Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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In South Carolina, the case revolves around the interpretation of a law concerning the calculation of the one-year maximum Community Supervision Program (CSP) revocation sentence. The key question is whether inmates arrested for alleged CSP violations should receive credit towards their potential CSP revocation sentence for the time they spent in jail awaiting the adjudication of the CSP violation charge. The Petitioner, Stacardo Grissett, violated the terms of his CSP and was denied credit for roughly six months he spent in jail awaiting his CSP revocation hearing. His appeal was dismissed as moot because he had completed his CSP revocation sentence and original sentence by the time it reached the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of South Carolina, however, chose to review the case due to its potential for repetition and the need for clarification. The court ruled that inmates must be given credit for any time served awaiting their CSP revocation hearing towards their CSP revocation sentence. The court's decision hinged on the interpretation of Section 24-21-560(C), which states that an inmate who is incarcerated for a CSP violation is not eligible to earn credits that would reduce the sentence. The court held that time served does not "reduce" a sentence, but only affects the date on which the sentence begins, thereby ruling in favor of the Petitioner. View "State v. Grissett" on Justia Law

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In South Carolina, two hospitals, Walterboro Community Hospital and Trident Medical Center, appealed an Administrative Law Court (ALC) order which approved the certificate of need (CON) for the Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA). MUHA had applied for a CON to construct a new general hospital in Berkeley County to address capacity issues at its existing hospital in Charleston. The appellant hospitals raised four issues against ALC's decision: 1) the ALC's dismissal of certain errors in the review by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), 2) a misinterpretation of the State Health Plan by the ALC, 3) the ALC's approval of MUHA's application conditional on the closure of a freestanding emergency department planned by MUHA, and 4) the appeal bond required by South Carolina law is unconstitutional.The Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed the ALC's decision and held that despite errors in DHEC's review process and decision, the ALC's de novo review rendered these errors harmless. The court also agreed with ALC's interpretation of the State Health Plan and found no issue in the ALC's condition of approval. The court further held that the appeal bond requirement was not unconstitutional, as the appellant hospitals were statutory affected persons and there was a rational basis for different treatment for a party opposing an approved CON and a party appealing the denial of its own CON application. However, the court did instruct that the appeal bond be voided and returned to Trident Medical Center. View "Walterboro Comm Hospital v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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In this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state statute that limits reimbursement of reestablishment expenses in condemnation proceedings to $50,000. The appellant, Applied Building Sciences, Inc., an engineering firm, was forced to move its operations when its leased building was condemned for public use by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Public Railways. The company sought reimbursement for reestablishment expenses exceeding $560,000 but was limited by state statute to $50,000. The company argued that the cap was unconstitutional under the Takings Clauses of the South Carolina and United States Constitutions. The court found that reestablishment expenses are separate from damages awardable as just compensation under both constitutions, thus upholding the constitutionality of the statutory cap. The court affirmed the lower court's granting of summary judgment in favor of the Department of Commerce, Division of Public Railways. View "Applied Building Sciences v. SC Dept of Commerce" on Justia Law

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Daufuskie Island Utility Company (DIUC) again appealed decisions by the Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding DIUC's 2015 application for ratemaking. In the PSC's first two decisions, it granted only part of the 109% rate increase requested by DIUC. DIUC appealed both decisions, and both times, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the PSC for further consideration. On the final remand, the parties entered a settlement agreement allowing DIUC to recover rates equivalent to the 109% rate increase it initially requested in 2015. However, the parties continued to disagree over the propriety of DIUC's additional request to retroactively recover the 109% rate increase from the date of the PSC's first order, rather than from the date of the PSC's acceptance of the settlement agreement. The PSC rejected DIUC's request for the "reparations surcharge," finding it would amount to impermissible retroactive ratemaking. The propriety of the reparations surcharge was the only matter at issue in this appeal. The Supreme Court found the General Assembly did not authorize the PSC to grant utilities relief via a reparations surcharge, and the PSC therefore correctly rejected DIUC's request. The Court found DIUC chose not to avail itself of South Carolina Code section 58-5-240(D)'s statutory remedy prior to this final appeal. Accordingly, the PSC's decision was affirmed and the Court "end[ed] this lengthy ratemaking process." View "Daufuskie v. SC Office of Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Plaintiff John Doe was a convicted sex offender who moved from South Carolina to Georgia in 2015. He filed suit in South Carolina in federal court against the Chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Mark Keel, contending in part that because he no longer resided in South Carolina, SLED should be prohibited from continuing to publish his name and information on the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry. The question certified to the Supreme Court involved whether South Carolina’s Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) permitted the publication of out-of-state offenders on the state’s public sex offender registry. The Supreme Court answered the question in the affirmative. View "John Doe v. Keel" on Justia Law

