South Carolina’s Judicial Salaries Killing State’s Budget, Judges Overpaid & Legislators To Blame

Dion McNeil 2

Until South Carolina does something about attorney/legislators who clearly profit off of the judges they select and give pay hikes to there will be issues with the South Carolina Judiciary and bloated government salaries. If the massive salaries were paid for by the South Carolina General Assembly then the citizens would likely not have an issue with this. However, it is the tax money of the citizens that are lining the pockets of attorney/legislators in a roundabout way. In return, those attorney/legislators have ensured that one of the few occupations that won’t suffer during the current COVID-19 pandemic are the judges in South Carolina. 

It would appear South Carolina has another sickness. That sickness is known as greed. 

Some people were shocked by Charleston’s Post and Courier’s article about South Carolina judicial salaries being so high and causing issues. According to the National Center for State Courts, South Carolina is ranked #1 for the highest lower court (family court, civil court, etc.) judicial salaries in the entire country with an average of $191,349.23 per judge. This may come as a shock because many assume that a small and relatively poor state like South Carolina wouldn’t be paying judges so much money. Judges make a lot of money in this state and especially Family Court Judges. It isn’t just the acting judges. On average, retired South Carolina judges and solicitors can expect to make more than $140,000 annually.

Last year, the South Carolina General Assembly voted to raise the pension payouts for retired judges and solicitors and the pay for acting judges by more than one-third of their normal pay. Right now, that is causing a $100 million dollars in damage to the state’s pension plan.

Read More about 2020 Judicial Salaries by state: Click Here


How Overpaid Are These Judges?

The Daily Counter wasn’t shocked because Nicolas Knight wrote an article months ago about judicial salaries being excessively high. Knight provided a PDF file detailing the 2020-2021 South Carolina budget proposals for salaries. In that file, there were salaries and budgets for areas that needed a lot of explaining. One such budget proposal was the $4.5 million dollar fund for attorney guardian-ad-litems (not the same as lay guardian-ad-litems) when litigants already pay these people so they’re allowed to double-dip from two sources of money.

South Carolina taxpayers will pay a whopping $92,966,403 for 2020-2021. Could you imagine how much good $92,966,403 could do for people who lost their jobs and businesses that are now closed? To understand just how overpaid South Carolina judges are we will use Family Court judges as an example.

Here are some facts to demonstrate just how fantastically overpaid South Carolina Family Court Judges are:

  • South Carolina Family Court Judges will divide $11,214,120 in salaries. That means the average South Carolina Family Court Judge is making a whopping $178,001 per judge.
  • By South Carolina law, a person seeking to become a judge won’t have to meet very many requirements. They only need to be at least a U.S. citizen, 32 years old, a resident of the circuit they’re seeking election and must have been a licensed/practicing attorney for 8 years. Keep in mind that many attorneys have never set foot in a courtroom in 8 years or more. Those people who never went to court are fully qualified to be judges in the state of South Carolina. Here is a copy of the statute: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t63c003.php
  • Although these judges make so much money all other aspects of Family Court in South Carolina including employee salaries and operating costs are woefully underfunded. For example, while S.C. Family Court Judges will make $178,001 in 2020 the rest of the Family Court is expected to divide $15,177,220 to fund the rest of court operations and salaries. Surely, court employees vastly outnumber the judges. While court employees are probably suffering like the rest of America, these judges won’t have to face those financial woes with a low salary.
  • According to the National Center for State Courts, the average S.C. Family Court Judge will make more than in 2020 than a State Supreme Court Justice will in more than 20 other states. That means that an S.C. Family Court Judge will make more than a Michigan Supreme Court Justice who will make $164,610.00 for 2020. This is even though Family Courts, much like other civil courts, are widely considered to be the lowest courts in all of the U.S.

How is any of this possible? How can judges in this state so much money? Right now, the people of South Carolina and the United States are struggling to obtain employment and money. During a time of national distress is this the time to allow these judges to make so much money from the very people who are struggling right now? Is it right or fair?


South Carolina Politicians Designed It This Way

It turns out that South Carolina has attorney/legislators who have designed and/or participate in a way to stack the courts with legislator friendly judges. South Carolina is one of only two states that allow most judges in the state to be elected via a largely partisan legislative vote. The politicians pick the judges and that’s even if those politicians happen to be attorneys who appear before those same judges. Imagine for a moment that you have a situation where a politician votes for you to have a job and you gained the reputation of being either friendly or unfriendly towards that politician. Do you not see a situation where either way that perception swings that it could affect the status of that judge’s job when their judicial candidacy has to be voted on by that jaded or elated politician?

