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More than 1,000 ethics complaints have been lodged against South Carolina judges who handle major cases in the state’s circuit courts.

A judicial disciplinary office created in 1997 is supposed to aggressively monitor misconduct on the bench. But how many of these judges were punished as a result of two decades of stepped-up scrutiny? Zero.

It’s almost impossible to know how seriously allegations are taken by the disciplinary office, the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The little-known agency works in secret, shielding its records even from those who filed complaints. Judges may disclose the information, but few are willing to share. Lawyers withhold grievances out of fear of retaliation from judges before whom they often appear.

That has left the public in the dark on possible judicial misconduct in South Carolina. We want to bring the issues to the light.

The chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court defended the state’s disciplinary process and assured “all legitimate complaints are addressed.” However, a retired circuit judge said he finds it hard to fathom that no state judge has committed an infraction worthy of public punishment in more than 20 years. “That defies the law of probability. You would have to say the system is built to protect judges.”

We are scouring the state to uncover ethical concerns people have raised about judges that were kept under wraps. And we need your help.

If you have filed a complaint about a judge with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, we want to hear from you. If you have an issue with a judge’s behavior or a concern that a judge may be violating ethics laws, we want to hear from you. Please fill out our form below.

Even if you don’t have a complaint or tip, you can help. We need to get this request in front of as many South Carolinians as possible. Please share it far and wide in your communities. It takes a lot of people to fuel investigative journalism.

We know this topic and the following questions can be sensitive, especially for professionals who work with or argue before judges. We won’t voluntarily publish any information you share without your permission.

Estimated time to fill out form: Five to 10 minutes.

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Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556. Follow him on Twitter @glennsmith5.

Joseph Cranney is a reporter based in Columbia, covering state and local government. He previously covered government and sports for newspapers in Florida and Pennsylvania.

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