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South Carolina
Judicial Department
Supreme Court Published Opinions - June 2021

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.

6-2-2021 - Opinions

28032 - In the Matter of David W. Melnyk

In this attorney discipline matter, the Court issues a public reprimand.

6-3-2021 - Opinions

28012 - Nationwide v. Walls

In this declaratory judgment action, Nationwide relies on flight-from-law enforcement and felony step-down provisions in an automobile liability insurance policy to limit its coverage to the statutory mandatory minimum. Following a bench trial and after issuance of this Court's opinion in Williams v. Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO), 409 S.C. 586, 762 S.E.2d 705 (2014), the circuit court held the step-down provisions were void pursuant to Section 38-77-142(C) of the South Carolina Code (2015). The court of appeals reversed. We now reverse the court of appeals and hold that section 38-77-142(C) renders Nationwide's attempt to limit the contracted-for liability insurance to the mandatory minimum void.

6-9-2021 - Opinions

28033 - Powell v. Keel

This appeal arises from the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Dennis Powell, Jr. ("Respondent") on his claims challenging the internet publication and lifetime duration of his mandated registration as a sex offender under the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry Act ("SORA"), S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-3-400 to -555 (2007 & Supp. 2020). The circuit court held SORA's lifetime registration requirement is punitive under the Eighth Amendment and violates Respondent's rights to due process and equal protection. The court also determined SORA does not permit publication of the State's sex offender registry on the internet. Mark Keel, Chief of the State Law Enforcement Division ("SLED"), and the State of South Carolina (collectively, "Appellants") appeal the circuit court's decision. We hold SORA's lifetime registration requirement is unconstitutional absent any opportunity for judicial review to assess the risk of re-offending. We further hold subsection 23-3-490(E) permits dissemination of the State's sex offender registry information on the internet. Accordingly, we affirm as modified in part and reverse in part.

6-16-2021 - Opinions

28034 - Reeves v. South Carolina Municipal Insurance

A Cottageville police officer shot and killed the former town Mayor. A federal jury awarded $97,500,000 in damages. The South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, which insured the town, paid $10,000,000 to settle the federal lawsuit and two pending lawsuits. The Settlement Agreement provided for two questions to be submitted to the state courts. The first question is whether the amount of indemnity coverage available under the policy is more than $1,000,000. The second question is whether the South Carolina Tort Claims Act applies to a bad faith action against the Fund. We answer the first question "yes"; we decline to answer the second question.

28035 - State v. Owens

Ahshaad Owens shot and killed Jarrod Howard during a drug deal. Owens claimed he shot Howard by accident, but the jury convicted him of murder. Owens claims the trial court erred in charging the jury that unlawful activity on his part could foreclose his accident defense. The court of appeals found no error in the charge, and affirmed. We affirm the court of appeals as modified.

28036 - Croft v. Town of Summerville

In this appeal, several Summerville residents and public interest groups ask the Court to invalidate approval granted by the Town of Summerville Board of Architectural Review for construction of a proposed development project. We dismiss the appeal as moot.

6-18-2021 - Opinions

28037 - In the Matter of David Paul Traywick

In this attorney disciplinary matter, Respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) have entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the Agreement, Respondent admits misconduct, consents to the imposition of any sanction ranging from a confidential admonition to a definite suspension of six months, and agrees to pay the costs incurred by ODC and the Commission on Lawyer Conduct in investigating and prosecuting this matter. We accept the Agreement and suspend Respondent from the practice of law in this state for six months.

6-23-2021 - Opinions

28038 - In the Matter of William Gary White, III

28039 - State v. Makins

Ontario Stefon Patrick Makins was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The court of appeals reversed the conviction, holding a therapist's affirmation she treated the minor victim improperly bolstered the minor's credibility. We reverse the court of appeals and reinstate the conviction, holding the treating therapist's mere affirmation she treated the minor, without more, did not constitute improper bolstering.

6-30-2021 - Opinions

28040 - Mercury Funding, LLC v. Chesney

We accepted this petition in our original jurisdiction to determine whether Act 174 of 2020 violates the constitutional requirement that "Every Act . . . shall relate to but one subject . . . ." S.C. Const. art. III, § 17. We hold Act 174 is unconstitutional.

28041 - Burns v. Greenville County Council

Greenville County Council implemented what it called a "road maintenance fee" to raise funds for road maintenance and a "telecommunications fee" to upgrade public safety telecommunication services. The plaintiffs claim the two charges are taxes and, therefore, violate section 6-1-310 of the South Carolina Code (2004). We agree. We declare the road maintenance and telecommunications taxes are invalid under South Carolina law.