Note: Beginning in June 2012, opinions will be posted as Adobe PDFs. You can download a free copy of Adobe Reader here.
The summary following each opinion is prepared to offer lawyers and the public a general overview of what a particular opinion decides. The summary is not necessarily a full description of the issues discussed in an opinion.
6-5-2012 - Opinions
In its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court issued a declaratory judgment that the Florence County Republican Party improperly construed the relevant statutory provisions to determine certain candidates were exempt from the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. § 8-13-1356(B) (Supp. 2011), as interpreted by the Court in Anderson v. S.C. Election Comm'n, Op. No. 27120 (S.C. Sup. Ct. filed May 2, 2012), which require a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) to be filed at the same time and with the same official that a Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC) is filed. The Court directed the Florence County Republican Party to file with the Court, the Florence County Election Commission, and the South Carolina State Election Commission, by 10:00 a.m. on June 6, 2012, a list of only those non-exempt candidates who simultaneously filed an SEI and an SIC with the party and a sworn statement that all of those candidates were properly certified as defined by the Court in Anderson and in this case. The Court also ordered the Florence County Election Commission, if able, to correct the ballots to remove all improperly certified candidates prior to the party primaries scheduled for June 12, 2012. If this task is not possible, the Court required signs to be prepared and placed in all affected polling places setting forth the names of all improperly certified candidates who appear on the ballots and advising voters that a vote cast for any of the candidates will not be counted. All costs and expenses associated with amendments to the ballots or, if required, preparation and posting of signs were ordered to be borne by the Florence County Republican Party. The Florence County Election Commission was directed not to count any votes cast for an improperly certified candidate. In the event an improperly certified candidate is inadvertently left on the ballot after the required revisions, the political parties were ordered to comply with S.C. Code Ann. § 8-13-1356(E) and not to certify the candidate for the general election.6-6-2012 - Opinions
Upon the State's request for certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in State v. Tapp, 387 S.C. 159, 691 S.E.2d 165 (Ct. App. 2010), this Court reverses the court of appeals and reinstates Respondent's convictions. The court of appeals found that the record was insufficient to determine whether the circuit judge properly considered the reliability of Special Agent Prodan's testimony prior to introducing that testimony to the jury, as required by State v. White, 382 S.C. 265, 676 S.E.2d 684 (2009). While the court of appeals correctly held that White, decided while Respondent's appeal was pending, governs this case, the Court clarifies that White stands for the proposition that the expertise, reliability, and the ability of the testimony to assist the trier of fact are all threshold determinations to be made prior to the admission of expert testimony, and generally, a witness's expert status will be determined prior to determining the reliability of the testimony. The circuit judge erred in failing to consider the reliability of Prodan's testimony prior to admitting it into evidence. However, any error in admitting the testimony was harmless.
The Court affirms in result Petitioner's murder convictions and sentences of life imprisonment.6-13-2012 - Opinions
An insurance company seeks to limit underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) coverage from other vehicles belonging to a mother and her two daughters because the vehicle involved in the accident, which was owned by one of the daughters, did not have UIM coverage. The Supreme Court, C.J. Toal, held that, notwithstanding the portability limitation contained in the insurance contract. South Carolina's well-settled public policy that UIM coverage is personal and portable requires UIM coverage to be provided to the mother and daughter, who did not own the vehicle involved in the accident, while denied to the other daughter, who owned the vehicle involved in the accident but chose not to purchase UIM coverage. The Court found: 1) S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160 (2002), which the insurance company argues permit the portability limitation, did not apply to a non-stacking case like the one before the Court; 2)And even if the section 38-77-160 did apply, at best, the statutory language is ambiguous, and until the legislature clarifies section 38-77-160 to the contrary, the public policy that UIM is "personal and portable" governs the case.
This is an opinion in which the Court publicly reprimands a lawyer.
This is an opinion in which the Court publicly reprimands a lawyer.6-13-2012 - Orders
ORDER - Administrative Suspensions for Failure to Comply with CLE Requirements
The South Carolina Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization has furnished the attached list of lawyers who were administratively suspended from the practice of law on April 1, 2012, under Rule 419(b)(2), SCACR, and remain suspended as of June 1, 2012.6-20-2012 - Opinions
The Court construed the South Carolina Sexually Violent Predator Act, which sets forth a civil commitment process for sexually violent predators, and determined a person is not required to be currently serving a sentence for a sexually violent offense to be subject to the Act's provisions.
On appeal from her conviction for homicide by child abuse, Appellant claims the circuit judge committed reversible error by allowing into evidence (1) a photograph of the child taken while she was alive and well, pursuant to the Court's holding in State v. Langley, 334 S.C. 643, 515 S.E.2d 98 (1999), and Rule 401, SCRE, and (2) two pieces of wood found at the home of the child, pursuant to Rule 403, SCRE. As to the admission of the photograph, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion because the photograph was relevant to substantiate testimony that the child's sickle cell trait was not outwardly apparent. On the other hand, the circuit court abused its discretion in admitting the pieces of wood, as this evidence was more prejudicial than probative; nevertheless, the circuit court's error in admitting the pieces of wood was harmless. Accordingly, the Court affirms Appellant's conviction.
The Court affirms the family court's issuance of a restraining order.6-20-2012 - Orders
ORDER - In the Matter of Howard Hammer, Petitioner.
On November 28, 2011, Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months.ORDER - In the Matter of Jack L. Schoer, Petitioner.
This matter is before the Court on petitioner's Petition for Reinstatement.6-27-2012 - Opinions
This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court definitely suspends a lawyer.
The Court affirms the trial court's dismissal of Appellant's common law causes of action for lack of standing, but reverses and remands the trial court's dismissal of Appellant's FOIA causes of action, finding the legislature has conferred standing on any citizen to bring FOIA claims.6-27-2012 - Orders
ORDER - In the Matter of Kenneth Massey
This is an order reinstating a lawyer to the practice of law.ORDER - In the Matter of Howard Hammer
This is an order placing a lawyer on interim suspension.