Supreme Court Published Opinions - February 2018
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.
2-7-2018 - Opinions
In this post-conviction relief (PCR) action, the Court holds Petitioner's guilty plea was rendered involuntary and reverses the PCR's court decision as it is controlled by an error of law. The Court finds plea counsel was deficient in advising Petitioner to plead guilty or he could be subject to an increased punishment under an amended statute as counsel failed to recognize that an increased sentence for a previously committed crime is prohibited by the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution. In addition, because Petitioner based his decision to plead guilty on plea counsel's incorrect advice, Petitioner was prejudiced and his guilty plea was rendered involuntary.
The question we address in this appeal is whether section 16-25-90 of the South Carolina Code (2015) violates the equal protection or due process rights of a defendant who commits an offense against his parent, because the definition of "household member" in subsection 16-25-10(3) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2017) does not include parents and children, and thus section 16-25-90 does not provide such a defendant any opportunity for early parole eligibility. We find no violation.
In this post-conviction relief (PCR) case, we agree with the court of appeals' finding that trial counsel was deficient, but disagree that the State presented overwhelming evidence of guilt that precluded a finding of prejudice under the second prong of Strickland v. Washington. We find the evidence was not overwhelming, and reverse the court of appeals' finding that counsel's errors resulted in no prejudice.2-28-2018 - Opinions
The question we address in this appeal is who may bring a civil action on behalf of the estate of a deceased person when the personal representative of the estate is also a potential defendant in the action. The answer is found in section 62-3-614 of our Probate Code, which provides, "A special administrator may be appointed . . . in circumstances where a general personal representative cannot or should not act." After the defendants challenged Fisher's status as the real party in interest, she did not ask for "a reasonable time . . . for ratification . . . or joinder or substitution." In that circumstance, Rule 17(a) provides for dismissal, and the circuit court did not err.
The State appealed the trial court's decision to give a jury charge proposed by Respondent prior to the trial court charging the jury. Because the State's issue was not immediately appealable, we affirm the court of appeals' order of dismissal.
The PCR court granted Collins a new trial on the basis that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a continuance and failing to properly handle an expired plea offer. We reverse.
The Court reverses the court of appeals opinion, State v. Samuel, 414 S.C. 206, 777 S.E.2d 398 (Ct. App. 2015), and remands to the circuit court for a new trial.
The Court reverses the denial of post-conviction relief, finding plea counsel's representation was deficient as a matter of law and that Petitioner met his burden of proving he would not have entered a guilty plea but for counsel's erroneous assurances that Petitioner would not face deportation as a result of pleading guilty.
27770 - Eades v. Palmetto Cardiovascular
The Court reverses the court of appeals decision which found the issue of the sufficiency of the expert affidavit was not preserved for appellate review. On the merits, the Court finds the plaintiffs' expert affidavit to be in compliance with the statutory requirements.
27771 - Donevant v. Town of Surfside Beach
The court of appeals affirmed a jury verdict for Jacklyn Donevant in her wrongful termination action against the Town of Surfside Beach, finding her cause of action fit within the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Donevant v. Town of Surfside Beach, 414 S.C. 396, 778 S.E.2d 320 (Ct. App. 2015). The Town contends the court of appeals' decision "greatly expanded the public policy exception." We find the Town has misinterpreted the court of appeals' opinion. We affirm.
Kenneth Lee Hilton appeals the denial of post-conviction relief (PCR) claiming the PCR court did not obtain a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to counsel before allowing him to represent himself at his PCR trial. We find the PCR court obtained a valid waiver of counsel, and affirm.
27773 - Wells Fargo Bank v. Fallon Properties
We granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision to dismiss Petitioners' notice of appeal as untimely. Although we agree with the Court of Appeals that the email Petitioners received thirty-one days prior to serving their notice of appeal was sufficient to trigger the time for serving a notice of appeal for purposes of Rule 203(b)(1), SCACR, given the novelty of the issue and the inconsistent case law interpreting Rule 203, SCACR, fairness dictates that our ruling on this issue be applied prospectively. Accordingly, we affirm as modified the Court of Appeals' decision and allow the appeal to proceed on its merits below.