Charleston County Sch. Dist. v. Harrell, No. 27011.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJustice HEARN.
Decision Date25 July 2011
PartiesCHARLESTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant,v.Robert W. HARRELL, in his official capacity as Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives, Ken Ard in his official capacity as President of the S.C. Senate, Nikki R. Haley in her official capacity as Governor of the State of South Carolina, and the State of South Carolina, Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 27011.

393 S.C. 552
713 S.E.2d 604
270 Ed.
Law Rep. 357

CHARLESTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant,
v.
Robert W. HARRELL, in his official capacity as Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives, Ken Ard in his official capacity as President of the S.C. Senate, Nikki R. Haley in her official capacity as Governor of the State of South Carolina, and the State of South Carolina, Respondents.

No. 27011.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Jan. 18, 2011.Decided July 25, 2011.


[713 S.E.2d 606]

Armand Derfner and D. Peters Wilborn, Jr., of Derfner, Altman & Wilborn, both of Charleston, for Appellant.Attorney General Alan Wilson, Assistant Deputy Attorney General J. Emory Smith, Jr., of Office of the Attorney General; Bradley S. Wright, Charles F. Reid, Michael R. Hitchcock, and Kenneth M. Moffitt, all of Columbia, for Respondents.Justice HEARN.

[393 S.C. 555] Charleston County School District (School District) appeals from the circuit court's order granting a Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, motion to dismiss its complaint alleging the unconstitutionality of Act. No. 189 of 2005 (Act 189), as well as its decision to dismiss the Governor as a party to this action.1 Although we affirm the circuit court's dismissal of the Governor, we find School District's complaint sufficiently states a cause of action that Act 189 is unconstitutional. We therefore affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

South Carolina adopted a charter school law in 1996, called the South Carolina Charter Schools Act (Charter Schools Act). The General Assembly amended the Charter Schools Act once in 2002 and again in 2006. In the Charter Schools Act, the General Assembly provided rules governing all aspects of the organization, approval, and operation of charter schools in South Carolina, as well as the obligations of each sponsoring school district.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed Act 189, which provided, in part, as follows:

Section 5A. (A) The Charleston County School District may not deny a charter school, charter school teacher, or charter school student anything that is otherwise available to a public school, public school teacher, or public school student including, but not limited to, the provisions in subsection (B).

(B)(1) The local school district of a charter school in Charleston County may not charge rent to a charter school that was covered from an existing public school.2

[393 S.C. 556] By its terms, Act 189 only applied to charter schools in Charleston County, but it did not purport to amend the Charter Schools Act.

School District filed a complaint against Speaker of the House Robert Harrell, President of the Senate Andre Bauer, Governor Mark Sanford, and the State of South Carolina (collectively, Respondents), seeking a declaratory judgment that Act 189 was unconstitutional.3 The complaint alleged that Act 189 was special legislation in violation of Article III, § 34 and Article XIII, § 7 of the South Carolina Constitution because the subject of charter schools was already comprehensively addressed by the Charter Schools

[713 S.E.2d 607]

Act and Act 189 only applied to Charleston County's charter schools without any reasonable basis for doing so.

Respondents filed a joint motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP. The circuit court granted Respondents' motion, finding that Act 189 was constitutional, Act 189 had not been overruled by the 2006 amendments to the Charter Schools Act, and that the Governor should be dismissed because he had no authority given to him under Act 189. This appeal followed.

ISSUES

School District raises five issues in this appeal:

1. Did the circuit court err in failing to find Act 189 unconstitutional as a special law in conflict with the state-wide Charter Schools Act?

2. Did the circuit court err in finding Act 189 constitutional as a special provision in a general law?

3. Did the circuit court err in granting a motion to dismiss based on matters outside the pleadings?

[393 S.C. 557] 4. Did the circuit court err in failing to find Act 189 superseded by the 2006 amendments of the Charter Schools Act?

5. Did the circuit court err in dismissing the Governor as a defendant?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, the circuit court must base its ruling solely upon the allegations set forth on the face of the complaint. Doe v. Greenville County Sch. Dist., 375 S.C. 63, 66–67, 651 S.E.2d 305, 307 (2007). The motion may not be sustained if the facts alleged in the complaint and the inferences drawn therefrom would entitle the plaintiff to relief under any theory. Id. “[P]leadings in a case should be construed liberally and the Court must presume all well pled facts to be true so that substantial justice is done between the parties.” Overcash v. S.C. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 S.C. 569, 572, 614 S.E.2d 619, 620 (2005) (citing Stroud v. Riddle, 260 S.C. 99, 102, 194 S.E.2d 235, 237 (1973)).

LAW/ANALYSIS

School District argues the circuit court erred by considering matters outside the pleadings in the motion to dismiss, in finding that a logical basis exists for deeming Act 189 a special provision in a general law, and in dismissing the Governor as a party. Respondents assert the circuit court properly considered certain factors regarding Charleston County's unique topography and geography because they were established by case law and statute; that Act 189 falls within the General Assembly's broad discretion to pass legislation impacting an individual school district; and, that because School District cannot link the Governor's authority to Act 189, he was properly dismissed as a party. We find School District's complaint stated a viable cause of action raising the unconstitutionality of Act 189 as special legislation where a general law can be made applicable. We further find that the circuit court erred in considering matters outside the pleadings but correctly dismissed the Governor as a party.

