CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION FOR
MAGISTRATES AND MUNICIPAL JUDGES
(a) Purpose. Being mindful of the improvements in the administration of justice that have resulted from our mandatory continuing legal education requirements for judges and members of the South Carolina Bar (see Rules 408 and 504, SCACR), this Rule establishes minimum requirements for continuing legal education (CLE) for magistrates and municipal judges and the means by which those requirements shall be enforced. Nothing in this Rule shall be construed as preventing the Supreme Court from requiring mandatory attendance of magistrates and municipal judges at designated continuing legal education courses.
(b) Continuing Legal Education Requirements.
(1) Magistrates. During each reporting year, which begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, all magistrates are required to attend at least eighteen (18) hours of accredited CLE. At least six (6) of the eighteen (18) hours shall be devoted to civil law issues and at least six (6) of the eighteen (18) hours shall be devoted to criminal law issues and at least two (2) of the eighteen (18) hours shall be devoted to ethical issues.
(2) Municipal Judges. During each reporting year, which begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, all municipal judges shall be required to attend at least fourteen (14) hours of accredited continuing legal education pertaining to criminal law issues and practice and procedure in municipal courts, and at least two (2) of the fourteen (14) hours shall be devoted to ethical issues.
(3) Newly Appointed Magistrates and Municipal Judges. For the year in which a magistrate or municipal judge is appointed to office, the required initial training shall satisfy the requirements of this Rule. If a magistrate or municipal judge is appointed in one reporting year and completes the required training at the next scheduled training session, which is in the succeeding reporting year, the requirements of this Rule shall be satisfied for both reporting years.
(4) Substance Abuse/Mental Health Requirement. As part of the general CLE requirement, at least once every two (2) annual reporting years, each magistrate and municipal judge must complete one (1) hour of CLE devoted exclusively to instruction in substance abuse, mental health issues or stress management and the legal profession. Substance abuse/mental health (SA/MH) credit shall be a part of the general CLE requirement and cannot be applied to satisfy the legal ethics requirement. This requirement shall become effective for the 2021-2022 reporting year.1
(5) Carry Forward Credit. A magistrate who completes more than eighteen (18) hours of CLE credit in any reporting year may carry forward to the next reporting year a maximum of twelve (12) hours of excess credit, which may include up to six (6) hours of civil law issues, six (6) hours of criminal law issues, and two (2) hours of ethics credit. A municipal judge who completes more than fourteen (14) hours of CLE credit in any reporting year may carry forward to the next reporting year a maximum of eight (8) hours of excess credit, which may include up to two (2) hours of ethics credit. Credit for online and telephone courses in excess of the maximum eight (8) hours per reporting year cannot be carried forward. Credit for SA/MH courses may not be carried forward from one two-year reporting cycle to the next.
(c) Accreditation of Courses for Magistrates and Municipal Judges. The Board of Magistrate and Municipal Court Certification (Board) or its designee, shall determine whether a course is appropriate for credit pursuant to this Rule and if so, the credit it should be assigned. Course outlines and materials shall be submitted to the Board no later than fifteen (15) days prior to the date the course is scheduled to be held. The Board is authorized to designate certain sponsors as accredited sponsors, who shall not be required to comply with the requirements of this section of this Rule. Accredited sponsor status may be withdrawn by the Board for cause after sixty (60) days notice to the sponsor. CLE courses presented by sponsors that have not been granted accredited sponsor status will be considered for accreditation on an individual basis.
When accrediting a course, the Board shall determine what portion of a course is devoted to civil law, criminal law, SA/MH, or ethics, and designate the course appropriately. When making this designation, if the Board determines that the content of a course is inseparably composed of both civil and criminal elements, the Board shall designate those hours as civil/criminal. Magistrates and municipal judges may utilize such courses to fulfill their civil or criminal requirements, as described in subsections (b)(1) and (b)(2) above.
For the purpose of determining credit to be assigned to a course, an instructional hour means sixty (60) minutes of actual instruction as a teacher or student. Only courses accredited by the Board may be applied to satisfy the CLE requirements established by this Rule. In determining whether a course should be accredited, the Board will be guided by the following standards:
(1) Courses shall have significant intellectual, educational, or practical content, and their primary objective shall be to increase magistrates' and municipal judges' professional competence;
(2) The subject matter shall deal primarily with the legal theory, practice, or ethics of proceedings in magistrate or municipal courts;
(3) Faculty members shall be qualified by practical or academic experience to teach the subject;
(4) High quality written materials shall be distributed to participants;
(5) Traditional CLE courses or activities, such as live presentations and video replays, shall be conducted in a suitable classroom setting conducive to learning;
(6) Ethical and professional considerations pertaining to the subject matter should be included in the course;
(7) Courses should encourage magistrates and municipal judges to develop contacts and resources of information in conjunction with their instructors and fellow magistrates or municipal judges;
(8) Accreditation of Online and Telephone Courses.
