The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: YORK COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH COURT
I FIND the South Carolina legislature, recognizing the need for and benefits of a mental health court program to divert mentally ill persons from jails, enacted the Mental Health Court Program Act on June 1, 2015, which establishes a Mental Health Court Program (hereinafter referred to as MHCP), to be administered by circuit solicitors and provides that the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court shall appoint all MHCP judges operating pursuant to the statute.
I FURTHER FIND that the misdemeanor cases and non-violent felony cases involving qualified mentally ill defendants in York County would benefit from participation in a MHCP before a specially trained judge, without compromising the safety of the public.
I FURTHER FIND that pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 14-31-40, the Solicitor for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit has moved for an order providing the essential administrative framework for the establishment and basic operations of a Mental Health Court and a judge appointed to preside over the court.
NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to Article V, Section 4, S.C. Constitution and S.C. Code Ann. § 14-31-40,
IT IS ORDERED that effective on the date of this Order, a Mental Health Court shall be established within York County in the office of the Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor.
Any York County resident arrested for any charges, except those excluded under the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-130, who is suffering from mental illness may be transferred into the MHCP upon the approval of the Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor. Proper notice shall be given to the victim as required by S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1525. Policy and procedures for referrals, applications and admission to the MHCP shall be developed by the Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office.
IT IS ORDERED that each defendant shall sign a release to apply to the MHCP, which is a voluntary program. The participant's release shall authorize the Solicitor's office, presiding judges for the MHCP, and all members of the MHCP staff access to all necessary information, including, but not limited to, criminal history, mental health history, and other relevant documents.
Upon acceptance into the MHCP, the defendant shall enter a plea of guilty pursuant to the terms negotiated with the Solicitor’s office. Upon acceptance of the plea by the presiding circuit judge of the Court of General Sessions, the defendant shall be sentenced to the agreed upon term of incarceration; provided, however, this sentence shall be suspended upon referral to the MHCP. While in MHCP, the defendant shall be on probation and subject to supervision by the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. The circuit judge shall sua sponte take the sentence under advisement pending a report on the defendant’s participation in the MHCP.
The participant shall be subject to intensive case management, including medical evaluations, medication compliance, psychotherapy, supervised living, substance abuse counseling, and other related social services as determined by the MHCP team.
IT IS ORDERED that the Honorable Carolyn W. Rogers, Judge of Probate for York County, is assigned to preside over court proceedings of the York County MHCP. In her absence, Deputy Probate Judge Meagan Diedolf or the Honorable S. Jackson Kimball, currently the Master-in-Equity for York County, may preside. Pursuant to this assignment, Judge Rogers or any other judge appointed pursuant to this Order shall be responsible for coordinating the role of the judiciary with the functions of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office, York County General Sessions Court, York County Sheriff's Office, agencies involved in parole services and vocational rehabilitation, municipal police departments in York County, private mental health care providers, and any other agencies which provide services to York County residents served by the York County MHCP. Further, Judge Rogers or any other judge appointed pursuant to this Order shall be responsible for presiding over the courtroom proceedings involving the MHCP, the imposition of sanctions on participants as he/she deems appropriate, the modifications of bond orders, the issuance of bench warrants, and the termination from the program for non-compliance with its terms and conditions.
Upon successful completion of the MHCP, the presiding judge shall refer the case back to General Sessions court for resolution. The State shall join the defense in moving to withdraw the plea. The State shall enter a nolle pros on the charge(s), and the case shall remain dismissed for a one-year period during which the defendant shall participate in the aftercare program developed by the MHCP team. Failure to comply with this program may result in restoration of the charges and prosecution. Upon successful completion of the aftercare program, the Solicitor shall institute expungement proceedings for the charge at no cost to the defendant.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that should the defendant fail to comply with the terms of the MHCP and be terminated, the defendant shall be returned to the Court of General Sessions to be sentenced to the negotiated sentence previously agreed upon. The Solicitor may, in his or her discretion, agree to a reduction in the negotiated sentence if he believes it to be in the interests of justice.
This Order takes effect immediately and remains in effect unless amended or rescinded by subsequent order of the Chief Justice.
s/Donald W. Beatty
Donald W. Beatty
Chief Justice of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
May 9, 2018