JMSC Responds but Does Not Answer Questions About Horry County Master in Equity Vacancy

By Paul Gable

Last week GSD published an article about discrepancies in several Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) press releases regarding an upcoming vacancy in the position of Horry County Master in Equity.

The story posed questions about the varying timeline of the time of the vacancy included in those releases.

After the story was published, David Hucks, editor of, sent an email to JMSC staff attorney Erin Crawford and commission members Sen. Luke Rankin and Rep. Todd Rutherford with a link to the GSD story requesting clarification of why the differing timeline was issued by the JMSC.

On Monday, Crawford sent an email response to Hucks. Both emails were shared with GSD.

A link to the GSD story can be found here:

Explaining why a media release was sent on 6/22/20 advertising for applications to JMSC for the Horry County Master in Equity position but the position was deleted from an amended press release four days, Crawford said, “JMSC issued a media release on June 20, 2020 announcing screening for Horry County Master in Equity (Judge Howe’s seat) and the successor to serve a new term to expire December 31, 2027.  Since the new term would not begin until January 1, 2022, a subsequent media release was issued, deleting the seat from the 2020 screening.”

However, both the original media release and the amended media release listed Greenville County Master in Equity Charles B. Simmons, Jr., term ending December 31, 2021, as a position requesting applications for screening. No explanation as to why the Greenville County Master in Equity vacancy would be treated differently by the JMSC than the Horry County Master in Equity position.

According to the appointment message sent to the S. C. Senate by Gov. Nikki Haley on March 5, 2015, Howe was appointed to a six-year term beginning July 31, 2015 and ending July 31, 2021 so the Howe vacancy should have remained open for applications.

Crawford said in her email that the JMSC discovered the error in the date ending Judge Howe’s current term in Spring 2021.

Crawford went on to say in her email, “The media release issued on June 21, 2021, listed the Horry Co. MIE term as expiring June 30, 2027, when most judges end their term, instead of July 31, 2027.  Masters in Equity terms are determined by implementation in their individual counties, not the schedule of most statewide judges. Pursuant to SC Code Section 14-11-20, Masters In Equity are appointed by the Governor (with the advice and consent of GA) for a term of 6 years and until their successors are appointed and qualify.”

Crawford failed to address why Judge Howe’s term was discovered by JMSC to end July 31, 2021, but was listed in a June 2021 JMSC media release as ending July 31, 2027. As Crawford stated, Master in Equity judges are appointed for six years and until their successors are appointed. How did Howe’s appointment in office get extended by six years? No Explanation!

As stated in the above linked story, General Assembly members must be out of office for one year before they can be appointed to a judgeship.

At least as early as July 12, 2020, former state Rep. Alan Clemmons was indicating he wanted to resign his House seat immediately. He resigned the seat July 17, 2020 and sent a sworn affidavit that the reason for his resignation was to spend more time with his family and to attend to the needs of new clients to his law firm who would require substantial time.

One year later, Clemmons is now an applicant for the Horry County Master in Equity vacancy. Is this just a grand coincidence or did Clemmons resign his House seat in order to be eligible to apply for the Horry County Master in Equity vacancy one year later? Was the original media release from the JMSC amended to remove the upcoming Horry County Master in Equity vacancy from screening for one year to accommodate Clemmons’ desire to apply? We’ll probably never know.

Another hurdle remains for Clemmons to explain when he is called for a screening interview by the JMSC.

As described in a GSD artlcle of August 25, 2021, the Clemmons Law Firm acted as the escrow agent for a real estate contract executed on November 23, 2019. The escrow agent has an equal fiduciary responsibility to both the buyer and the seller.

The article can be read here:

Earnest money in the amount of $5,000 was supposed to be deposited with the escrow agent two days after the contract was executed. The contract includes an acknowledgment by an attorney with the Clemmons firm that the earnest money was received.

After the closing date was extended twice, an addendum for the second extension said the earnest money was now non-refundable and if the sale failed to close by close of business 3/2/2020, the escrow agent would immediately send the earnest money to the seller.

On February 27, 2020, the business day immediately before the earnest money was supposed to be sent to the seller if the sale failed to close the next business day, the seller was notified by his agent that the earnest money was never received by the Clemmons Law Firm. There was a reference to a phone call that was supposedly made by the Clemmons firm to the seller’s attorney that the money was not received but nothing in writing until February 27th.

The Clemmons firm had three opportunities to perform its fiduciary responsibility to report that earnest money, a stipulation in the contract, was never received – two days after the contract was executed, when the money was first due, when the first addendum for extension was signed and when the second addendum, making the earnest money non-refundable, was signed.

There is nothing in writing to document that fiduciary duty was performed. Will that failure to perform fiduciary duty with required escrow money be ignored by the JMSC?

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