Some judges such as Administrative Law Judge Bill Funderburk are married to legislators such as Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Camden). Pm January 30, 2015, then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley sounded the alarm on allowing a legislator’s spouse to seek a judicial election via Facebook. Essentially, Haley had the same issue that many had in the state about this particular judicial election and S.C. judicial elections in general. Too many legislators have connections to judges and/or have a clear incentive to vote or not vote for a particular judge. Anyone arguing against this would be arguing that if politicians who happen to be attorneys (both professions are known to lie, cheat, and steal) wouldn’t stack things in their favor.

“It is a major conflict of interest when a legislator’s spouse is allowed to run. If Funderburk (husband of Rep. Laurie Funderburk) is elected a judge next week, it will be one more example of cronyism in the Statehouse. Enough of the old guard way of doing things. Contact your legislators and tell them NO this is wrong. We will definitely be showing the votes on this race.” – Nikki Haley

Read More about South Carolina Judicial Elections: Click Here

When The Daily Counter first mentioned these facts some people claimed that we were just starting trouble. Keep in mind that these folks said this before the pandemic. Now that the state is broke and now that businesses and families are suffering perhaps those people might have had a change of heart. In February, this author sat through a South Carolina House Judiciary Committee meeting where judicial salaries were being discussed. At-Large judges or a judge are charged with moving around to different parts of the state to fill judicial vacancies.

The judges wanted more money. Some of the stories and arguments produced by Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) and Rep. John McCravy (R-Greenwood) revolved around judges having to move around and not be with their families on weekends. Keep in mind that these arguments were accepted by most in attendance including Rep. Beth Bernstein (D-Columbia) who is an attorney/legislator. Rep. Bernstein and attorneys like her are voting for pay increases for judges that they appear in front of.

Rep. Bernstein has good reason to vote for a pay increase for judges when her law firm Bernstein & Bernstein made a whopping $275,000 off of worker’s compensation claims in 2016 alone. Why not give a vote to increase pay for judges if you’ll make more than a quarter of a million dollars from one type of case in just one year?

These people were already being paid multitudes more than the average teacher or police officer in South Carolina. Many of the judges, especially the At-Large judges who serve as family court judges, wanted a pay raise because some claimed that they could make more in private practice as a lawyer. Keep in mind that these are the same family court judges who proclaim to care more about children and families than they do about money. If it’s children and families these judges cared about and not money then why not donate part of their salary of more than $170,000 annually to the children and families suffering right now? After all, those judges are getting paid via money provided by those same struggling families and businesses. Judicial pensions in South Carolina are under threat thanks in part to the excessively high judicial salaries.

This is why it is important to resist ridiculous salary hikes whenever those hikes are presented. Citizens should always expect that a national emergency could happen at any time. While the judges of South Carolina and courthouse staff across the state bear some responsibility there is another guilty party that rarely gets mentioned. Judicial salaries are not possible without legislation. There is a strong bond between South Carolina legislators (especially attorney-legislators) and the South Carolina Judiciary. This bond is the reason why salaries can be excessively high and why some South Carolina attorney-legislators have gotten fat off of legal fees, attorney fees, and all sorts of backroom deals and kickbacks.

One such attorney-legislator is South Carolina Senator Luke Rankin (R-Horry). South Carolina is one of only two states where legislators select judges without any input from its citizens. Senator Rankin is an attorney who sits on the South Carolina Judicial Selection Committee that selects judges for the state. This man has made millions in legal fees and judgments in court from the same judges that he selects. It’s safe to say that if Senator Rankin selects a judge he wouldn’t pick a judge that rules against him too often. Therefore, the judges he does select will get kickbacks for giving him favorable judgments that have raked in millions of dollars for him. He then turns around and votes to raise the salaries of those judges to provide positive reinforcement so that South Carolina judges will know to either scratch his back or find a new line of work.

In 2016, Sen. Rankin made $226,000 off of worker’s compensation claims. That’s just one type of claim and those were just legal fees of more than a quarter of a million dollars. If you voted on judges and those judges earned you that kind of money for one type of case in a single year how well scratched would your back feel?

Isn’t it amazing how some people appear to think that politicians (people known to lie, cheat, and steal) wouldn’t stack the courts with judges that favor them if that politician happens to be an attorney? Favorable judgments can earn an attorney more money. Politicians and lawyers are both known to seek money. When the two professions combine that can create an individual who not only seeks money but crafts legislation, fixes courts, indirectly compensate judges for favorable judgments, and punishes judges who refuse to fall in line.