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Respondent Braden's Folly, LLC owned two small, contiguous, developed coastal properties on the northeast end of Folly Beach, South Carolina. The City of Folly Beach amended an ordinance to require certain contiguous properties under common ownership to be merged into a single, larger property. The ordinance did not impact the existing uses of Braden's Folly's contiguous lots. Nevertheless, Braden's Folly challenged the merger ordinance, claiming it had planned to sell one of the developed properties, and that the merger ordinance interfered with its investment-backed expectation under the test announced in Penn Cent. Transp. Co. v. City of N.Y., 438 U.S. 104, 124 (1978). Folly Beach denied the claim of an unconstitutional regulatory taking. Pursuant to cross-motions for summary judgment, the circuit court agreed with Braden's Folly, finding the merger ordinance effected an as-applied taking of Braden's Folly's beachfront property. Folly Beach appealed the judgment in favor of Braden's Folly. Underlying the South Carolina Supreme Court's application of the Penn Central factors was the "distinct fragility" of Folly Beach's coastline, which was subject to such extreme erosion that the General Assembly exempted Folly Beach from parts of the South Carolina Beachfront Management Act. This exemption gave the city the authority to act in the State's stead in protecting the beach there. One of Braden's Folly's properties was contributing to worsening erosion rates on Folly Beach and, along with similarly situated properties, was threatening the existence of the entire beach in that area of the state. The Court concluded Braden's Folly had not suffered a taking under the Penn Central test. Therefore, the judgment was reversed and the case remanded for entry of judgment in favor of Folly Beach. View "Braden's Folly, LLC v. City of Folly Beach" on Justia Law

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The Town of McBee Municipal Election Commission overturned the results of the town's September 2020 mayoral and town council elections after finding Sydney Baker violated a previous version of section 7-15-330 of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2021)2 by requesting applications to vote by absentee ballot on behalf of other voters. The circuit court found there was no evidence to support the election commission's decision and reversed. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Odom v. McBee Municipal Election Commission" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina workers' compensation commission dismissed an appeal to its appellate panel because the attorney filing the appeal missed a deadline for his brief. The commission refused to reinstate the appeal even after the attorney explained he made an innocent calendaring mistake, and then the commission refused to reconsider its decision. In all three instances, the commission gave no explanation of its decision; it simply issued a form order with blanks checked indicating the commission's action. The South Carolina Supreme Court found that because the commission offered no explanation for its decision, it did not act within its discretion in refusing to reinstate the appeal. "The failure to accurately calendar a filing deadline will not constitute good cause for reinstating an appeal in every instance. We have reviewed the record in this case, however, and we find Proffitt demonstrated good cause." The commission's decision refusing to reinstate the appeal was reversed and the case remanded to the appellate panel for consideration of the appeal on the merits. View "Morris v. BB&T Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 2021, the South Carolina General Assembly passed the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act ("the Act"), which prohibited an abortion after around six weeks gestation. This was before many women—excluding those who were trying to become pregnant and were therefore closely monitoring their menstrual cycles—even know they were pregnant. The Supreme Court held that the decision to terminate a pregnancy rested upon the "utmost personal and private considerations imaginable," and implicates a woman's right to privacy. "While this right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the State's interest in protecting unborn life, this Act, which severely limits—and in many instances completely forecloses—abortion, is an unreasonable restriction upon a woman's right to privacy and is therefore unconstitutional." View "Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, et al. v. South Carolina, et al." on Justia Law

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Books-A-Million was a retail bookstore operating thirteen locations throughout South Carolina. For $25 per year, Books-A-Million customers could become members in the "Millionaire's Club" to receive retail discounts. In 2015, the South Carolina Department of Revenue audited three years of Books-A-Million's financial records and discovered that no sales tax was being charged on Millionaire's Club memberships. The Department thereafter issued a Notice of Proposed Assessment for $242,076.97 in unpaid sales tax. Taxpayer was granted a contested hearing before an ALC, which upheld the assessment because, under South Carolina law, the sales of intangible memberships can be taxable if their value originates from the sale of taxable goods. Taxpayer then appealed to the court of appeals which affirmed. Both courts held that the pertinent language of "value proceeding or accruing" from the definition of "gross proceeds of sales" was inclusive of Taxpayer's Millionaire's Club membership fees because the language included value related to sales, not merely the value of the sales themselves. Taxpayer argued on appeal that its sales of Millionaire's Club memberships were not taxable under South Carolina's sales tax because the language of the statute excluded it. The Department contended that the state tax code contemplated value not just from sales of tangible goods, but from related costs because of the language "proceeding or accruing" as well as the jurisprudence of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department, and affirmed the lower courts' judgments. View "Books-A-Million, Inc., v. South Carolina Department of Revenue" on Justia Law