The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Lawyer-Legislator Protection During Public Hearings and Committee Meetings on Redistricting and the American Rescue Plan Act
By Administrative Order dated May 19, 2017, lawyers who are members of the General Assembly are granted absolute protection from being called to a deposition, trial, or hearing in any court of this State or any administrative tribunal of this State from the first Tuesday in January until July 31, as well as during any special or called session after the regular session ends. This Administrative Order also indicates its provisions will be monitored for compliance and any necessary adjustment.
Currently, members of the General Assembly are holding statewide public hearings and committee meetings related to the adoption of redistricting plans or maps to redraw South Carolina congressional and state districts. Members are also spending a significant amount of time preparing for and travelling to these hearings and meetings. Pursuant to article III, section 3 of the South Carolina Constitution, this process occurs once every ten years following the United States Census, and this process is fundamental to ensure that districts are properly drawn and representative of the electorate. Unfortunately, this process has been complicated because of delays in the release of relevant Census data.
Members of the General Assembly are also currently holding public committee meetings on the American Rescue Plan Act. These hearings will determine how to distribute federal funds to assist South Carolina in recovering from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19.
Since these public hearings and meetings do not constitute sessions or specials sessions, lawyer-legislators are not explicitly protected from being called to attend proceedings under the dated May 19, 2017, Administrative Order. However, I find the unique circumstances involved in these critical hearings and meetings require a temporary adjustment of the May 19, 2017 Administrative Order to ensure that participating lawyer-legislators are able to prepare for, attend, and provide their full attention to these important hearings and meetings.Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that lawyers who are members of the General Assembly and are participating in these hearings and meetings are granted absolute protection from being called to a deposition, trial, or hearing in any court of this State or any administrative tribunal of this State until the process is completed or until this order is amended or rescinded. Consistent with this Administrative Order, hearings, trials, or depositions may be scheduled during this time period if the lawyer-legislator consents to the hearing, deposition, or trial being set and is given proper notice. A decision to waive protection to appear at a particular hearing shall not be interpreted as a general waiver of the absolute protection.
s/Donald W. Beatty
Donald W. Beatty
Chief Justice of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
August 4, 2021