State ex rel. McLeod v. Crowe

Decision Date13 November 1978
Docket NumberNo. 5,No. 6,No. 20805,6,5,20805
Citation249 S.E.2d 772,272 S.C. 41
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. Roger A. CROWE in his official capacity as Magistrate of the Liberty Magisterial District of Pickens County, South Carolina, and as a representative of all other magistrates in Pickens County, South Carolina, similarly situated, Defendant, et al. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. Lucile B. WILSON in her official capacity as Magistrate of Georgetown County, South Carolina, and as a representative of other similarly situated magistrates, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. John K. TOAL in his official capacity as Magistrate of the Dutch Fork Magisterial District of Richland County, South Carolina, and as a representative of all other magistrates in Richland County, South Carolina, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. Dixie S. ROBINSON in her official capacity as Magistrate of the Beaufort Township of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. Robert E. WINGARD in his official capacity as Magistrate of the Ninety Six Township of Greenwood County, South Carolina, and as a representative of all other magistrates in Greenwood County, South Carolina, similarly situated, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. J. Fred SPIRES in his official capacities as Magistrate of Districtof Lexington County, South Carolina, and as Administrator of the Check Clearing House for Lexington County, South Carolina, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. James E. GABLE in his official capacity as Magistrate of Districtof Lexington County, South Carolina, and as a representative of all other magistrates in Lexington County, South Carolina, similarly situated, Defendant. STATE of South Carolina ex rel. Daniel R. McLEOD, Plaintiff, v. Walter JONES in his official capacities as Magistrate of the

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod, Deputy Atty. Gen. C. Tolbert Goolsby, Jr., and Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. Karen LeCraft Henderson, Columbia, for plaintiff.

Sylvan L. Rosen of Rosen & Rosen, Georgetown, for defendant Lucile B. Wilson, Magistrate and as a representative of other similarly situated magistrates.

Felix L. Finley, Jr., Pickens, for defendant Roger A. Crowe, as Magistrate and all other magistrates similarly situated in Pickens County.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Charles H. Richardson, Columbia, and G. P. Callison, Greenwood, for defendant Robert E. Wingard, as Magistrate and all other magistrates in Greenwood County.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Charles H. Richardson, Columbia, for defendant James E. Gable, as Magistrate and a representative of all other magistrates in Lexington County.

Joseph H. Earle, Jr., and James H. Lengel, Greenville, for defendant Jack P. Cann, as Magistrate.

William F. Able, Columbia, for defendant J. Fred Spires, Magistrate of Dist. No. 6 of Lexington County and as Administrator of the Check Clearing House for Lexington County.

Charles Porter, Columbia, for defendant Walter Jones, as Magistrate of Columbia Magisterial Dist. of Richland County and as Director of the Check Clearing House for Richland County, and for defendant John K. Toal, as Magistrate and as a representative of all other magistrates in Richland County.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Charles H. Richardson, Columbia, and Ladson F. Howell, Beaufort, for defendant Dixie S. Robinson in her official capacity as Magistrate of the Beaufort Tp. of Beaufort County, S. C.

J. Leeds Barroll, Columbia, for petitioners.

Archie Harman, Lexington, for defendant Lexington County Council.

Staff Atty. James M. Holly, Columbia, for defendant State of S. C.

PER CURIAM:

Pursuant to our Order of July 28, 1978, this declaratory judgment action was brought in the Original Jurisdiction of this Court. This action, the result of the consolidation of several complaints, was brought on the relation of the Attorney General, Daniel R. McLeod, to determine the constitutionality of a number of statutes relating to magistrates.

The State challenges the various statutes on several grounds. Initially it asserts some of the enactments violate Article V, Sections 1 and 23 of the South Carolina Constitution which require all judicial power be vested in a unified judicial system. The State also contends several of the statutes conflict with Article III, Section 34, subdivision IX of the South Carolina Constitution which proscribes local or special legislation in situations where general law can be made applicable. Lastly, the State alleges those regulations which allow magistrates to collect fees in certain cases violate the due process clause of the State and Federal Constitutions.

Prior to addressing these actions individually, four pivotal issues must be decided by this Court. They are : (1) Whether magisterial courts are included in this State's uniform judicial system; (2) whether legislation establishing varying territorial jurisdictions is unconstitutional; (3) whether fees charged in magisterial courts must be uniform; and (4) whether judicial officers may accept fees derived from their performance of judicial acts.

With reference to the first question presented, Article V, Section 1 of the South Carolina Constitution provides:

The judicial power shall be vested in a unified judicial system, which shall include a Supreme Court, a Circuit Court, and such other courts of uniform jurisdiction as may be provided for by general law.

