The Supreme Court is the highest court in South Carolina. The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices who are elected to ten year terms by the General Assembly. The terms of the justices are staggered and a justice may be reelected to any number of terms.
Appellate and Original Jurisdiction:
The Supreme Court has both appellate and original jurisdiction. In its appellate capacity, it has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from the circuit court which includes a sentence of death; a circuit court order setting a public utility rate; a judgment involving a constitutional challenge to a state statute or local ordinance; a judgment of the circuit court involving public bonded indebtedness; a judgment of the circuit court pertaining to an election; an order limiting the investigation by a State Grand Jury; and an order of the family court relating to an abortion by a minor, see Rule 203(d)(1), SCACR. Additionally, on its own motion or a motion of a party or the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court may certify an appeal pending before the Court of Appeals for decision by the Supreme Court. In deciding appeals, the Supreme Court considers the transcript of the proceedings before the lower court, other relevant documents and exhibits, briefs filed by the parties and oral arguments. For those appeals which are decided by the Court of Appeals, an aggrieved party may seek a review of the decision of the Court of Appeals by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. If the petition is granted, the Supreme Court may affirm, reverse or modify the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also reviews judgments of the circuit and family court relating to post-conviction relief actions by writ of certiorari. In its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court may allow actions to be commenced in the Supreme Court and may issue mandamus, certiorari and other extraordinary writs. Normally, this only occurs when the case involves significant public interest or other unusual circumstances. Finally, the Supreme Court can agree to answer questions of law certified to it by the highest court of another state or by a federal court.
Rule Making and Administration of the Courts:
The Supreme Court is responsible for promulgating rules governing all the courts of this state. This includes not only rules governing the practice and procedure before these courts, but also rules governing the administration of these courts. Additionally, the Court promulgates rules governing the admission of persons to practice law, and the conduct of lawyers, judges and court personnel. Further, the Chief Justice, as the administrative head of the Judicial Branch, is responsible for administering the courts, setting the terms of court and assigning judges to preside at those terms.
Bar Admissions and Discipline of Lawyers and Judges: The Supreme Court is responsible for admitting persons to practice law in South Carolina. In addition, it is responsible for disciplining lawyers and judges who commit ethical misconduct. Finally, the Court may suspend a lawyer or judge who is incapacitated due to mental or physical condition.