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Game of Pawns

The General Assembly met in Joint Session this past Wednesday to elect judges. There were two contested races of which one actually mattered.

There was the race for the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The race pitted the existing Chief Justice against one of the other Supreme Court Justices.

Both are within striking distance of mandatory retirement which means we will be rid of both of them in a couple of years. Both are politically connected to different factions – both Republican and Democrat – across the state. Both are burdened with a thousand questionable decisions – depending upon if you had won or lost a case before them.

Much ado was made by a lot of people ranging from Tea Party groups to lawyer associations to minority groups. Teeth were gnashed, arms were twisted and threats were made. In the end, the sitting Chief Justice retained her seat. I voted for her because no one could make a positive argument for her opponent. But it does not matter, because nothing would have changed if her opponent had won. This race didn’t matter.

Then there was the contested race for a family court seat serving Greenville and Pickens Counties. The race was between two fine people who volunteered to stand for a judge seat. It just so happens that one candidate has considerably more experience than the other, though both were deemed “qualified” by the judicial screening committee. 16 of 18 Republicans from the Greenville Delegation supported the more experienced candidate. Somehow she lost in a Republican-controlled General Assembly.

She lost because 20 or so Republicans from other parts of the state joined with Democrats to support the lesser experienced candidate. Note that the more qualified candidate received one vote from a Democrat.

Many rumors have been ruminated over to explain how the Republican-led Greenville Delegation could lose so badly. ┬áDo the Republicans on the Greenville Delegation have so little clout or were our family court candidates – and by extension our delegation – ┬ámere pawns in some perverse version of a Great Judicial Chess Match? The only truth is that the truth behind this loss will never be known.

Which is a shame, since this race – ignored by the Tea Party and other self-appointed groups of political purity – actually mattered to the citizens of Greenville and Pickens.