It would be one thing if this were just a claim but below is a picture from Rankin & Rankin’s website. Senator Rankin’s law firm is boasting of a “99% success rate” in court. Here is a screenshot.

Do you think that when it comes to voting for judges that Sen. Rankin would vote for a judge who could ruin that 99% average?

You decide.


Conclusion

Until South Carolina does something about attorney/legislators who profit off of the judges they select and give pay hikes to there will be issues with the South Carolina Judiciary and bloated government salaries. If the massive salaries were paid for by the South Carolina General Assembly then the citizens would likely not have an issue with this. However, it is the tax money of the citizens that are lining the pockets of attorney/legislators in a roundabout way. In return, those attorney/legislators have ensured that one of the few occupations that won’t suffer during the current COVID-19 pandemic are the judges in South Carolina.

It would appear South Carolina has another sickness. That sickness is known as greed.

2 thoughts on “South Carolina’s Judicial Salaries Killing State’s Budget, Judges Overpaid & Legislators To Blame

  1. AND YOU DIDN’T GET TO THE PART WHERE AT A CERTAIN AGE OF RETIREMENT, THAT THE JUDGE CAN GET NEARLY ALL HIS RETIREMENT PENSION AND STILL WORK AS A JUDGE AND GET THAT PAY TOO, INTERESTING HOW THESE ARTICLES ARE NOT FOLLOWED UP ON. IN THIS STATE, I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE BACK SCRATCHING BETWEEN MAINSTREAM MEDIA AND THESE SAME JUDGE/LEGISLATORS, I’M SURE THERE ARE SOME NOTICABLE RAW SPOTS BY NOW. AND WHAT IS RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES, THE JUDICIAL REVIEW OF JUDICIAL COMPLAINTS 3 I KNOW OF THE JUDGES WITHOUT A DOUBT HAS VIOLATED FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAW, TITLE 18 USCA 242 ( NOT TO MENTION IF THIS SAME INFORMATION WERE IN THE HANDS OF A NON-CORRUPT FBI AGENTS THE ASSOCIATED CONSPIRACY STATUTE WOULD BE INVOLVED, 18 USCA 241) TODAY OUR JUDGES, CLERKS, AND DSS “DO” IN FACT HAVE AND HOLD “STAR CHAMBER” PROCEEDINGS, YES THIS STATE HAS WEAPONIZED RULE 65(B) WHERE A HEARING IS HEALD WITH ONE SIDE ONLY, IN IN 7 KNOWN CASES PERJURY USED TO OBTAIN A REMOVAL OF A PARENTS RIGHTS; AND THE CASE AS A MATTER OF LAW, DISMISSES IN 10 DAYS IF THE DUE PROCESS HEARING ISN’T HELD, WELL ITS SYSTEMIC, THEY REFUSE TO DISMISS THAT CASE OR DOCKET ANY HEARING ON THOSE DISPOSITIVE MOTIONS (ONE MOVED TO FED COURT AND THE FED MAGISRTAE MISAPPLIED THE LAW), EVEN WITH A JUDICIAL NOTICE THAT THE EX PARTE HEARING WAS A RESULT OF FRAUD AND PERJURY (SUBORNED PERJURY)… IN THESE CASES JUDGE FROM THE BENCH, GO ALONG CHANGING THAT THE CASE AS REQUEST FOR A TEMPORARY ORDER, EXTENDING THE EX PARTE RULE (WITHOUT CONSENT (AND THE JUDGE REFUSING TO ACCEPT AS DID THE CLERK MOTIONS TO DISMISS, THE TARGET PARENT IS DENIED (8 TIMES) RIGHT TO BE HEARD; SO THAT CASE AS A MATTER OF SOUTH CAROLINA LAW IS AN ACT OF ULTRA VIRES, BUT THEN THE JUDGE, NOT THE PARTY, CONVERTS (AS SYSTEMIC) IT TO A TEMPORARY ORDER, WHICH EXPIRES IN 4 WEEKS; AS OF THE STATE SUPREME COURT ORDER IN 2012… THEN WHEN THAT BECOMES INCONVENIENT, THE COURT AND CLERKS REFUSE TO DOCKET CASES TO THESE DISMISSALS; THEN THERE IS THE SUPREME COURTS 