South Carolina Judicial System and Court System: How Does it Work?
The Judiciary in South Carolina follows a hierarchical structure, much like the Judiciary in other states. The two courts at the top of the hierarchy are appellate courts. What this means is that these courts exclusively administer cases that have been appealed to them from lower courts barring certain exclusive jurisdictions. The two highest courts operating within the South Carolina Judiciary are South Carolina Supreme Court and the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
What is the structure of the judicial system in South Carolina?
Article V of South Carolina's Constitution makes provisions for the administration of a uniform code of justice encompassing the whole State. The two primary kinds of courts in South Carolina are Appellate Courts, such as the top two in the hierarchy, and Trial Courts, which mostly hear cases within their jurisdiction. The Appellate Courts are different from Trial Courts in those cases brought before them are not re-tried, and the facts are not revisited. Instead, they go through the case as has been tried previously by a lower court and determine whether the law was upheld in the previous ruling.South Carolina Supreme Court: The court at the top of the State’s hierarchy, the Supreme Court is also the highest court of appeals within the State. Also known as the court of last resort, the Supreme Court consists of one Chief Justice along with four Associate Judges. The Judges serving in the Supreme Court are selected by the State's Legislature to serve for ten years. The Supreme Court has both appellate as well as original jurisdiction over certain kinds of cases.
South Carolina Court of Appeals: The second highest court within the hierarchy of the state’s Judiciary, the Court of Appeals is, as its name suggests, a court with appellate jurisdiction over the lower courts. Other than those cases where the Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction, all other appeals from the lower courts can appear before the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals comprises of one Chief Judge along with eight Associate Judges. They come into office after being elected by the state’s Legislature for a term of six years. The judges hear the cases either as a panel of three or as a whole body. Motions or arguments can be understood within any county of the state.
The cases where the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals include those where a verdict of a death penalty was given, matters involving utility rates within the state and cases involving elections. Public Bonding Indebtedness also falls within their appellate jurisdiction. Orders about the Grand Jury of the State or matters relating to abortion and minors are even heard exclusively by this court. The Supreme Court's original jurisdiction extends to issuing writs, taking responsibility of the admissions process into the state's bar and sees disciplinary cases as well.
South Carolina Circuit Courts: The highest in the hierarchy among the Trial Courts, the Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases. They can also act as an appellate court where probate court magistrate’s court, the municipal court or division of administrative judge law is concerned. These are all trial courts within the state’s judicial structure. There are a total of sixteen Circuit Courts in South Carolina which include the civil courts, known as the court of common pleas and the criminal courts, which are also called courts of general sessions.
Various other trial courts are operating within the South Carolina Judicial hierarchy that provides limited jurisdiction. The Family Courts for example, only hear cases relating to domestic issues, especially those involving children. In addition to this, South Carolina also appoints twenty-one Masters-in-Equity. Appointed by the Governor of the State, these masters have power similar to the state's Circuit Courts.