(A) Online and telephone courses, including teleseminars, teleconferences, webcasts, webinars, and on-demand courses are acceptable provided:
(i) A faculty member is in attendance or available by telephone or e-mail to comment and answer questions; or
(ii) Other appropriate mechanisms, as determined by the Board, are present to enable the attendee to participate or interact with the presenters and other attendees. Appropriate mechanisms include quizzes or examinations, response tracking, user prompts, and instant messaging.
(B) In addition to meeting the standards of (c)(1) through (7), above, online and telephone courses:
(i) Shall utilize some mechanism to monitor course participation and completion in such a manner that certification of attendance is controlled by the provider. Courses shall not be susceptible to a "fast forward" finish by attendees.
(ii) High quality written materials shall be available to be downloaded or otherwise furnished so that the attendees have the ability to refer to such materials during and subsequent to the presentation.
(iii) Telephone and on-line educational activities must be approved by the Board before the start of the course.
(iv) Telephone courses will be accredited for the actual time spent to a maximum of ninety (90) minutes per activity, and online courses, to include live webcasts, will be accredited for the actual time spent to a maximum of eight (8) hours per activity.
(v) Sponsors shall furnish to the Board password and/or log-in capabilities for accredited courses. Access will allow for review of course mechanisms, such as interactive functionality. Any such activity may be audited by one or more representatives of the Board without charge.
(C) CLE credit earned through online or telephone courses and applied to the annual minimum CLE requirement shall not exceed eight (8) hours of credit per annual reporting year.
The Board shall promptly provide the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization (Commission) with information concerning the courses it accredits pursuant to this Rule. Information provided should include course title and sponsor, date(s) and place(s) the course will be presented, credit assigned to the course, and whether any portion of the course is devoted to civil or criminal issues.
(d) Duties of Sponsors of Accredited Courses.
(1) To assist in verifying course attendance, sponsors of courses accredited by the Board shall keep accurate attendance records and retain those records for a minimum of two (2) years. Within thirty (30) days after a course is completed, sponsors will provide the Commission with a list of attendees, with South Carolina Bar numbers, which indicates the credit each attendee has earned.
(2)The sponsor shall provide attendees with an evaluation form to complete and shall retain this information for a period of two (2) years following the course. The Board shall make available sample evaluation forms for use by the sponsor.
(3) The sponsor shall retain course material for a period of two (2) years following the course.
(4) The sponsor shall not advertise course accreditation until the course is approved by the Board.
(5)The Board has the authority to audit, examine, inspect, and review the operations of sponsors, including instructors, classes, curricula, teaching materials, and facilities, to assure compliance with the applicable South Carolina Appellate Court Rules. Sponsors have the obligation to provide the Board, upon request, with such information and documents concerning their operations.
(6) Failure to comply with sponsor requirements, or other good cause shown, may result in the Board's denial or revocation of a course accreditation, or denial of future accreditation of the sponsor's courses, or any other sanction deemed appropriate by and in the discretion of the Board.
(e) Reports and Fees.
(1) On forms prepared by the Commission and available through its offices (or a reasonable facsimile), each magistrate and municipal judge shall, not later than July 15 of each year, file with the Commission a sworn annual report of compliance for the preceding annual reporting year and pay an annual filing fees as specified by the Commission. Any magistrate or municipal judge submitting a report of compliance after July 15 shall pay, in addition to the annual filing fee, a late fee as specified by the Commission.
(2) Magistrates and municipal judges who are members of the South Carolina Bar may establish compliance with the CLE requirements of Rule 408, SCACR, by showing compliance with the continuing legal education and fee requirements of this Rule.
(f) Non-Compliance. If it appears to the Commission that a magistrate or municipal judge has failed to comply with the requirements of this Rule, the Commission shall notify the judge in writing by certified mail, addressed to the judge's last known address. The judge shall then have thirty (30) days after the mailing of the notice to establish compliance with this Rule by filing his or her complete report of compliance and paying the required filing fee. The response may include documents demonstrating that the judge has cured the perceived deficiency. If after receiving the response, the Commission believes the judge has failed to comply with this Rule, the Commission will report the matter to the Supreme Court. Upon finding the judge has failed to comply with this Rule, the Supreme Court may suspend the judge, find the judge in contempt of court, or take any other action it deems appropriate.
(g) Waivers. For good cause shown, the Board or its designee may, in individual cases involving extraordinary hardship or extenuating circumstances, waive or modify the requirements of subparagraphs (b)(1), (b)(2) and (e)(1). The Board shall immediately inform the Commission of any such waiver. When appropriate, and as a condition for any waiver or modification, the Board may proportionally increase CLE requirements for the succeeding annual reporting year.
Last amended by Order dated September 29, 2021.
1 For the 2021-2022 reporting year, magistrates and municipal court judges are required to obtain one hour of CLE devoted exclusively to substance abuse, mental health issues or stress management and the legal profession (SA/MH) every two annual reporting years, rather than every three annual reporting years, as was formerly required. Under the amended rule, magistrates and municipal court judges who satisfied this requirement in the 2020-2021 annual reporting year are required to complete the requirement again no later than the 2022-2023 reporting year. Magistrates and municipal court judges who completed the requirement in either the 2018-2019 or the 2019-2020 reporting year are required to complete the requirement again in the 2021-2022 reporting year.