This is a continuation of Part 1 of S.C. Family Court and Lawyers Retaliate Against Outspoken Journalist. Click Here for Part 1.
Richland County Courthouse Colluding With Blakely Copeland-Cahoon
For several months, Dion has been talking to then-Richland County guardian-ad-litem Nathan Ginter.
Nathan told Dion about South Carolina’s 365-Day Benchmark for dismissing cases. The 2014 S.C. Supreme Court order mandates that if a case has reached the 365-day mark that the case and all cases attached to it that uses the same evidence are to be dismissed. For example, it isn’t legal for a lawyer to continuously file new actions concerning the same people in the same year to try to extend a case. S.C. Supreme Court passed this order to avoid such situations and to reduce S.C. Family Court’s case backlog.
Here is a link to that order: Click Here
Several people, including Nathan, told Dion to be careful because the Richland County Courthouse is known to try to stall people attempting to file a motion to dismiss based on the 365-Day Benchmark.
On January 15, 2020, Dion went to the Richland County Family Courthouse. Based on a recording we’ve received, Dion spoke with Richland County Court Administrator Janet Irvine. The conversation became nasty when Dion kept trying to explain to Irvine that his family court case was originally filed in January 14, 2019, and that he was before her on January 15, 2020 demanding the case be dismissed.
The reason why he wanted the case dismissed was so if Blakely Copeland-Cahoon or Kyana McNeil attempted to accuse him of smoking cannabis he could invoke the Double Jeopardy Clause of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A court may not continuously punish someone or apply any monetary penalties or orders for the same offenses. This means that Kyana and Copeland-Cahoon couldn’t keep accusing Dion of consuming illegal substances over and over again and thus forcing him to pay hundreds of dollars in drug test costs.
Read more about the Double Jeopardy Clause: Click Here
In 2019, the Alabama Court of Appeals ruled that a parent who refuses to take a drug test cannot be considered a drug user. This case was known as D.W. v. Jefferson County Department of Human resources.
This is additionally struck down in a California Court of Appeals case known as Wainwright v. Superior Court.
Here is a quote from the California Court of Appeals:
“We conclude that the Family Code provision, devoid of any substantive or procedural safeguards, does not authorize court-ordered drug testing. We conclude that the general language of section 3011, subdivision (d), empowering family courts to demand independent corroboration before considering allegations of a parent’s drug abuse, does not authorize court-ordered drug testing.”
Janet Irvine appeared to stall Dion. He tried to explain to her that under the 365-Day Benchmark the Richland County Clerk of Court Janette McBride was supposed to submit the case before the Chief Administrative Judge Gwendolyn Jones to be dismissed without prejudice. Dion pleaded his case but says that Irvine refused to look at the benchmark which he printed out and was trying to hand to her for review.
Based on the 365-Day Benchmark, it is the Clerk of Court who is supposed to put the case up for automatic dismissal. Based on the law, Dion should have never had to go down to the Richland County Courthouse to have his case dismissed because, by law, it should have been dismissed without him having to say a thing. There was no final hearing scheduled.
Here is a quote from the 365-Day Benchmark (Be sure to pay attention to the underlined portions as those words will become relevant later on):
IT IS ORDERED that all domestic relations and juvenile cases in the State of South Carolina, with the exception of DSS Abuse and Neglect cases, shall be disposed of within 365 days of their filing. Further, the Family Court Chief Judges for Administrative Purposes (Chief Administrative Judges) shall direct and oversee the monitoring of all cases which are older than 365 days, and for which no final hearing has been requested. Once a case older than 365 days has been scheduled for a final hearing, only the Chief Administrative Judge for the circuit or county may continue it, even if the request for continuance is received by the assigned judge during the week of trial.
The County Clerks of Court shall indicate on all domestic relations and juvenile cases (with the exception of DSS Abuse and Neglect cases) the following notice: “Written requests for a final hearing in this case must be delivered by a party or attorney to the Clerk’s Office within 365 days of this filing date. Failure to comply with this notice shall result in the dismissal of this case by the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes.”
In the event no request for a final hearing is received by the Clerk of Court within the time period prescribed and there is no other order by the Chief Administrative Judge extending the case, the Clerk of Court shall prepare an Order of Dismissal without prejudice and provide the order and file for review by the Chief Administrative Judge. If it is determined that dismissal is appropriate, then the Chief Administrative Judge shall sign the Order of Dismissal. If a case is continued for any reason past 365 days, the Order of Continuance must include a time and date rescheduling the case.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that in the event an action is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to this Administrative Order, any existing orders in the affected case file which were not final will be considered null and void and no longer subject to enforcement by this court (including, but not limited to, the enforcement and collection of child support and/or alimony), with any support arrearages being thereby dismissed.
Janet Irvine told Dion that as the defendant in the case that he couldn’t make a motion to dismiss. Dion attempted to explain to Irvine that he shouldn’t have to file a motion to dismiss because based on the 365-Day Benchmark the Clerk of Court was supposed to present the case to the Chief Administrative Judge for automatic dismissal. No final hearing was scheduled. Nathan Ginter, a guardian-ad-litem, was the one who told Dion that mediation hadn’t even been scheduled from the Frierson-Smith order.
Again, the benchmark states, “In the event no request for a final hearing is received by the Clerk of Court within the time period prescribed and there is no other order by the Chief Administrative Judge extending the case, the Clerk of Court shall prepare an Order of Dismissal without prejudice and provide the order and file for review by the Chief Administrative Judge.”
Why did Dion McNeil ever have to come to the Richland County Courthouse to try to have a case dismissed when by South Carolina law the case should’ve been dismissed automatically?
After the argument with Irvine, Dion left to go visit the S.C. statehouse because he is a journalist who covers local news. He went to the statehouse to cover the Heartbeat Bill Rally. The rally featured protestors who were upset because H3020, a bill referred to as the Heartbeat Bill, was pro-life legislation that was voted down.
While inside the statehouse, Dion discovered a potential reason why Janet Irvine was appearing to stall him when he tried to have the case dismissed. The opposing counsel, Blakely Copeland-Cahoon, was at the statehouse. Remember, she was trying to become an S.C. judge. Dion took a picture of Copeland-Cahoon being present at the statehouse on a Wednesday. This was before the global pandemic and usually lawyer offices aren’t closed on Wednesdays.
Here is a picture of Copeland-Cahoon (in the salmon-colored dress) at the S.C. statehouse on January 15, 2020:
What do you think the real reason why Janet Irvine appeared to stall Dion McNeil from filing a motion to dismiss? Why didn’t Irvine refuse to listen to the fact that South Carolina law called for the case to be automatically dismissed? What do the facts and evidence point you towards? It just so happens that Irvine is wrong and didn’t know the law at all? And this slip of the mind when it comes to South Carolina law just so happens to occur on a day where the opposing counsel in Dion’s case couldn’t be present to file a final hearing to prevent the case from being dismissed.
In part 3, Dion manages to get some answers from the Richland County Clerk of Court Jeannette McBride and Court Administrator Janet Irvine about why it appears he was being stalled and S.C. law wasn’t being followed. The Richland County Clerk of Court set up a meeting with Dion. That’s when things get really interesting.