Enclosed is the Judicial Merit Selection Commission’s Report of Candidate Qualifications. This Report is designed to assist you in determining how to cast your vote. The Commission is charged by law with ascertaining whether judicial candidates are qualified for service on the bench. In accordance with this mandate, the Commission has thoroughly investigated all judicial candidates for their suitability for judicial service. The Commission found all candidates discussed in this Report to be qualified.
The Commission's finding that a candidate is qualified means that the candidate satisfies both the constitutional criteria for judicial office and the Commission’s evaluative criteria. The attached Report details each candidate's qualifications as they relate to the Commission’s evaluative criteria.
Judicial candidates are prohibited from asking for your commitment until 12:00 Noon on Tuesday, January 18, 2011.Members of the General Assembly are not permitted to issue letters of introduction, announcements of candidacy, statements detailing a candidate’s qualifications, or commitments to vote for a candidate until January 18, 2011. In sum, no member of the General Assembly should, orally or by writing, communicate about a candidate’s candidacy until the time designated after release of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission's Report of Candidate Qualifications. If you find a candidate violating the pledging prohibitions or if you have questions about this report, please contact the Commission office at 212-6623.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Glenn F. McConnell, Chairman
F. G. Delleney, Jr., Vice-Chairman
Judicial Merit Selection Commission Sen. Glenn F. McConnell, Chairman
Rep. F. G. Delleney, Jr., Vice-Chairman
Rep. Alan D. Clemmons
John P. Freeman
John Davis Harrell
Sen. John M. “Jake” Knotts, Jr.
Rep. David J. Mack, III
Amy Johnson McLester
Sen. Floyd Nicholson
H. Donald Sellers
Jane O. Shuler, Chief Counsel
Paula G. Benson
Patrick G. Dennis
Bonnie G. Anzelmo
Post Office Box 142
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
January 13, 2011
Members of the South Carolina General Assembly
South Carolina State House
Columbia, South Carolina
Dear Fellow Members:
This letter is written to call your attention to issues raised during the December 2003 Judicial Merit Selection hearings concerning a judicial candidate’s contact with members of the General Assembly, as well as third parties contacting members on a candidate’s behalf. It is also to remind you of these issues for the Fall 2010 screening.
Section 2-19-70(C) of the South Carolina Code contains strict prohibitions concerning candidates seeking or legislators giving their pledges of support or implied endorsement through an introduction prior to 48 hours after the release of the final report of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (Commission). The purpose of this section was to ensure that members of the General Assembly had full access to the report prior to being asked by a candidate to pledge his or her support. The final sentence of Section 2-19-70(C) provides that “the prohibitions of this section do not extend to an announcement of candidacyby the candidateand statements by the candidate detailing the candidate’s qualifications” (emphasis added). Candidates may not, however, contact members of the Commission regarding their candidacy; please note that six members of the Commission also are legislators.
In April 2000, the Commission determined that Section 2-19-70(C) means no member of the General Assembly should engage in any form of communication, written or verbal, concerning a judicial candidate before the 48-hour period expires following the release of the Commission’s report. The Commission would like to clarify and reiterate that until at least 48 hours have expired after the Commission has released its final report of candidate qualifications to the General Assembly, only candidates, and not members of the General Assembly, are permitted to issue letters of introduction, announcements of candidacy, or statements detailing the candidates’ qualifications.
The Commission would again like to remind members of the General Assembly that a violation of the screening law is likely a disqualifying offense and must be considered when determining a candidate’s fitness for judicial office. Further, the law requires the Commission to report any violations of the pledging rules by members of the General Assembly to the House or Senate Ethics Committee, as may be applicable.
Should you have any questions regarding this letter or any other matter pertaining to the judicial screening process, please do not hesitate to call Jane O. Shuler, Chief Counsel to the Commission, at 212-6629 (T-Th).
Glenn F. McConnell F.G. Delleney, Jr.
TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 1
COURT OF APPEALS
Seat 1 Paul E. Short, Jr. 4
Seat 2 H. Bruce Williams 8
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 DeAndrea Gist Benjamin 13
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 Robert E. Hood 19
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 John P. Meadors 24
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 Andrea Culler Roche 32
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 James Shadd, III 37
Fifth Circuit, Seat 1 Jeffrey M. Tzerman 42
Thirteenth Circuit, Seat 2 Eric K. Englebardt 46
Thirteenth Circuit, Seat 2 J. Anthony Mabry 52
Thirteenth Circuit, Seat 2 Andrew R. Mackenzie 59
Thirteenth Circuit, Seat 2 Letitia H. Verdin 66
At-Large, Seat 9 Kellum W. Allen 71
At-Large, Seat 9 Charles “Chuck” Juel Brooks, II 77
At-Large, Seat 9 William Patrick Frick 81
At-Large, Seat 9 Daniel Dewitt Hall, York 86
At-Large, Seat 9 Donald Bruce Hocker 90
At-Large, Seat 9 Angela McCall-Tanner 98
At-Large, Seat 9 Stephanie Pendarvis McDonald 104
At-Large, Seat 9 Tara Lyons McGregor 113
At-Large, Seat 9 John Reaves McLeod 118
At-Large, Seat 9 Maité Murphy 125
At-Large, Seat 9 Catherine B. Templeton 132
At-Large, Seat 9 David Whitten Wolf 139
Ninth Circuit, Seat 1 Bernard “Ben” F. Mack 146
Ninth Circuit, Seat 1 Daniel E. Martin, Jr. 151
Ninth Circuit, Seat 1 Rita J. Roache 159
Ninth Circuit, Seat 1 James A. Turner 164
Ninth Circuit, Seat 1 Alexandra DeJarnette Varner 169
The Judicial Merit Selection Commission is charged by law to consider the qualifications of candidates for the judiciary. This report details the reasons for the Commission's findings, as well as each candidate's qualifications as they relate to the Commission's evaluative criteria. The Commission operates under the law that went into effect July 1, 1997, and which dramatically changed the powers and duties of the Commission. One component of this law is that the Commission’s finding of “qualified” or “not qualified” is binding on the General Assembly. The Commission is also cognizant of the need for members of the General Assembly to be able to differentiate between candidates and, therefore, has attempted to provide as detailed a report as possible.
