during the third trimester of pregnancy, causing the baby to be born with cocaine metabolites in its system. Full Case Materials
American Heart Ass’n v. County of Greenville, 331 S.C. 498, 489 S.E.2d 921 (1997): In a dispute over the will of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, a famous professional baseball player, the Court held the will was public record and subject to retention by the County or State; therefore, Mrs. Jackson could not pass ownership of the will to a charity. Full Case Materials
Silverman v. Campbell, 326 S.C. 208, 486 S.E.2d 1 (1997): In this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court held Article VI, section 2 (“No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution) and Article XVII, section 4 (“No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution) of the South Carolina Constitution violated the First Amendment and the Religious Test of the United States Constitution by barring persons who denied the existence of a “Supreme Being” from holding office. At that time, only two states, North Carolina and South Carolina, required a religious test for public office. Full Case Materials
In the Matter of (Twila) Decker, 322 S.C. 215, 471 S.E.2d 462 (1995): This opinion upheld a finding of contempt against a reporter for The State newspaper who refused to reveal a confidential source who had provided information for an article on a pending murder trial. Full Case Materials
Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 309 S.C. 424, 424 S.E.2d 484 (1992): This opinion and its predecessor, which was reversed by the United States Supreme Court, Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 304 S.C. 376, 404 S.E.2d 895 (1991), reviewed by 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992), address compensation of property owners affected by the Beachfront Management Act.
Full Case Materials US Supreme Court Materials
Ex parte Island Packet, 308 S.C. 198, 417 S.E.2d 575 (1992): This opinion addresses the public’s First Amendment right of access and when denial of access through the closure of court proceedings in a criminal case is appropriate. Full Case Materials
Nelson v. Concrete Supply Co., 303 S.C. 243, 399 S.E.2d 783 (1991): The South Carolina Supreme Court abrogated the doctrine of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence for all causes of action arising on or after July 1, 1991. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, negligence by the plaintiff does not automatically bar recovery by the plaintiff, provided his negligence is not greater than that of the defendant. Full Case Materials
State v. Shaw, 273 S.C. 194, 255 S.E.2d 799 (1979): In this opinion, the South Carolina Supreme Court found the current statutory death penalty procedure constitutional. In 1976, in State v. Rumsey, 267 S.C. 236, 226 S.E.2d 894 (1976), the Court had found the earlier version of the statute, which provided for mandatory imposition of the death penalty upon a finding of murder committed in specified circumstances, was unconstitutional.
State v. Shaw Case Matierals State v. Rumsey Case Materials
Mickle v. Blackmon, 252 S.C. 202, 166 S.E.2d 173 (1969): South Carolina’s leading products liability case, credited with “starting the tort liability revolution.” Full Case Materials
Tyger River Pine Co. v. Maryland Casualty Co., 170 S.C. 286, 170 S.E. 346 (1933): Established the “Tyger River Doctrine” under which an insured can bring a bad faith claim against an insurer for refusal to settle a claim within policy limits. Full Case Materials