Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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Greenville County Council implemented what it called a "road maintenance fee" to raise funds for road maintenance and a "telecommunications fee" to upgrade public safety telecommunication services. Plaintiffs, three members of the South Carolina General Assembly, claimed the two charges were taxes and, therefore, violated section 6-1-310 of the South Carolina Code (2004). The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed: the road maintenance and telecommunications taxes were invalid under South Carolina law. View "Burns v. Greenville County Council" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, several Summerville residents and public interest groups (Petitioners) asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to invalidate approval granted by the Town of Summerville Board of Architectural Review (the Board) for construction of a proposed development project (the Project). Petitioners contended the Board violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and various Summerville ordinances. At some point during Petitioners' appeal of the Board's decision, Applegate & Co. (the Developer) decided not to go forward with the Project. Since there remained no actual controversy for the Supreme Court to decide, it vacated the court of appeals' decision and dismissed Petitioners' appeal as moot. View "Croft v. Town of Summerville" on Justia Law

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A Town of Cottageville police officer shot and killed the former town Mayor Bert Reeves. A federal jury awarded Reeves' estate $97,500,000 in damages. The South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund, which insured the town, paid $10,000,000 to settle the federal lawsuit and two other lawsuits. The Settlement Agreement provided for two questions to be submitted to the state courts: (1) whether the amount of indemnity coverage available under the policy was more than $1,000,000; and (2) whether the South Carolina Tort Claims Act applied to a bad faith action against the Fund. The South Carolina Supreme Court answered the first question "yes"; it declined to answer the second. View "Reeves v. South Carolina Municipal Insurance" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case relates to Captain Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Twice before, the Administrative Law Court (ALC), over the objections of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), granted permits for the construction of an extremely large erosion control device in a critical area. Both times, the South Carolina Supreme Court found the ALC erred. In this third appeal, the Coastal Conservation League raised numerous issues with respect to the approval of another “gargantuan structure” designed to combat the erosive forces carving into the sandy river shoreline, especially along its narrowest point called the "neck," in order to allow a developer to construct a road to facilitate development of fifty houses. DHEC, reversing its prior stance, issued four permits to construct the steel wall, which the ALC upheld. The Supreme Court found the ALC erred in three respects: (1) in accepting DHEC's narrow, formulaic interpretation of whether a permit that indisputably impacts a critical area warrants the more stringent review normally accorded to such structures; (2) in relying on the protection of Beachwalker Park to justify the construction of the entire wall; and (3) in determining the public will benefit from the wall based on purely economic reasons. Accordingly, judgment was reversed. View "SC Coastal Conservation League v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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George Glassmeyer sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the South Carolina Lottery Commission for information relating to million-dollar lottery winners. The Lottery Commission claimed the information sought was "personal" and "disclosure . . . would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy." Instead, the Lottery Commission disclosed the hometown and state of each winner, the amount of each prize, the date of each prize, and the game associated with each prize. Glassmeyer responded that the Lottery Commission's disclosure did not satisfy his requests. The Lottery Commission then filed this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the release of lottery winners' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy under subsection 30-4-40(a)(2) and could be withheld. The Lottery Commission also sought injunctive relief preventing Glassmeyer from obtaining the information. The circuit court granted the Lottery Commission's motion and declared the release of the lottery winners' personal identifying information as an unreasonably invasion of personal privacy, and also entered an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking the lottery winners' full names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification. The court of appeals reversed, by the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed: "a proper injunction could restrict Glassmeyer only from seeking this information from the Lottery Commission. The Lottery Commission had no right to request an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking this information from any source, and the circuit court had no authority to prevent Glassmeyer from doing so." View "South Carolina Lottery Commission v. Glassmeyer" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review centered on whether an order of the Administrative Law Court (ALC) that includes a remand to a state agency is a final decision, and thus appealable. Petitioner South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) appealed an adverse ruling rendered by the ALC. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as interlocutory. After review, the Supreme Court determined the ALC's order here was a final decision notwithstanding the remand to the SCDC. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the court of appeals to address the merits of SCDC's appeal. View "Torrence v. SCDOC" on Justia Law

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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued an order suspending Mohsen Baddourah from his position as a member of the Columbia City Council after Baddourah was indicted for second-degree domestic violence. Baddourah initiated this declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that: (1) he was a member of the Legislative Branch and was, therefore, excepted from the Governor's suspension power under the South Carolina Constitution; and (2) second-degree domestic violence was not a crime involving moral turpitude, so it was not an act that was within the scope of the Governor's suspension power. The circuit court dismissed Baddourah's complaint on the ground the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, for failure to state a cause of action. The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded Baddourah's indictment charged a crime involving moral turpitude, and the Governor had the constitutional authority to issue the Executive Order suspending Baddourah from his position as a member of the Columbia City Council. Although Baddourah disputed whether the suspension was warranted, "where the Governor was constitutionally authorized to impose a suspension, the decision whether to do so is a matter committed to the Governor's discretion after considering all of the attendant circumstances." Consequently, the circuit court's order dismissing Baddourah's challenge to the suspension order is affirmed as modified. View "Baddourah v. Baddourah" on Justia Law

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Voters in Calhoun County, South Carolina, approved a referendum in the November 2018 general election imposing a one percent sales and use tax ("a penny tax") to fund a list of fifteen projects. Nearly five months later, Appellants filed suit, contending four of the projects were not authorized pursuant to section S.C. Code Ann. sections 4-10-300 to -390 (2019). The County responded that the statute of limitations had expired, and alternatively, the projects fell within the scope of the Act. The circuit court found the thirty-day limitations period barred the action and did not address the merits. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed, holding the statute of limitations had run. View "South Carolina Public Interest Foundation v. Calhoun County Council" on Justia Law

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The issue presented in this declaratory action before the South Carolina Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction was a challenge to the constitutionality of Governor Henry McMaster's allocation of $32 million in federal emergency education funding for the creation of the Safe Access to Flexible Education ("SAFE") Grants Program. Petitioners contended the program violated South Carolina's constitutional mandate prohibiting public funding of private schools. The Supreme Court held the Governor's decision constituted the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private educational institutions within the meaning of, and prohibited by, Article XI, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution. "Even in the midst of a pandemic, our State Constitution remains a constant, and the current circumstances cannot dictate our decision. Rather, no matter the circumstances, the Court has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution." View "Adams v. McMaster" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from Beaufort County, South Carolina's refusal to issue Grays Hill Baptist Church a construction permit to build a fellowship hall adjacent to its existing sanctuary. The court of appeals reversed the master's order and reinstated the Beaufort County Planning Commission's decision to deny the permit because the Church's 1997 development permit did not include the fellowship hall and had expired. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the the court of appeals and ordered Beaufort County to issue the Church a construction permit for the fellowship hall under its original 1997 development permit. The Court found the Planning Commission erred in finding that the Church's original 1997 development permit did not authorize the development of the fellowship hall because the proposed building was clearly indicated in the permit application and plat. "There is no evidence in the record to support the Commission's finding that the original permit only authorized development of the church and that the certificate of compliance closed out the 1997 development permit. Consequently, the County erred in requiring the Church to request a new development permit." View "Grays Hill Baptist Church v. Beaufort County" on Justia Law