It’s official – Poster and FAQs online – en español

Good News!  ¡Buenas noticias!

The South Carolina Courts’ Self-Help Page now offers FAQs (General Questions, Circuit Court and Family Court) and an explanation about what court staff can and cannot in Spanish!

And many thanks to student volunteers with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program and the kind folks at HABLA!


Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly Released

Today the Supreme Court of South Carolina released the Report of the Task Force on State Courts and the Elderly.

It is well worth reading, if only to note how South Carolina demographics have changed over the years and to see predictions for our future.

Well done!


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.


October Wrap-Up SC Supreme Court News

October WrapLast month there was a lot of excitement at the South Carolina Supreme Court.

If you have a moment, take a look at these news items. Each offers perspective into the work of the Court and its endeavor to serve access to justice.


Change can appear Radical

At 11:59 p.m. Monday the comment period for the South Carolina SRL Simple Divorce Packet drew to a close.  The final comment slid in right under the deadline – at 11:53 p.m.

From the initial response when the packet was posted, I have to admit I expected a lot more response than the 16 comments from 14 people. The comment period was officially open from April 2, 2009 until June 1, 2009.

Thank you very much to the people who did respond. Most of the comments were insightful and helpful and the Commission will review the information and in some cases, may implement some of the suggested changes.

And thanks to those of you who express doubt about the effectiveness of these documents. You may not believe me, but your comments were and are welcome.

As with most any area within the practice of law, the process of developing these forms (and the others to come) is not an easy task. Law is gray. There are rarely easy answers.

As attorneys we are trained to analyze and guard our clients against pitfalls. Our letters are carefully crafted. Our court documents must provide sufficient information to make our case. Each word holds specific meaning. Each sentence should be clear and concise. There should be no doubt about the repercussions.

So yes, I am glad you expressed concern about people going into court without our protection. In my perfect world, we would have attorneys available for all who enter our hallowed courtrooms.

But in reality, it’s much different.

  • In reality, many people are losing their jobs, their homes, their lives as they know it.
  • In reality, many people are unable to pay a $50 consultation fee, much less the $450 fee that one of you offered.
  • In reality, many people are unable to pay the $150 filing fee for their divorce.
  • In reality, many people have been entering the courtrooms on their own without attorneys, without having attended one of the many legal clinics offered by South Carolina Legal Services or the South Carolina Bar.
  • In reality, forms are already available online – some for free, some for a price.
  • In reality, videos are already available online to teach people how to file on their own.
  • In reality, people have a right to file on their own, with or without attorneys.

With or without attorneys, really? REALLY!

Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789:

And be it further enacted, That in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by assistance of such counsel or attorneys at law as by the rules of the said courts respectively shall be permitted to manage and conduct causes therein. And there shall be appointed in each district a meet person learned in the law to act as attorney for the United States in such district, who shall be sworn or affirmed to the faithful execution of his office, whose duty it shall be to prosecute in such district all delinquents for crimes and offences, cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned, except before the supreme court in the district in which that court shall be holden. And he shall receive as compensation for his services such fees as shall be taxed therefor in the respective courts before which the suits or prosecutions shall be. And there shall also be appointed a meet person, learned in the law, to act as attorney-general for the United States, who shall be sworn or affirmed to a faithful execution of his office; whose duty it shall be to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments, and shall receive such compensation for his services as shall by law be provided. (emphasis added)

The radical move of adding a packet for people to represent themselves in court may not be quite so radical. After all, the concept of appearing pro se or representing oneself is over 200 years old. But it is change. And change is . . . well . . . change, scary, different, not the same, not operating the same as usual.

Thanks again to all who commented. Your input really is of value and very much appreciated.


BREAKING NEWS: SC Supreme Court lifts TRO

BREAKING NEWS: South Carolina’s Temporary Restraining Order has been lifted

Earlier this month I added a post that the South Carolina Supreme Court had issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) suspending foreclosures on government mortgages.

As of earlier today, the Court issued a new Order lifting the TRO.


Congratulations Professor Robert T. Bockman!

Yesterday South Carolina honored Professor Robert T. Bockman with the Order of the Palmetto, one of the two highest civilian honors in the state. South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal presented the prestigious award to Professor Bockman, who had been nominated by his law school students.

Thanks to both The State and The Daily Gamecock for their coverage.


Photos from the SRL film shoot

Last week I noted that we were in the midst of filming some training videos. Below are some photos from the shoot. Stay tuned for more photos . . .









SRL Divorce Packet Approved and ONLINE

EXTRA, EXTRA! Read all about it!

The South Carolina Supreme Court approves Self-Represented Litigant Simple Divorce Packet.

Click here to view the ORDER and here for the forms.

The packets were created by the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission, SC Bar and SC Legal Services; developed with Court Administration and CFS Project; and approved by the Family Court Judges Advisory Committee. 

The packet is also available on the “Self-Help Resources” tab on the SCJD homepage

These forms are FREE and may be downloaded at no cost.


Musings of Justice with a little help from George Washington

Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government,

I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our

Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound

the law, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.

~ George Washington,in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph (1789)

On the first day of March 2009, it seemed only fitting to reach back to our first President, George Washington. When I saw this quote, it reached out to me.

How fitting it is to see that early government was concerned with administration of JUSTICE within the judicial department; and how comforting that the Access to Justice Commission was established by the South Carolina Supreme Court.