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How Does the South Carolina Court of Appeals Work?

The South Carolina Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in the State. The court created by Section 14–8–10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated is a part of the unified judicial system. Its primary function is to hear appeals on cases from the lower courts in the State. It reviews cases to correct errors that may have occurred in the lower trial court. The party seeking the appeal is called the petitioner while the other party is called the respondent.

The jurisdiction of the South Carolina Court of Appeals is appellate only, as cases do not originate at this level. The South Carolina Court of Appeals also has jurisdiction to issue writs of supersedeas, grant stays, and bail petitions, just like the Supreme Court does in similar cases.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals hears cases from the Circuit Court and the Family Court. The Court of Appeals, however, does not attend to matters which fall within the seven classes of cases and appeals under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The classes of appeal that fall outside the Court of Appeals jurisdiction are cases involving:

  • A final judgment from the South Carolina Circuit Court, which includes a death sentence
  • A final ruling of the Public Service Commission as regards public utility rates
  • A judgment involving a constitutional challenge to a state law or county or municipal ordinance
  • A final decision of the South Carolina Circuit Court involving public bond indebtedness
  • A final judgment from the South Carolina Circuit Court relating to elections and election procedure;
  • A ruling limiting an investigation by a state grand jury
  • An order of the South Carolina family court relating to an abortion by a minor

The South Carolina Court of Appeals is composed of a Chief Judge and eight associate judges as prescribed by the South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated. These judges are elected by a public vote of the South Carolina State Legislature to staggered terms of six years. Before the election, the South Carolina Judicial Merit Selection Commission must have approved the judicial candidate. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is responsible for the administration of the court.

The Chief Judge assigns the members of the panels and systematically rotates and interchanges the members of the panel according to court rules. Where the Chief Judge is in any panel, he presides. Otherwise, the most senior judge present presides over a panel where the Chief Judge is absent.

The court structure of the South Carolina Court of Appeals is such that the nine judges sit in panels of three, and the action of a panel is taken to be the court’s action. On rare occasions of exceptional importance, the Chief Judge and the eight Associate Judges may sit as one full court of nine judges.

The Court of Appeals, although based in Columbia, has the authority to hear motions and oral arguments in any of the State’s counties. Note, a case at the Court of Appeals may take up to two years before it is completed. To be eligible to serve as a judge in the Court of Appeals, a person must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have lived in South Carolina for at least five years
  • Be a licensed attorney for eight years.
  • Be at least 32 years old but not older than 72 years.

A South Carolina judge may be removed or replaced in any of these three ways:

  • Dismissal, retirement, transfer to inactive status, or removal by the supreme court, on the recommendation of the commission on judicial conduct.
  • Conviction by two-thirds of the senate, after being impeached by a two-thirds vote of the house of representatives.
  • Removal by the governor, after an address by two-thirds of each house of the General Assembly.

The South Carolina Judicial Branch provides the South Carolina Appellate Case Management System, where interested persons may search for Court of Appeals case records. Users may view past and current court events and other basic information relating to any case. The site may also include the documents related to an event in the case. However, case records that are non-public, sealed, or confidential are not accessible on the website.

To search for a South Carolina Court of Appeals case record, select the Court of Appeals as the type of court and then specify the category of the case sought. After this, enter the case title, which may be the first or last name of either party. Optionally, users may filter a search by providing the appellate case number, the date the case was filed, and the type of case to filter the search. Users also have the option of excluding closed cases from the search results.

The search results provide general information on all cases that meet the parameters entered. Click on the highlighted case number of the relevant case for more information on the case. The page provides the following details on the case:

  • The case number
  • The short and long title
  • The group, type, and subtype of the case
  • The date the case was filed
  • The date of the oral argument
  • The names of each party, as well as the names of the parties’ attorneys
  • The case status, whether pending, awaiting transcript, or held in abeyance
  • The lower court or tribunal the case came from
  • The disposition type
  • The date of disposition
  • The remittitur date

To verify information obtained from the site or to obtain Court of Appeals case records not available on the website, contact the Clerk of Court’s office of the South Carolina Court of Appeals. The Clerk’s Office receives phone calls on (803) 734–1890, faxes on (803) 734–1839, and mails sent to:

P. O. Box 11629

Columbia, SC 29211

To make a walk-in request, visit the Court of Appeals Clerk’s Office during business hours from Monday to Friday at:

Calhoun Building

1220 Senate Street

Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Once a case is fully briefed, it is assigned by the Clerk’s Office to a panel of judges for determination. One judge is given the primary responsibility to produce the eventual written decision. The judges may choose to hold an oral argument, but may also conclude that the case does not need oral argument. If the judges decide that the case does not need an oral argument, the case is submitted without oral argument.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals issues a written decision in every appeal. These decisions are commonly referred to as court opinions. The decision must deal with all points raised, except those that the Court of Appeals determines are without merit. In most cases, the Court of Appeal’s decision is issued within 45 days of hearing or submission. However, the law imposes no specific deadline on the Court of Appeals for the issuance of its opinions.

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