S.C. chief justice slams Statehouse for underfunding the judiciary

South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Costa M. Pleicones

S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Costa Pleicones let out his frustration in an email where he chided the poor treatment of the state’s judicial branch at the hands of Statehouse budget writers.

In a note to lawyer-legislators and those preparing to take office, Pleicones blasted what he called the General Assembly’s “dismissive treatment” of the court system from the Legislature’s budget committees.

“Let me be clear that I am not referring to the failure of the legislature to approve a significant pay increase for the judiciary,” his said. “The overarching problem is the continued underfunding of our operational budget. As a result, our ability to deliver the service rightly expected by our citizens has been imperiled.”

While Pleicones did not address specific dollar amounts in his letter, he said that both the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees took part in “a pre-ordained charade” in low-balling the judiciary’s most recent budget request.

“While we should be able to survive, if barely, for the next fiscal year, I am not optimistic about our prospects going forward should this practice continue,” he added.

Pleicones confirmed to Palmetto Politics the views expressed in the recent email are his but declined further comment.

State Rep. Peter McCoy, one of the lawyer-legislators on Pleicones’ contact list, said the chief justice has a right to be upset. As McCoy recalls it, Pleicones wanted $2 million to help the judicial branch — which includes operations of the Circuit and Family courts — keep up with advancing technology and also their basic operations in a growing state.

“I think it is a legitimate gripe,” said McCoy, R-James Island.

Pleicones, meanwhile, is a short-timer with the court. He will step down at the end of the year when he reaches the state-mandated retirement age of 72. But his email confirmed he wants to stay active afterward as a supporter of the court system.

“I will still be a lawyer dedicated to maintaining the vitality and independence of the most vulnerable branch of government,” he said.

That was the scuttlebutt last week, but Grooms denied the rumor Thursday.

Asked if he was being considered for a new program manager position in the county’s economic development department, Grooms said, “Not that I know of,” and later added, “(as a lawmaker) I basically do it for free.”

Economic Development Director Barry Jurs hoped to soon fill the position, which was budgeted last year but remained empty. But council voted last month to delay the request until Jurs updates the economic development committee on current projects, which he is scheduled to do Monday.

Jurs declined to comment, but when asked by Councilman Caldwell Pinckney at the June 27 finance committee meeting if he’d already hired someone, he replied, “No, sir.”

On Thursday, county spokesman Michael Mule said the hiring process would not start until the position is approved. The salary has not been determined.

Jurs maintains that Berkeley is “the busiest county in South Carolina in terms of economic development.”

In the 18 months since Supervisor Bill Peagler took office, county government has lived by the motto “Berkeley County is open for business,” bringing in more than $1 billion in new industry and 4,145 new jobs.

No, it wasn’t Gov. Nikki Haley who fell from the Donald Trump vice presidential derby last week.

Instead, hope faded of putting a South Carolinian near the top seat of power when South Carolina-born U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, now of Tennessee, dropped from contention.

Corker was born in Orangeburg in 1952 and grew up in Aiken until he was 11. That’s when the family moved to the Volunteer State where his political career would take shape as mayor of Chattanooga, 2001-2005.

A year later, Corker made the jump to the U.S. Senate by defeating Democrat Harold Ford Jr. for the seat left open by the retirement of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Corker, one of several names on the Trump VP consideration list, confirmed his exit from the consideration field Wednesday. He also made a bold prediction: Trump daughter Ivanka Trump would be the perfect ticket pick.

“His best running mate, by the way, would be Ivanka. I know that wouldn’t pass muster, probably. But I don’t know that I’ve met a more composed, brilliant, beautiful-in-every-way person,” Corker told NBC.

Two Republicans are squaring off in the special primary for state House District 100, according to the State Election Commission. Filing closed Tuesday.

Newcomer Robbie Metts of Pinopolis is challenging incumbent Sylleste Davis.

Davis, of Moncks Corner, was the only candidate to file for the unexpired term of former Rep. Eddy Southard, who stepped down in April amid allegations he sexually harassed a female Statehouse page. She has been in office since June 8.

The commission reopened filing for the Nov. 8 election after Southard, the only candidate who had filed to run, withdrew his name last month.

The special primary will be July 19.

No Democrats filed to run.

Compiled by Schuyler Kropf and Brenda Rindge.