The Supreme Court of South Carolina
Re: Civil Motions Pilot Program
Pursuant to the provisions of S.C. Const. Art. V, §4, I find that the expeditious resolution of motions in the Court of Common Pleas would contribute greatly to the timely disposition of pending cases. I also find that due to time and personnel constraints faced by the Judicial Department, administrative action is necessary to ensure that motions are determined as efficiently as possible.
I further find that the Common Pleas Docket Management Task Force has requested that the Supreme Court of South Carolina create a pilot program requiring that parties file and serve supporting authority together with written motions and authorizing the resolution of motions in civil actions without a hearing. Accordingly, a pilot program in the Third and Fifteenth Judicial Circuits is established and the procedures outlined herein are adopted and applicable to all motions filed on or after October 1, 2015.
I further find that, in some circuits, motions have been pending for more than 6 months, and sometimes up to a year. The reason for this delay, in most instances, is that it has become the practice in the civil courts of this State to conduct a hearing before a motion is determined. Limited terms of court are available for disposition of motions and such hearings are often time-consuming, expensive, and unnecessary. This burdens the civil court system and delays justice to litigants.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that all Circuit Court Judges and Masters in Equity in the pilot circuits reduce the number of motions pending on the civil dockets. Within 15 days of the date of this Order, the Clerks of Court in the Third and Fifteenth Judicial circuits shall provide the designated Chief Administrative Judges a list of motions that are currently pending. The list shall contain the title of the motion, the type of case, the date the motion was filed, and the names of the attorneys or self-represented litigants of record. The Chief Administrative Judge and the Judges assigned to the civil terms of court in the pilot circuits shall work with the Clerks of Court to dispose of pending motions and to thereafter resolve newly-filed motions, with memoranda and supporting materials if desired within 90 days of this order, unless the trial court has already scheduled a hearing on the motion. This rule is not intended to delay the disposition of any motions already scheduled for a hearing.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that as jury and nonjury cases settle during any term of court, and during chambers weeks, the Clerks of Court in the Third and Fifteenth Judicial Circuits shall provide judges assigned to the circuit with motions and any accompanying memoranda or other support for resolution without a hearing subject to the provisions of Paragraph 6 above. Special emphasis may be placed on the oldest pending motions, emergency or injunctive motions, or on motions affecting upcoming trials.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all motions filed on or after October 1, 2015, be disposed of within 90 days of the date of filing, absent extraordinary circumstances. The Clerks of Court in the pilot counties shall submit reports to the Supreme Court every three months, beginning three months after the date of this Order. The report shall contain the status of all pending motions, including the number pending, the date filed, and if requested by the Chief Justice or Court Administration, the reason any motion pending over 90 days has not been decided.
This order is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until amended or revoked by subsequent Order of the Chief Justice or the Supreme Court.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Jean H. Toal
Jean H. Toal
Chief Justice of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
September 10, 2015