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South Carolina
Judicial Branch


The following terminology is used throughout these rules:

(a) Admonition: a sanction imposed on a judge by an investigative panel of the Commission or by the Supreme Court. See Rule 7(b)(4) and Rule 19(d). A confidential admonition cannot be imposed by an investigative panel after the filing and service of formal charges. If imposed by the Supreme Court after the disciplinary proceeding has become public under Rule 12(b), the order imposing the admonition shall not be published, but shall be a matter of public record. Only in cases of minor misconduct, when there is little or no injury to the public, the legal system, or the profession, should an admonition be imposed.

(b) Closed, But Not Dismissed: a manner of disposing of a matter where a panel of the Commission makes a finding that the matter should not be dismissed, but it is either impossible or impractical to proceed with the matter because it appears that the judge is deceased, disappeared, incarcerated, physically or mentally incapacitated, or removed from judicial duties, or for other good cause.

(c) Commission: the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

(d) Commission Counsel: the lawyer drafting reports, providing legal advice to the Commis­sion and performing other duties assigned by the Commission. See Rule 6.

(e) Complaint: information in any form from any source received by disciplinary counsel that alleges or from which a reasonable inference can be drawn that a judge committed misconduct or is incapacitated. If there is no written complaint from another person, disciplinary counsel's written statement of the allegations constitutes the complaint.

(f) Conviction: any conviction resulting from a trial or any type of plea, including a plea of nolo contendere or a plea pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970).

(g) Deferred Discipline Agreement: a confidential agreement between the judge and an investigative panel of the Commission for the judge to undergo treatment, participate in education programs or take other corrective action. It is only available as a response to misconduct that is minor and can be addressed through treatment or a rehabilitation program. A deferred discipline agreement can only be entered into prior to the filing and service of formal charges.

(h) Disciplinary Counsel: the lawyer in charge of screening and investigating complaints, prosecuting formal charges and performing other duties assigned by the Supreme Court. See Rule 5.

(i) Formal Charges: the document that charges the judge with specific acts of misconduct or with a specific incapacity.

(j) Hearing Panel: the panel of the Commission that conducts hearings on formal charges. See Rule 4.

(k) Hearing: the public proceeding at which the issues of law and fact raised by the formal charges and answer are tried. See Rule 26.

(l) Incapacity: a mental or physical condition that adversely affects a judge's ability to perform judicial functions. Incapacity is distinguished from a disability that does not adversely affect a judge's performance of judicial functions.

(m) Incapacity Inactive Status: non-disciplinary suspension of a judge from office based on incapacity or because the judge is unable to participate in a disciplinary investigation or assist in the defense of formal proceedings due to a physical or mental condition.

(n) Interim Suspension: temporary suspension from office pending a final determination in any proceeding under these rules. See Rule 17.

(o)  Investigation: an inquiry into allegations of misconduct, including a search for and examination of evidence concerning the allegations. See Rule 19.

(p) Investigative Panel: the panel of the Commission that considers the recommendations of disciplinary counsel with regard to the disposition of cases and acceptance of agreements for resolution of disciplinary matters. The investigative panel also determines whether formal charges will be filed. See Rule 4.

(q) Letter of Caution: a written caution or warning about past or future conduct issued when it is determined that no misconduct has been committed or that only minor misconduct not warranting the imposition of a sanction has been committed. A letter of caution may be issued by disciplinary counsel, an investigative panel or the Supreme Court. The issuance of a letter of caution is not a sanction under these rules and does not constitute a finding of misconduct. The fact that a letter of caution has been issued shall not be considered in a subsequent disciplinary proceeding against the judge unless the caution or warning contained in the letter of caution is relevant to the misconduct alleged in the proceedings.

(r) Judge: anyone, whether or not a lawyer, who is an officer of the unified judicial system, and who is eligible to perform judicial functions, including an officer such as a magistrate, master-in-equity or special referee, is a judge within the meaning of these rules. This term includes a retired judge who has elected to be eligible for appointment under S.C. Code Ann. § 9-8-120. For the limited purpose of disciplinary proceedings under S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-560, this term shall also include judges of the Administrative Law Court. This term does not include arbitrators or mediators.

(s) Misconduct: any conduct by a judge constituting grounds for discipline. See Rule 7(a).

(t) Proceedings: all steps in the discipline and incapacity system set forth in these rules.

(u) Public Members: members of the Commission who have never been a judge or been admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction.

(v) Public Reprimand: a reprimand by the Supreme Court in the form of a written, published decision.

(w) Reasonable Cause: a reasonable ground for belief in the existence of facts warranting the filing of formal charges for discipline or a petition for transfer to incapacity inactive status.

(x) Record: all documents filed in the case beginning with the formal charges. The record includes a transcript of the hearing on the formal charges.

(y) Respondent: a judge or former judge against whom formal charges have been filed.

(z) Screening: examination of a complaint or other information coming to the attention of disciplinary counsel to determine whether the Commission has jurisdiction. See Rule 19(a).

(aa) Serious Crime: any felony; any lesser crime that reflects adversely on the judge's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a judge in other respects; or, any crime a necessary element of which, as determined by the statutory or common law definition of the crime, involves interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, bribery, extortion, misappropriation, theft, willful failure to file income tax returns, or an attempt, conspiracy or solicitation of another to commit a serious crime.

(bb) Supreme Court: the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Last amended by Order dated September 28, 2022.