The Judicial Merit Selection Commission is composed of ten members, four of whom are non-legislators. The Commission has continued the more in-depth screening format started in 1997. The Commission has asked candidates their views on issues peculiar to service on the court to which they seek election. These questions were posed in an effort to provide members of the General Assembly with more information about candidates and the candidates’ thought processes on issues relevant to their candidacies. The Commission has also engaged in a more probing inquiry into the depth of a candidate's experience in areas of practice that are germane to the office he or she is seeking. The Commission feels that candidates should have familiarity with the subject matter of the courts for which they offer, and feels that candidates’ responses should indicate their familiarity with most major areas of the law with which they will be confronted.
The Commission also used the Citizens Committees on Judicial Qualifications as an adjunct of the Commission. Since the decisions of our judiciary play such an important role in people’s personal and professional lives, the Commission believes that all South Carolinians should have a voice in the selection of the state’s judges. It was this desire for broad-based grassroots participation that led the Commission to create the Citizens Committees on Judicial Qualifications. These committees, composed of people from a broad range of experiences (lawyers, teachers, businessmen, bankers, and advocates for various organizations; members of these committees are also diverse in their racial and gender backgrounds), were asked to advise the Commission on the judicial candidates in their regions. Each regional committee interviewed the candidates from its assigned area and also interviewed other individuals in that region who were familiar with the candidate either personally or professionally. Based on those interviews and its own investigation, each committee provided the Commission with a report on their assigned candidates based on the Commission’s evaluative criteria. The Commission then used these reports as a tool for further investigation of the candidate if the committee’s report so warranted. Summaries of these reports have also been included in the Commission’s report for your review.
The Commission conducts a thorough investigation of each candidate's professional, personal, and financial affairs, and holds public hearings during which each candidate is questioned on a wide variety of issues. The Commission's investigation focuses on the following evaluative criteria: constitutional qualifications, ethical fitness, professional and academic ability, character, reputation, physical health, mental health, and judicial temperament. The Commission's investigation includes the following:
(1) survey of the bench and bar;
(2) SLED and FBI investigation;
(3) credit investigation;
(4) grievance investigation;
(5) study of application materials;
(6) verification of ethics compliance;
(7) search of newspaper articles;
(8) conflict of interest investigation;
(9) court schedule study;
(10) study of appellate record;
(11) court observation; and
(12) investigation of complaints.
While the law provides that the Commission must make findings as to qualifications, the Commission views its role as also including an obligation to consider candidates in the context of the judiciary on which they would serve and, to some degree, govern. To that end, the Commission inquires as to the quality of justice delivered in the courtrooms of South Carolina and seeks to impart, through its questioning, the view of the public as to matters of legal knowledge and ability, judicial temperament, and the absoluteness of the Judicial Canons of Conduct as to recusal for conflict of interest, prohibition of ex parte communication, and the disallowance of the acceptance of gifts. However, the Commission is not a forum for reviewing the individual decisions of the state’s judicial system absent credible allegations of a candidate’s violations of the Judicial Canons of Conduct, the Rules of Professional Conduct, or any of the Commission’s nine evaluative criteria that would impact a candidate’s fitness for judicial service.
The Commission expects each candidate to possess a basic level of legal knowledge and ability, to have experience that would be applicable to the office sought, and to exhibit a strong adherence to codes of ethical behavior. These expectations are all important, and excellence in one category does not make up for deficiencies in another.
Routine questions related to compliance with ethical Canons governing ethics and financial interests are now administered through a written questionnaire mailed to candidates and completed by them in advance of each candidate’s staff interview. These issues were no longer automatically made a part of the public hearing process unless a concern or question was raised during the investigation of the candidate. The necessary public record of a candidate’s pledge to uphold the Canons, etc. is his or her completed and sworn questionnaire.
Written examinations of the candidates’ knowledge of judicial practice and procedure were given at the time of candidate interviews with staff and graded on a “blind” basis by a panel of four persons designated by the Chairman. In assessing each candidate's performance on these practice and procedure questions, the Commission has placed candidates in either the “failed to meet expectations” or “met expectations” category. The Commission feels that these categories should accurately impart the candidate's performance on the practice and procedure questions.
This report is the culmination of weeks of investigatory work and public hearings. The Commission takes its responsibilities seriously, as it believes that the quality of justice delivered in South Carolina's courtrooms is directly affected by the thoroughness of its screening process. Please carefully consider the contents of this report, as we believe it will help you make a more informed decision.
This report conveys the Commission's findings as to the qualifications of all candidates currently offering for election to the Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, and Family Court.