Chief Justice Toal Presents . . .

Recently Chief Justice Toal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina delivered two important speeches; one to the SC Bar at their annual convention at Kiawah, and one to the SC House Ways and Means.

The takeaway? The financial crisis is taking its toll on the efficiency of the courts. While this may seem like a “duh” moment to many and a “d’oh” moment to others, the repercussions to access to justice could be devastating.

Let’s support our courts and keep access to our courts.

-RFW

Rule 608

SC Appellate Court Rules, Rule 608. Appointment of Lawyers for Indigents

January 2009. The South Carolina Bar (SCBar) files a petition with the Supreme Court of South Carolina to modify Rule 608 so that no attorneys would be appointed to serve as lawyers for indigents without full compensation.

February 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina forwards the SCBar’s request to the South Carolina Access to Justice (SCATJ) Commission to study and make recommendations. The SCATJ Commission convenes the Pro Bono Committee to discuss the request.

Spring into Summer 2009. The SCATJ Commission’s Pro Bono Committee and its Rule 608 Work Group meet to study and review the Rule. The Rule 608 Work Group invites interested parties to meet to discuss issues related to Rule 608. The Rule 608 Work Group meets with the SCBar’s Board of Governors, the SCBar’s Rule 608 Task Force, and others.

July 15, 2009. The SCATJ Commission submits its findings and recommendations to the Court.

July 22, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina modifies Rule 608 regarding exemptions.

November 20, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina amends Rule 608 appointments to end the appointment of attorneys as guardians ad litem (GALs) in the Family Court.

December 17, 2009. The Supreme Court of South Carolina amends Rule 608, effective July 1, 2010,  adopting a number of the recommended appointments. The Supreme Court notes that it will continue to analyze and scrutinize appointments to determine whether further changes are necessary. Specifically the Court will continue to gather data regarding the appointments.

Highlights of the Amendments:

  • Modifications to the Regional List from which attorneys may be selected to assist in handling appointments in other counties – 6 Regional Lists (Region 6 split 1/2 year);
  • Reduced number of appointments in an appointment year – from 10 to 7;
  • Increased the pool of eligible attorneys by raising the age exemption to 65 years of age;
  • Technology advances – attorneys may attend certain hearings by telephone or videoconference;
  • Increased reporting requirements to the SC Bar so that the Court may accurately analyze the appointments by county and type of appointment.

And while the Court graciously thanked all who served on the Rule 608 study group, I too would like to thank the Commissioners, the SC Bar, Court Administration, Court IT personnel, and others who spent numerous hours reviewing data and rerunning data for our study. Thank you!

-RFW

For more posts on Rule 608, click here.

Want to Make Friends and Influence People?

If the answer is YES, and

  • you are an attorney licensed to practice in South Carolina for 5+ years, and

  • are in good standing without public reprimand from the Court within the past 10 years, and

  • no suspension or disbarment,

  • then you may want to consider becoming a mentor.

The South Carolina Bar is accepting applications for MENTORS for the Lawyer Mentoring Second Pilot Program.  If you have questions about whether you qualify or the requirements, the SC Bar has put together a comprehensive site that will likely answer all your questions. To view the SC Supreme Court Order approving the Program, click here.

And, you won’t be alone. I’ve already signed up.

-RFW

DID YA KNOW? What your Clerk of Court can and cannot do!

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South Carolina Clerks of Court are often the first stop for someone preparing to go to court. Often a litigant can pick up forms in the Clerk’s office and may even ask directions to the courtroom. And occasionally someone may ask whether or not they should file a lawsuit. Did you know that this question may be considered legal advice? And did you know that by South Carolina law, only attorneys are allowed to give legal advice?

If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone.

That’s why the Clerk of Court workgroup of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission worked with Court Administration to develop a list that explains what clerks can and cannot do. This information was made into a sign and recently the South Carolina Supreme Court approved this signage.

-RFW