Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Six More Family Court Judges On the Way

Normally, I view additional government spending with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, even as someone who extols the virtues of fiscal restraint, I can absolutely say that we need more judges here in South Carolina.

Finally, the State Legislature has realized that South Carolina needs more judges to help manage the rising caseload here in the Palmetto State. Today, the SC Senate passed a bill approving the creation of six new family court judges and three new circuit court judges; nine in total.

This has been long overdue. South Carolina has the fewest number of judges per population and more than twice the national average of case filings per judge. Each year, Justice Toal tells the legislature these facts in her State of the Judiciary Report.

As a practicing lawyer here in South Carolina, I can tell you that wait times for hearings are longer than they need to be. I do a fair amount of family court work, and I do it throughout the state. Some counties run a tight ship, and others are an absolute nightmare.

In a certain county, in family court, just to get a hearing scheduled, not heard, can take up to six months. That's insane. I know the wheels of justice are slow, but six months to get a hearing scheduled means the wheels of justice have fallen off. If you want to get the dockets moving, you have to have more people available to get the cases disposed of. Alternative dispute resolution (mediation) has taken some pressure off the court, but you cannot force people to agree. Sometimes, especially in family court, you have to have an adjudication.

These new judges need to be assigned to the counties in South Carolina that have seen the population grow the most since the last judges were added. As a conservative, I am normally loathe to grow the size of government, but this is actually a legitimate need. I applaud the move to add new judges. The judiciary we have is comprised of some great people, but they're downing in the current workload.

Now, the next step is to get the South Carolina state courts to go to an e-filing system modeled after the Federal System. Automatic discovery and scheduling orders to push parties along is what keeps the Federal Court system moving. Time to get modern, South Carolina.

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