The Supreme Court of South Carolina
Casey Edwards, Petitioner,
The State of South Carolina, Respondent.
Petitioner asks this Court to issue a declaratory judgment in our original jurisdiction declaring that the Federal Stimulus Act1 allows the General Assembly to request and distribute funds under the Act. In the alternative, petitioner asks this Court to declare that, if the General Assembly constitutionally appropriates the stimulus finds, the Governor and the Executive Branch must perform the actions required to accept the funds. The State of South Carolina has filed a return in which it states it does not object to the petition for original jurisdiction, but that it has concerns regarding petitioner’s standing and the justiciability of the action.
There must be an actual, justiciable controversy for a court to render a declaratory judgment. Orr v. Clyburn, 277 S.C. 536, 290 S.E.2d 804 (1982). A justiciable controversy is a real and substantial controversy which is ripe and appropriate for judicial determination, as distinguished from a contingent, hypothetical or abstract dispute. Id. This Court cannot issue an advisory opinion. Id.
We find this action is not ripe and appropriate for judicial determination unless or until the General Assembly has taken, as it is authorized to do, measures to appropriate the funds at issue. See State ex rel. Condon v. Hodges, 349 S.C. 232, 562 S.E.2d 623 (2002)(the General Assembly has the duty and authority to appropriate money as necessary for the operation of the agencies of government and has the right to specify the conditions under which the appropriated monies shall be spent); Gilstrap v. South Carolina Budget and Control Bd., 310 S.C. 210, 423 S.E.2d 101 (1992) (the appropriation of public funds is a legislative function); Clarke v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth., 177 S.C. 427, 181 S.E. 481 (1935)(the General Assembly has full authority to make appropriations as it deems wise in absence of any specific constitutional prohibition against the appropriation). Until that time, there is no real and substantial controversy, as opposed to a contingent, hypothetical or abstract dispute, upon which this Court can render a declaratory judgment. Accordingly, the petition for original jurisdiction is denied at this time.
s/Jean H. Toal C.J.
s/John H. Waller, Jr. J.
s/Costa M. Pleicones J.
s/Donald W. Beatty J.
s/John W. Kittredge J.
Columbia, South Carolina
April 22, 2009
1 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub.L. 111-5 (Feb. 17, 2009).