The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Richland County Mental Health Court
I FIND the Richland County Mental Health Court (MHC) was established on June 26, 2003, by Order of the Chief Justice. The MHC was under the supervision, administration, and judicial oversight of the Richland County Probate Court, specifically the Honorable Amy W. McCulloch, Probate Judge for Richland County and the Honorable Jacqueline D. Belton, Associate Probate Judge for Richland County.
I FURTHER FIND the South Carolina Legislature, recognizing the need for and benefits of a MHC program to divert mentally ill persons from jails, enacted the Mental Health Court Program Act, on June 1, 2015. The Act provides circuit solicitors may establish a MHC program to allow for offenders, who are suffering from a diagnosed or diagnosable mental illness, and/or the co-occurring disorder of substance abuse, to enter the program under a pre-adjudicatory format, post-adjudicatory format, or a combination of those formats, in the discretion of the individual solicitors.
I FURTHER FIND that the Richland County Probate Court and the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office have entered into a Memorandum of Agreement dated May 11, 2021, to transition the supervision and administration of the Richland County Mental Health Court from the Richland County Probate Court to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office to allow for broader diversion of offenders and better outcomes upon successful completion of the program, as the circuit solicitor is given full authority and discretion over qualification for a diversion program administered by a circuit solicitor pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 16-1-130 (B). As such, they have requested that this Order supersede the previous Administrative Orders to allow for the program to continue under the circuit solicitor’s discretion and authority.
Pursuant to Article V, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution and S.C. Code Ann. § 14-31-40 (2017),
IT IS ORDERED that effective on the date of this Order, the Richland County Mental Health Court shall transition from the Richland County Probate Court to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
Proper notice shall be given to victims pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1525. Policy and procedures for referrals, applications, admissions, and outcomes for offenders for the Richland County Mental Health Court are now under the direction and control of the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
IT IS ORDERED that the Honorable Amy W. McCulloch, Probate Judge for Richland County, and the Honorable Jacqueline D. Belton, Associate Probate Judge for Richland County are hereby assigned to preside over the Richland County MHC. Pursuant to this assignment, Judge McCulloch or any other judge appointed pursuant to this Order, or subsequent orders, shall be responsible for coordinating the role of the judiciary with Mental Health Court Coordinator, employed by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and the functions of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Richland County General Sessions Court, Richland County Sheriff’s Office, agencies involved in vocational rehabilitation, municipal police departments in Richland County, private mental health care providers, and any other agencies which provide services to Richland County residents served by the Richland County MHC.
Further, any judge appointed pursuant to this Order, or subsequent Orders, shall be responsible for presiding over the courtroom proceedings involving the MHC, the imposition of sanctions on participants as she/he 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.
IT IS ORDERED that defendants entering MHC from a Municipal or Magistrate Court referral shall enter the program for a period of not less than three (3) months and no longer than twelve (12) months depending on the potential sentence related to the alleged criminal offense the defendant is facing and the discretion of the MHC team. Defendants who enter MHC will do so after pleading guilty to their charges, and the plea will not be entered unless the defendant does not successfully complete the MHC program. Once defendants have successfully completed the program, the referring Court will be notified, and the charges precipitating their entry into said program will be dismissed.
IT IS ORDERED that defendants participating in MHC from the General Sessions Court following a guilty plea shall enter the program for a period of not less than twelve (12) months or in the discretion of the MHC Treatment team and not to exceed the maximum sentence available when the guilty plea has been entered. The guilty plea shall not be entered nor a sentence determined by the General Sessions Court upon entry into MHC program. Following successful completion of the MHC program, the presiding Probate judge shall refer the case back to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for final disposition.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED if the defendant fails to complete or decides to voluntarily withdraw from MHC then their case shall be transferred back to the referring Court for entry of the guilty plea and sentencing.
This Order supersedes the Order of the Chief Justice dated June 26, 2003 and the later Order dated November 21, 2005. 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
June 16, 2021