South Carolina Supreme Court

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South Carolina Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Location:   Columbia, South Carolina
Chief:  $148,000
Associates:  $131,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Legislative election of judges
Term:   10 years
Active justices

Jean Hoefer Toal  •  Costa Pleicones  •  Donald Beatty  •  John Kittredge  •  Kaye Hearn  •  

Seal of South Carolina.png

The South Carolina Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state of South Carolina. It is composed of a chief justice and four associate justices. Judges are selected by the legislature of South Carolina to serve terms of ten years. There is no prohibition against justices serving multiple terms on the court.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
Chief justice Jean Hoefer Toal1988-2015
Justice Costa Pleicones2000-2016
Justice Donald Beatty2003-2017
Justice John Kittredge2003 - present
Justice Kaye Hearn1995 - present

Chief justice

Jean Hoefer Toal currently serves as chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Toal was re-elected in 2004 for a 10-year term. Judge Hoefer Toal is a Democrat.


The court has original and appellate jurisdiction. It has exclusive appellate jurisdiction for all state cases regarding the death penalty, state utility rates, judgments involving public bonded indebtedness and elections, and orders limiting state grand juries and relating to abortions by minors. Original jurisdiction pertains to the issuance writs including mandamus, certiorari, and extraordinary bills. Additionally, the court has the responsibility of overseeing the admission of individuals to practice law in the state. It also supervises the discipline of attorneys and suspension of those no longer able to practice due to mental or physical condition.[1]

Judicial selection

The South Carolina Supreme Court has five justices: one chief justice and four associate justices. Justices are elected to 10-year terms. South Carolina and Virginia are the only states where lawmakers alone select judges.


According to Section 2-19-35(A) of the South Carolina Constitution, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission considers "constitutional qualifications, ethical fitness, professional and academic ability, character, reputation, physical health, mental stability, experience, and judicial temperament" when determining candidates to the Supreme Court of the state.[2]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of South Carolina was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, South Carolina received a score of 0.47. Based on the justices selected, South Carolina was the 9th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]

Removal of justices

Notable decisions


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. South Carolina earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[4]

History of the court

South Carolina Supreme Court building in Columbia

The supreme court is based in Columbia, South Carolina. Up until 1971, the court was based in the State House, but in that year, the court moved to the old Columbia Post Office. The building was renovated in 1991.[5]

Notable firsts

See also

External links