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South Carolina
Judicial Department
South Carolina Bench Book for Summary Court Judges - Civil Section

Introduction to Civil Law

1. Introduction to Civil Law

NOTE: The Municipal Judge Has No Civil Jurisdiction, Therefore, The Following Section (Pages II-1, et. Seq.), Is Inapplicable To Municipal Judges.

The law of civil procedure for magistrates represents an outgrowth of the common law as supplemented today by several sources. One very basic source is Article V, Section 26 of the S.C. Constitution which establishes the system of magistrates courts and generally prescribes its jurisdiction. The U.S. Constitution is, of course, the document which defines the basic concepts and confines within which all our laws develop.

In addition to these basic sources, magistrates should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the South Carolina Rules of Magistrate’s Court, (SCRMC), and with the statutes relating to civil procedure which appear in our Code of Laws. The basic statutory authority for magistrates' civil procedure may be found in Volume 9, Title 22, beginning at S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-10. This, the more specific law applicable to magistrates courts, is supplemented by the general statutes of civil law for the Circuit Courts which are found in Volume 7, Title 15. A word of caution, however, is necessary here as only certain parts of Title 15 are applicable to the magistrates courts. (See § 22-3-110). From time to time, the General Assembly may amend or repeal these laws. Reference should also be made to the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP), which are the rules that govern civil procedure in the Circuit Courts. Rule 81, SCRCP, provides that those rules shall apply insofar as practical in magistrate's court to the extent they are not inconsistent with the specific statutes and rules that govern magistrate's court.

In order to see which parts of Title 15 and/or the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure may be adopted for use by magistrates, and when the situation arises, what procedure magistrates should follow where no procedure is apparent from Title 22 or the Magistrate Court Rules, we depend upon additional sources, such as the case law and the Opinions of the Attorney General. At the end of many of the statutory sections in our Code, one may see a heading titled "Case Notes." This is a listing of the most recent case law relevant to that statute and can often be consulted for further explanation of the statute.

Because our Code of Laws is supplemented over long intervals, recent cases of importance will usually be made available to magistrates by the Office of Court Administration.

In the past, an individual was not allowed to institute a civil action if a criminal action was initiated for Malicious Injury to Animals and Other Personal Property, § 16-11-510, or Malicious Injury to Real Property, §16-11-520, because the civil and criminal remedies merged pursuant to § 15-1-150. With the adoption of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP) and the repeal of § 15-1-150, a person is no longer prevented from pursuing both civil and criminal remedies for injuries to personal or real property.