Article V, Section 23 specifically includes magistrates within this unified system providing that:

The Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint a number of magistrates for each county as provided by law. The General Assembly shall provide for their terms of office and their civil and criminal jurisdiction . . . .

When these two provisions are read together it clearly appears that magisterial courts are vested with judicial power and are, therefore, a part of the State's uniform judicial system.

The second broad question requiring consideration is whether special legislation establishing unequal territorial jurisdiction of magistrates within counties and differing jurisdiction between counties violates the provisions of Article V, Section 1 and 23. Under the present statutes the territorial jurisdiction of magistrates varies in many instances among the counties and between magistrates within the same county. See Section 43-501 et seq. of the 1962 Code of Laws, as amended, for the various provisions establishing different jurisdiction, for magistrates in the various counties. For example, in some counties magistrates have countywide jurisdiction; in other counties magistrates have jurisdiction in magisterial districts which are less than countywide in territory; others have magistrates with countywide civil jurisdiction and district- wide criminal jurisdiction; while another has a magistrate who has exclusive criminal and civil jurisdiction within his district and at the same time concurrent jurisdiction throughout the county.

We pointed out in Cort Industries Corp. v. Swirl, Inc., 264 S.C. 142, 213 S.E.2d 445 that

The people in approving Article V mandated a uniform system of courts for the administration of justice in South Carolina.

Magistrates' Courts are a part of the unified judicial system, mandated by Section 1 of Article V and, therefore, are included within the requirements for uniformity prescribed by that Article.

Sections 1 and 23 of Article V require that the jurisdiction of magistrates be uniform throughout the State. Such uniformity can only be accomplished through legislation which grants all magistrates uniform countywide jurisdiction.

The third question to be considered is whether the fees charged in magistrate courts must be uniform throughout the State. Statutes have been enacted for several counties establishing different fee schedules for the magistrate courts.

Legislation establishing disparate fee schedules for magistrate courts over the State conflicts with the uniformity requirements of Article V. Section 23 of [272 S.C. 48] Article V, interpreted in conjunction with Section 1 of that Article, empowers the General Assembly to provide for the jurisdiction of magistrates in a uniform manner only. The exercise of such jurisdiction is materially affected by the fees allowed to be charged or assessed. Since the fees for magistrate courts affect the exercise of jurisdiction, they must be enacted on a uniform basis.

Lastly, we must determine whether magistrates may accept fees derived from their performance as judicial officers. We conclude that they may not. In the context of criminal law, the United States Supreme Court has concluded a judicial officer should be disqualified from sitting in any case in which he possesses a pecuniary interest through fees, forfeiture or fees paid by the litigants. See Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749. This proscription is based on the theory that such pecuniary interest deprives the litigants of due process of law. Id. In recognition of the requirements of due process, magistrates are precluded by statute from receiving fees in criminal cases. See S.C.Code Sections 22-7-30 and 22-7-40. We believe the potential for deprivation of due...

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17 cases
  • Linney v. Turpen
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • February 7, 1996
    ...540, 202 S.E.2d 628 [magistrates may not accept fees, other than salary, for performance of judicial duties]; State ex rel. McLeod v. Crowe (1978) 272 S.C. 41, 249 S.E.2d 772 [justice for sale].)9 The court said, "We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, but we do not find it necessa......
  • Haas v. County of San Bernardino
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • May 6, 2002
    ...same conclusion (see State ex rel. Shrewsbury v. Poteet, supra, 157 W.Va. 540, 202 S.E.2d 628, 631-632; State ex rel. McLeod v. Crowe, supra, 272 S.C. 41, 249 S.E.2d 772, 776-777, 778), and the federal district court would soon thereafter do likewise for the State of Georgia (Doss v. Lang, ......
  • Gary v. Spires
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • March 14, 1979
    ...facts of this case, it is clear that Spires did not act in the "clear absence of all jurisdiction." As the case of State ex rel. McLeod v. Crowe, 249 S.E.2d 772, (S.C.1978), clearly points out, the magistrates have countywide jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. Thus, the plaintif......
  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • September 9, 2002
    ...their respective counties all the powers, authority and jurisdiction in criminal cases herein set forth. See State ex rel McLeod v. Crowe, 272 S.C. 41, 249 S.E.2d 772 (1978) and State v. Black, 319 S.C. 515, 462 S.E.2d 311 (Ct.App.1995) (analyzing the language and meaning of Article V and c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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