Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Stop the Insanity!

As we begin the process of voting for the next Supreme Court Justice in South Carolina, it pains me to have to make clear how broken this system is in our state.

As Republican legislators, we were elected by our folks back home. The people who sent us here made it very clear that they wanted the old system of wheeling and dealing to change. I campaigned on one very important promise: that I would vote to send qualified conservative judges to sit on the bench in this State. I know many of our colleagues in the Republican Party made the same campaign promises as well.

Today, we are watching what’s wrong with South Carolina’s system of electing judges unfold before our eyes. The SC Republican Party principles clearly state, “the existing system of electing judges in our state is flawed because it lacks public accountability and allows personal and political favoritism to overshadow merit and competence.” I know that there are many Democrats who also share this concern, as it is a concern that transcends party.

I am joined by colleagues today who want to make it clear that we will NOT be party to business as usual at the State House.

Today three candidates have passed through the screening committee process. Two of the candidates by any measure are qualified to serve on the South Carolina Supreme Court. The third, however, is clearly the beneficiary of the very problem I described above. We need accountability in this process and I think a quick glance at the records will describe clearly who is qualified and who is not.

The South Carolina Bar Association’s evaluation of judges makes clear that Judge Beatty is the least qualified judge on two very serious measures. The Bar's evaluation on two critical considerations include:

  • Fair and Effective Settlement Scores – High score, Judge Williams (83%); Low Score, Judge Beatty (35%)

  • Not Influenced by Identity of Lawyers – High score, Judge Williams (80%); Low Score, Judge Beatty (38%)
It is clear that the Bar has concerns about Judge Beatty’s legal ability and we should not brush that under the rug. In a quick glance at the record of the other candidates it is clear that Judge Bruce Williams has the respect and admiration of the legal community and would be the most qualified of the candidates. (Now, granted, I believe that we need to correct the screening process and allow more judges to be screened out, but that is another issue.)

I want to make it clear that I join my colleagues who argue that we need more African-American representation on the court. We need capable and qualified judges like Judge Reggie Lloyd, Judge Mathew Perry and Judge Ernest Finney. It is clear from the Bars own assessment that Judge Beatty does not meet this test.

I urge my colleagues to STOP the wheeling and dealing and keep their eyes on what matters most…ability. We will likely be selecting the next Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court this month. The gravity of this vote cannot be overstated – we need the most capable and qualified justice to fill that role. Our folks back home expect that of us as their elected representatives – anything less than the best is just an unacceptable continuation of what’s wrong with our system.