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South Carolina Municipal Courts And Judges

     

Legal Authority

SC Code of Laws Title 14 - Courts; Chapter 25 - Municipal Courts

The councils of SC municipalities may, by ordinance, establish a municipal court, which becomes a part of the unified judicial system of SC, for the trial and determination of all cases within its jurisdiction. Included in the ordinance are provisions for the appointment of one or more full time or part time judges.

Those municipalities which establish a municipal court must provide facilities for conducting trials and hearings and shall provide sufficient clerical and nonjudicial support personnel to assist the municipal judge.

Municipalities may prosecute any of its cases in any magistrate court in the county where the municipality is located subject to the approval of the county.

Jurisdiction

The council of each municipality may establish, by ordinance, a municipal court to hear and determine all cases within its jurisdiction. Approximately 200 municipalities in South Carolina have chosen to create Municipal Courts.

Municipal Courts are part of the unified judicial system. It should be noted, however, that a municipality may, upon prior agreement with county governing body, prosecute its cases in Magistrate Court, in lieu of establishing its own Municipal Court. In addition, the council may establish, by ordinance, a Municipal Court, and contract with the county governing authority for the services of a magistrate to serve as its municipal judge. The Chief Justice, pursuant to their powers as administrative head of the unified judicial system, would, in turn, delegate authority to the Chief Summary Court Judge of the county to assign a specific magistrate as municipal judge.

Municipal Courts have jurisdiction over cases arising under ordinances of the municipality, and over all offenses which are subject to a fine not exceeding $500.00 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both, and which occur within the municipality. In addition, Municipal Courts may hear cases transferred from general sessions, the penalty for which does not exceed 1 year imprisonment or a fine of $5,000, or both, upon petition by the solicitor and agreement by the defendant. The powers and duties of a municipal judge are the same as those of a magistrate, with regard to criminal matters; however, Municipal Courts have no civil jurisdiction.

Municipal Court Judge Qualifications

Municipal judges are not required to be a resident of the municipality by which they are employed. A municipality may contract with any other municipality in the county or with the county governing body to employ the municipal judge of the other municipality or a magistrate to preside over its court.

All municipal judges are required to complete a training program or pass certification or recertification examinations, or both, within 1 year of taking office. Members of the South Carolina Bar are exempt from the examination; however, they are required to attend the orientation program. Each municipal judge must pass a recertification examination within 8 years after passing the initial certification examination and at least once every 8 years thereafter.

When there is a municipal judge vacancy, a successor is appointed in the manner of the original appointment for the unexpired term. In the event that a municipal judge is temporarily absent due to sickness or disability, the Municipal Court will be held by a judge of another municipality or by a practicing attorney or some other person who has received training or experience in municipal court procedure. The replacement will be designated by the mayor and will take the prescribed oath of office before entering upon their duties.

Appointing Municipal Court Judges

The term of a municipal judge is set by the council of the municipality. Municipal judges must be appointed for a set term of not less than 2 years but not more than 4 years and until their successor is appointed and qualified. Each judge will take the oath of office prescribed by Article VI, Section 5 of the SC Constitution.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the terms and qualifications of municipal judges:

  • Municipal court judges are required to complete a training program or pass certification or recertification examinations, or both within one year after taking office, pursuant to standards established by the Supreme Court of SC.

  • Municipal judges are required to pass a recertification examination within eight years after passing the initial certification examination and at least once every eight years thereafter.

  • If a municipal judge does not comply with these training or examination requirements, his office is declared vacant on the date the term expires or when he is notified.

  • No municipal judge who is admitted to practice in the courts of SC shall practice law in the municipal court for which she or he is appointed.

  • Unless exempted by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, all municipal judges are required to attend training in criminal law and subject areas related to municipal judges' duties as required by the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Municipal Judges Listed Alphabetically by County