Courts in South Carolina
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The courts in South Carolina include a state court system and two federal courts.
The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state.
The Court of Appeals hears all appeals from the lower courts except for cases regarding the death penalty, public utility rates, significant constitutional issues, public bond issues, election laws and orders limiting investigations by a state grand jury and an order of a family court relating to a minor seeking an abortion. These seven types of cases appeal directly to the Supreme Court.
The circuit courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. They can also hear some appeals from the probate, magistrate's and municipal courts, as well as the administrative law judge division. The circuit courts include the courts of common pleas, which are civil courts, and the courts of general sessions, which are criminal courts. There are 16 judicial circuits in South Carolina, with at least one resident judge per circuit.
The 21 masters-in-equity are appointed by the governor and have the authority of the circuit courts. They do not hold jury trials.
The family courts have jurisdiction over domestic and family matters, such as marriage, divorce, custody and adoption, among others.
These courts are made up of magistrates who are appointed to a certain county. Magistrate courts have jurisdiction over minor criminal and civil trials. These courts also set bail, issue warrants and conduct preliminary hearings.
The municipal courts have the same powers as magistrate courts over criminal trials, but municipal courts have no civil jurisdiction.
The probate court in each county deals with marriage licenses, minor settlements (under $25,000), the estates of the deceased, guardianships and involuntary commitments to mental institutions.
Appeals from these federal courts go to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.