The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Action Plans For Implementation of Recommendations Regarding the
Lawyer and Judicial Discipline Process
At the request of this Court, a Consultation Team sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Professional Discipline conducted an in-depth review of the lawyer and judicial disciplinary systems in South Carolina. In addition to reviewing rules, annual reports and other documentation, this eminently qualified team conducted extensive on-site interviews with personnel within the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; the Office of the Attorney General; members of the Commission on Lawyer Conduct and Commission on Judicial Conduct; respondents and their counsel; complainants; and members of the Legislature. Additionally, they met with the leadership of the South Carolina Bar and with the members of this Court.
In September 2008, the ABA Consultation Team provided separate reports on the lawyer disciplinary system and on the judicial disciplinary system. In response, this Court solicited written comments from the bench, bar and public regarding these reports. The Court received seven responses regarding the lawyer disciplinary report and three responses regarding the judicial disciplinary system.1 Subsequently, this Court referred the matter to the Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession (Commission) for its review and recommendations.
This Court now approves the attached Actions Plans which detail this Court's determinations regarding each of the recommendations made by the ABA Consultation Team. There is a separate document for the Lawyer Discipline Process and the Judicial Discipline Process, and each document has an appendix showing the provision of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR) that will be changed and commentary regarding those rule changes. Additionally, attached to this order are separate orders amending Rules 402, 413 and 502 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules.
The Court is extremely grateful to the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline for its willingness to assist the Court in conducting an independent review of our lawyer and judicial disciplinary systems. The Court wishes to recognize the individual members of the Consultation Team for the highly professional and thoughtful recommendations that they made regarding our lawyer and judicial disciplinary systems. Their efforts have served as a catalyst for continued improvement in our disciplinary systems, and will help insure fairness for both respondents and complainants while increasing public confidence in the disciplinary systems.
This Court also wishes to express its appreciation to the individuals and organizations that submitted written comments. These comments were invaluable as the Commission and this Court considered the ABA reports.
Finally, the Commission has provided an invaluable service to this Court, the bench, bar and public. The Action Plans that this Court has approved are, with the exception of some minor changes, virtually identical to the recommendations made by the Commission. The tireless efforts of the Commission and the special subcommittee that it formed to review the ABA reports are evident from the extremely detailed and thoughtful recommendations made to this Court. They are to be commended for their efforts.
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
October 16, 2009
1 A copy of the reports of the ABA consultation team and the written comments received are available at www.sccourts.org/ABA and www.sccourts.org/whatsnew/displaywhatsnew.cfm?indexID=488.