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McMaster: South Carolina must have judicial reform

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(The Center Square) — A legislative conference committee will soon hash out differences in a measure to reform South Carolina’s Judicial Merit Selection Commission.

Last week, the South Carolina House passed S. 1046, a bill reforming the JMSC, following the state Senate’s passage.

The push for reform stems from the Ad Hoc Committee to Examine the Judicial Selection and Retention Process House Speaker Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, convened. Proponents say the measure increases transparency and accountability and gives elected officials a greater say in selecting judges.

“We must have judicial reform; we must have a system of electing our judges that the people have confidence in,” Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said during a Monday media briefing. “If the people don’t have confidence in our courts, then we’ve got many problems.”

The governor sounded optimistic lawmakers would be successful, adding, “I believe that we will have a good result.” The governor indicated he would likely sign the bill should lawmakers send it to his desk but gave a caveat, saying, “it’ll depend on the details.”

Last week, a Palmetto Promise Institute policy analyst told The Center Square the versions that both the state House and the state Senate passed include “much-needed reforms,” such as mandatory live streaming of JMSC meetings, boosting the cap on judicial candidates the JMSC advances and adding executive appointments to the commission.

The House and the Senate appointed three members each to the conference committee. State lawmakers will return next month, the governor said.

“Judicial reform is headed to conference committee. Our judicial selection process desperately needs reform, and we’re almost there,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement. “This bill is not perfect, but it is progress. I hope the conference committee members agree and get it to the Governor’s desk soon.”