The Supreme Court of South Carolina
DONALD W. BEATTY
POST OFFICE BOX 3543
Magistrates, Municipal Judges, and Summary Court Staff
||Chief Justice Beatty
March 16, 2020
As the number of coronavirus cases has increased in South Carolina, and a state of emergency has been declared, the South Carolina Judicial Branch continues to consider all aspects of court operations.
As the situation continues to develop, we will provide further information and direction if and when circumstances so warrant. In the meantime, please review the following directives for your courts.
- All jury trials are postponed. Non-jury trials and other hearings may continue to be held, but only attorneys, their clients, and necessary witnesses will be allowed to appear.
- All roll calls and any other large gatherings such as traffic court are cancelled until further notice.
- If you deem it necessary to curtail operations beyond the scope of this memorandum, courthouses should remain available for the following critical functions:
- Acceptance of filings and payments (including bonds)
- Emergency hearings (including, but not limited to: restraining orders, orders of protection, bond revocation/modification, and vacating of bench warrants)
- Transmission of necessary information to SLED and/or NCIC
- Compliance with the Financial Accounting Order
- Any person charged with a non-capital crime shall be ordered released pending trial on his own recognizance without surety, unless an unreasonable danger to the community will result or the accused is an extreme flight risk.
- Bench warrants for failure to appear shall not be issued at this time.
- At a minimum, bond hearings should be held at least once per day.
- The court shall continue to conduct probable cause determinations if a defendant is arrested and incarcerated on a Uniform Traffic Ticket.
- The bond court shall continue to unseal bench warrants, or inform defendants of right to counsel and new court dates, and vacate bench warrants.
- Victim's rights must be upheld. A victim advocate/notifier must be available for bond hearings.
- If a defendant has been in jail as a pre-trial detainee for the maximum possible sentence, the court shall convert the bond to a personal recognizance bond and release the defendant.
- Court dates may be rescheduled as is necessary and prudent.
- To the extent possible and circumstances warrant, hearings that can be held by video may be held remotely. Telephonic hearings may be held remotely as a last resort.
- Counties/municipalities with orders in place whereby the Chief Magistrate may appoint magistrates to serve as municipal judges should do so as necessary if the current municipal judge(s) becomes unable to hold court.
- If a magistrates court temporarily closes, there should be adequate signs posted directing persons to the nearest other magistrates court(s) within the county where filings and payments may be tendered. The court should include this information on its voicemail and website/social media if possible.
- The courts must maintain a 24-hour judge on-call schedule and provide it to jails and law enforcement. Amend the schedule as necessary.
The SCJB's Crisis Management Team will continue to monitor this situation and provide further information as received. We remain committed to the safety of the state court system and to the public. Thank you for your assistance in implementing these measures.