The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Charleston Housing Court Expansion
In 2019, following a petition from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission, this Court authorized the creation of the Charleston Housing Court Pilot Project. In that Order,1 this Court recognized that "[t]here is significant need to provide access to legal representation to tenants in Charleston County facing eviction" and that "[i]ncreased representation can ensure that [evictions] [are] lawful, defenses are effectively asserted," and that other relief may be secured to help prevent homelessness. The 2019 Order created an eviction docket on specific days in three specific Magistrate Courts in Charleston County. Recognizing the ongoing need and success of the program, this Court subsequently issued an Order2 in December 2021 authorizing expansion of the Charleston Housing Court Pilot Project to all magistrate courts in the Charleston area.
On November 10, 2022, the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission issued a resolution in support of expansion of the Charleston Housing Court program to all jurisdictions in South Carolina.3 In its resolution, the Commission recognized that program partners in Charleston have secured additional funding through Equal Justice Works and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Eviction Protection Grant Program, which will be used to "provide direct representation to clients facing eviction, expand the Housing Court Pilot Project to other counties, and implement a court navigation program." Accordingly, the Commission urged this Court to authorize expansion, highlighting that doing so "will increase access to justice in South Carolina by ensuring that evictions are lawful, defenses are effectively asserted, and court users are connected with financial and other resources to increase housing stability and prevent homelessness."
Following the success of the program in the Charleston area, this order serves to authorize the expansion of the Charleston Housing Court Pilot Project to all counties in South Carolina. A county or individual magistrate court that adopts a program shall provide written notification to the Office of Court Administration that includes the identity of any participating judges and service provider(s) and provide updates when any changes occur. Participants shall be screened for eligibility based on criteria set forth by the magistrate court in coordination with the service provider(s). Further, programs shall track the metrics included in the May 24, 2019 order of this Court creating the Pilot. These metrics will include
a. number of tenants represented and by whom;
b. number of evictions filed;
c. number of hearings requested;
d. number of evictions that were settled or dismissed;
e. number of tenants provided financial support
f. number of evictions averted by mediation, hearing, or financial support; and
g. number of evictions with writs of ejectment issued.
This order is effective immediately and remains in effect unless amended or revoked by subsequent order of the Chief Justice.
s/Donald W. Beatty C. J.
FOR THE COURT
Columbia, South Carolina
January 26, 2023
3 Available at: https://www.scaccesstojustice.org/s/11-10-22-Resolution-Recommending-Expansion-of-Charleston-Housing-Court-Pilot-Project.pdf.