University of Denver

New Judgeships Shine Spotlight on South Carolina's Judicial Selection Process

Former Manager, Quality Judges Initiative

When they return in January, South Carolina legislators will elect judges for nine new circuit and family court judgeships, providing critics of this selection process with an opportunity to press their case. Their concerns center on the judicial merit selection commission, a ten-member body appointed by legislative leaders—and including six legislators—that screens and recommends judicial candidates. The commission raised eyebrows recently by nominating three applicants who were rated unqualified by the state bar. A broad-based coalition of fiscal conservative, environmental, and voting rights groups has called for a move to gubernatorial appointment and senate confirmation of judges. South Carolina is one of only two states where the legislature selects judges.