365 DAY RULE, THEY VIOLATE THAT TOO. (IT’S NOT THAT OUR SUPREME COURT HASN’T SHOWN THEY KNOW WHAT’S WRONG AND HAS MADE EFFORTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN (SHOWING THESE JUDGES ARE EARNING THEIR INCREASED SALARIES) THE LOWER COURTS AND DSS HAS WORKED TO IGNORE, IN CONCERT, ALL THESE RULES, KNOWING THAT THE FAMILY COURT LAWYER WILL NOT AID IN USAGE OF ALL THESE PROTECTIONS AFFORDED BY OUR STATE SUPREME COURT. KNOWING THE LAY PERSONS HAS NO IDEA HOW TO INVOKE THESE PROTECTIONS OR EVEN OF THEIR EXISTENCE… THE 365 DAY RULE WAS WEAPONIZED IN A CASE IN BEAUFORT COUNTY WHERE THE PROSE WOMAN LITIGANT FORMALLY EMPLOYED IN A FAMILY LAW FIRM LITIGATED ON HER OWN. HER SON WAS BEING MADE TO STAY OVER THE STEP GRANDFATHERS HOUSE WHO WAS A PEDOPHILE AND THE EXISTING COURT ORDER PROHIBITED THIS, AND THE WOMAN WAS GETTING BAD REPORTS FROM HER CHILD, IN WHICH THEY BEGAN TO USE SUPERVISED VISITATION NOT FOR SAFETY OF THE CHILD, BUT TO SHUT THE CHILD UP (WHICH HAS BECOME COMMON PRACTICE SUPERVISED VISITATION IS PLACED IN COURT ORDERS BY THE DESIRE OF ONE PARTY LAWYER, NEVER HEARD IN COURT, ALLEGING THAT TESTIMONY ISN’T ALLOWED IN FAMILY COURT, ONLY BY AFFIDAVIT “AND” NO EVIDENCE IS IN EXISTENCE FOR A NEED FOR SUPERVISED VISITATION. ADDITIONALLY, IN BEAUFORT COUNTY, WE HAVE HARD PROOF, THAT JUDGES DO HAD SENT ONE SIDE OUT OF THE COURTROOM AND ALLOW THE OTHERSIDE TO STAY IN AND GIVE TESTIMONY, YES, OUR COURTS AND JUDGES HAS SLIPPED THAT FAR AWAY FROM THE CONSTITUTION. THE ONLY TIME FOR THE OPPOSING SIDE TO GIVE TESTIMONY IS , ALLEGEDLY BY A BIAS JUDGE, IS IN FINAL HEARING, FINAL HEARINGS FOR FINAL ORDER, MORE DISINFORMATION TO PARENTS. THIS LEGISLATURE HAS SNEAKED IN RULE 43(K) OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE WHERE WHEN A PARENT WRONGLY ACCUSED IS READY TO PRESENT HIS WIN TO THE COURT, THE OPPOSING SIDE WILL CREATE A CONSENT DECREE OR GLOBAL CONSENT ORDER (MAKING THEM SOUND BRIGHTER THAN THE ACTUALLY ARE) THIS ORDER IS NEVER SHOWN TO OR GETS OPPOSITION TO, BY THE CLIENT.. THIS NEW RULE IS USED TO ALLOW YOUR EXITING BEING FIRED ATTORNEY (TWICE I CAN PROVE) TO ENTER THE ORDER WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT OR WITHOUT POWER OF ATTORNEY, YES, BOTH CASES UNDERMINED THE TWO LITIGANTS CASES FOR YEARS, THEN YOU CAN’T GET ON THE DOCKET TO REMOVE IT, ITS A STANDING JOKE SENDING A CLEAR MESSAGE THAT WHO IS THE TARGETED PARENT ALREADY SLATED TO LOSE A WINNING CASE.

    1. IN THE ABOVE REPLY THE WOMAN REPRESENTING HERSELF PRO SE TO KEEP HER SON FROM THE PEDOPHILE AND AT TRIAL UNDE THE 365 DAYS, READY TO PRESENT HER CASE, THE JUDGE INVOKED THE 365 DAY RULE DISMISSING HER CASE SINCE IT WAS “CLOSE” TO THE 365 DAY RULE, BUT NOT THE CASE WOULD BE OVER IN 3 HOURS, THE COURT ORDER SAID NO CONTACT WITH THE STEP GRANDPARENT AND NO ALLOW WITH THE YOUNG BOY AND THEY WERE FLGRANTLY VIOLATING THAT AND CONTINUED TO DO SO… THEN WHEN TH JUDGE DISMISSED THAT CASE REQUIRED HER TO REFILE AND IT WAS NOT HER THAT DELAYED THE CASE. THIS WAS BY, OF COURSE, JUDGE FUGE, BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN NEVER SEEMS FIT INTO MAY OF HIS CASES. WHO OF RECORD PLACES CHILDREN WITH ABUSERS AND ACTUALLY ALIENATED CHILDREN FROM FIT PARENTS.

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