[393 S.C. 558] Article XI, Section 3 of the South Carolina Constitution gives the General Assembly the right to “provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children in the State and shall establish, organize and support such other public institutions of learning, as may be desirable.” This section imbues the General Assembly with more discretion with respect to legislation impacting a school district than it enjoys in other areas. See McElveen v. Stokes, 240 S.C. 1, 10, 124 S.E.2d 592, 596 (1962) (“[T]he scope of the legislative power is much broader in dealing with school matters than is the scope in dealing with various other subjects.”). However, this right is not without certain limitations. Article III, Section 34 of the South Carolina Constitution states, in pertinent part: “In all other cases, where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted.” “[L]egislation regarding education is not exempt from the requirements of Art. III, § 34(IX).” See

[713 S.E.2d 608]

Horry County v. Horry County Higher Educ. Comm'n, 306 S.C. 416, 419, 412 S.E.2d 421, 423 (1991) (citations omitted).

We outlined the framework to determine whether special legislation exists in Kizer v. Clark, 360 S.C. 86, 600 S.E.2d 529 (2004). “A law is general when it applies uniformly to all persons or things within a proper class, and special when it applies to only one or more individuals or things belonging to that same class.” Id. at 92, 600 S.E.2d at 532. If the legislation does not apply uniformly, the inquiry then becomes whether the legislation creates an unlawful classification. Id. at 93, 600 S.E.2d at 532. However, the mere fact that a law creates a classification does not render it unlawful. Id. Instead, the constitutional prohibition against special legislation operates similarly to our equal protection guarantee in that it prohibits unreasonable and arbitrary classifications. Id. at 93, 600 S.E.2d at 533. “A classification is arbitrary, and therefore unconstitutional, if there is no reasonable hypothesis to support it.” Id. Accordingly, special legislation is not unconstitutional where there is “a substantial distinction having reference to the subject matter of the proposed legislation, between the objects or places embraced in such legislation and the objects and places excluded.” Horry County, 306 S.C. at 419, 412 S.E.2d at 423. Thus, where a special law will best meet the exigencies of a particular situation, it is not unconstitutional.[393 S.C. 559] Med. Soc. of S.C. v. Med. Univ. of S.C., 334 S.C. 270, 279, 513 S.E.2d 352, 357 (1999). “In other words, the General Assembly must have a logical basis and sound reason for resorting to special legislation.” Horry County, 306 S.C. at 419, 412...

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17 practice notes
  • The State v. Brandt, No. 27014.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 25, 2011
    ...document was used as evidence in a civil trial. Viewing the judge's charge as a whole, we find it sufficiently covered this element. [713 S.E.2d 604] First, the judge properly instructed the jury on the elements of forgery by using the statutory language of section 16–13–10. Secondly, the j......
  • Home Builders Ass'n of S.C. v. Sch. Dist. No. 2 of Dorchester Cnty., No. 27315.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 11, 2013
    ...discretion with respect to legislation impacting a school district than it has in other areas. Charleston County School Dist. v. Harrell, 393 S.C. 552, 558, 713 S.E.2d 604, 607–608 (2011) (internal citation omitted). Charleston County holds that a constitutional challenge predicated on a sp......
  • S.C. Pub. Interest Found v. Greenville Cnty., No. 5016.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 23, 2013
    ...as “Council Reserves.” 3. Attorney General opinions are persuasive but not binding authority. Charleston Cnty. Sch. Dist. v. Harrell, 393 S.C. 552, 560–61, 713 S.E.2d 604, 609 (2011). 4. In a case brought by a party contesting “state action,” section 15–77–300 authorizes an award of attorne......
  • Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc. v. Horry Cnty., Appellate Case No. 2017-001382
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 13, 2019
    ...a claim; it is not a vehicle for addressing the underlying merits of the claim. See, e.g. , Charleston Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Harrell , 393 S.C. 552, 557, 713 S.E.2d 604, 607 (2011) ("In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, the circuit court must base its ruling sol......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • The State v. Brandt, No. 27014.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 25, 2011
    ...document was used as evidence in a civil trial. Viewing the judge's charge as a whole, we find it sufficiently covered this element. [713 S.E.2d 604] First, the judge properly instructed the jury on the elements of forgery by using the statutory language of section 16–13–10. Secondly, the j......
  • Home Builders Ass'n of S.C. v. Sch. Dist. No. 2 of Dorchester Cnty., No. 27315.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 11, 2013
    ...discretion with respect to legislation impacting a school district than it has in other areas. Charleston County School Dist. v. Harrell, 393 S.C. 552, 558, 713 S.E.2d 604, 607–608 (2011) (internal citation omitted). Charleston County holds that a constitutional challenge predicated on a sp......
  • S.C. Pub. Interest Found v. Greenville Cnty., No. 5016.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 23, 2013
    ...as “Council Reserves.” 3. Attorney General opinions are persuasive but not binding authority. Charleston Cnty. Sch. Dist. v. Harrell, 393 S.C. 552, 560–61, 713 S.E.2d 604, 609 (2011). 4. In a case brought by a party contesting “state action,” section 15–77–300 authorizes an award of attorne......
  • Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc. v. Horry Cnty., Appellate Case No. 2017-001382
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 13, 2019
    ...a claim; it is not a vehicle for addressing the underlying merits of the claim. See, e.g. , Charleston Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Harrell , 393 S.C. 552, 557, 713 S.E.2d 604, 607 (2011) ("In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, the circuit court must base its ruling sol......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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