Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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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

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At issue in this case was a Public Service Commission order setting rates an electric utility had to pay to solar and other qualifying renewable energy producers for electricity the utility will then sell to its customers. The South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the appeal because two of the appellants lacked standing to appeal, and the appeal was moot as to the remaining appellant. View "SC Coastal Conservation League v. Dominion Energy" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended Bradley Sanders' driver's license pursuant to South Carolina's implied consent statute after he refused to take a blood-alcohol test following his arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). The suspension was upheld by the Office of Motor Vehicles and Hearings (OMVH), the Administrative Law Court (ALC), and the court of appeals. Sanders argued on appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court that the decision of the court of appeals should have been reversed due to a lack of substantial evidence in the record to support the suspension. Specifically, Sanders argued the court of appeals erred in: (1) determining there was substantial evidence that a nurse, who was working in the emergency room at the time Sanders was admitted, qualified as licensed medical personnel; and (2) holding the statements used to establish his alleged inability to submit to a breath test were not hearsay. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the suspension. View "Sanders v. So. Carolina Dept. Motor Veh." on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (the Commission) brought this action against respondents Zeyi Chen and Zhirong Yang, alleging they violated the South Carolina Fair Housing Law by discriminating against a prospective tenant. The action was based on a complaint received from Stacy Woods, who reported that she responded to an ad on Craigslist for a rental residence in Mount Pleasant and was told it was not available. Woods maintained she was refused the rental property because she had a four-year-old daughter. The Commission appealed circuit court orders:(1) denying the Commission's motion pursuant to Rule 43(k), SCRCP to enforce the parties' settlement agreement; (2) finding certain information was obtained by the Commission during the conciliation process and was, therefore, subject to orders of protection and inadmissible under S.C. Code Ann. section 31-21-120(A) (2007) of the Fair Housing Law; and (3) ultimately dismissing the Commission's action based on a finding section 31-21-120(A) was unconstitutional and the entire statute was void. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The Court found the requirements of Rule 43(k) clearly were not met, for the reasons found by the circuit court. Consequently, the circuit court's order denying the Commission's motion to compel enforcement of the settlement agreement was affirmed. The Commission contended the circuit court declined to give adequate consideration to comparable federal law to aid its decision and gave no deference to the Commission's interpretation. To this, the Supreme Court agreed and reversed the circuit court as to orders of protection related to conciliation efforts. Further, the Supreme Court concurred with the Commission the circuit court erred in dismissing claims against Respondents pursuant to section 31-21-120(A) as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court held Respondents did not meet their "heavy burden" of proving the statute was unconstitutionally vague. View "So. Car. Human Affairs Commission v. Yang" on Justia Law

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"The right to vote is a cornerstone of our constitutional republic." The voting laws implicated in this case were South Carolina statutes governing absentee voting. Pursuant to subsection 7-15-320(A) of the South Carolina Code (2019), absentee ballots could be used by certain voters who were unable to vote in person because they were absent from their county of residence on election day during the hours the polls are open. Subsection 7-15-320(B) allowed voters to cast absentee ballots when they were not absent from the county, but only if they fit into one of the listed categories of people eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Plaintiffs contended that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, existing South Carolina law permitted all South Carolina registered voters to vote by absentee ballot in the June 9, 2020 primary election and the November 3, 2020 general election. Plaintiffs implicitly contended that if existing law did not permit this, it should. Plaintiffs asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to hear this case in its original jurisdiction. The South Carolina Republican Party was granted permission to intervene, and moved to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the request to hear the case in its original jurisdiction, declined to dismiss on grounds raised by the South Carolina Republican Party, but dismissed on alternate grounds: the case did not present a justiciable controversy. View "Bailey v. SC State Election" on Justia Law