Another Administrative Order that won’t be followed

On Monday, May 15, 2013, Chief Justice Toal issued a “365 Day Benchmark” Administrative Order, ordering that eighty percent of all criminal cases be disposed of within 365 days of the defendant’s arrest.  The other 20%, I assume are covered by ordering that “the circuit court may continue a criminal case beyond 365 days by written order if the court determines that exceptional circumstances exist in the case.”

The title of the blog post is rather blunt, but does anyone really expect that this Order will be followed?  It replaces Chief Justice Finney’s 1999 Order that stated “all criminal cases in the State of South Carolina shall be disposed of within 180 days from the date of the defendant’s arrest,” with the same provision for continuance by written order of a circuit court judge in exceptional circumstances.  I don’t know if anyone followed this Order in 1999, but in the past eight years I have not even heard of it, I have never seen a circuit court order continuing a case beyond the 180 day benchmark for exceptional circumstances, and any attorney can tell you that most cases today do not get resolved within 180 days.

Then, there was Chief Justice Toal’s February 2011 Administrative Order, ordering that all jury trials in the magistrate and municipal courts be disposed of within 120 days, with a companion Administrative Order in March 2011 specifically ordering that all DUI jury trials in the magistrate and municipal courts be disposed of within 120 days.  That shook things up a bit and got some press coverage, but after the Order was issued and still today, in most magistrate and municipal courts where I have cases, 120 days typically translates to approximately a year.

Then, following State v. Langford, on November 21, 2012, the S.C. Supreme Court issued the Uniform Differentiated Case Management Order (UDCMO), which was to take effect February 4, 2013,  outlining procedures that were to be followed statewide to enforce time limitations in a new court controlled docket management system, which included very specific procedural changes for bond hearings, “roll calls,” scheduling of plea and trial dates, and preliminary hearings.  Then, on December 20, 2012, the S.C. Supreme Court announced that the UDCMO would be held in abeyance while a committee was appointed to propose a plan for implementing the changes in the Order.

State v. Langford unequivocally states that South Carolina’s current docket system, which is controlled by the prosecuting attorneys, is unconstitutional.  So all defendants are currently being prosecuted in an unconstitutional court system, with no remedy that I can see, and no change anywhere as of yet.  I predict that the Chief Justice’s 365 Day Benchmark Order will be ignored, I predict there will not be written orders from our circuit court judges outlining the exceptional circumstances that justify continuances in 20% of criminal cases, and I predict that there will be no remedy for defendants.

3 Responses to “Another Administrative Order that won’t be followed

  • So, for traffic jury trials, the latest disposal time frame is 120, 180 or 365 days?

  • So the SC high court has no power over the lower courts?

    I submitted a motion to dismiss for lack of speedy trial and attached the SCSC order to it from the SC judges handbook.
    She hasn’t/won’t(?) rule on it until trial, which she continued for the prosecutor but wouldn’t for me and gave me no notice of the continuance.
    Isn’t that lack of due process according to the rules?
    Thanks.

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