Tag: Judicial Merit Selection Commission

How Thoroughly Will JMSC Screen Alan Clemmons for Master in Equity Position?

Former state Rep. Alan Clemmons will be screened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission tomorrow to determine whether he merits recommendation from the commission for the Horry County Master in Equity judicial position.
The questions asked of Clemmons will be a litmus test of how serious the JMSC, composed of six state senators and six state representatives, is of recommending qualified candidates to become judges.
There are certainly questions surrounding the Clemmons’ candidacy that should be answered to the satisfaction of both commission members and the general public.
Last year, five weeks after winning the Republican Primary for nomination on the general election ballot for what would have been his tenth term as the representative for House District 107, Clemmons resigned his seat as a representative.
By waiting to resign until after winning the primary, Clemmons was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission explaining he was resigning for “non-political reasons” in order for a new Republican candidate to be determined by a special primary election.
It is important to note here that Clemmons affirmed to the election commission, under penalty of perjury, that his dropping out as the nominated candidate was for “non-political reasons”.
Clemmons’ affidavit cited spending more time with his family and new clients for his law firm who would “require a large investment of my time and focus.”
But, was there another reason?
Horry County Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced around the time of the June 2020 primary that she would retire in July 2021 at the end of her current term in office. State law requires state lawmakers to be out of office for at least one year before they are eligible to be appointed to a judgeship.
According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.

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

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 MyrtleBeachSC.com, 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.
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!

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State Records Increase Suspicions About Clemmons Resignation and Judgeship Application

Earlier this week Grand Strand Daily published a story detailing questions about Alan Clemmons and his resignation from the SC House and subsequent application for Horry County Master in Equity appointment.
New information extracted from state government archives increase suspicions about the truth behind the Clemmons resignation subsequent application.
Clemmons won the Republican Primary for House District 107 on June 9, 2020 for nomination to what would have been his 10th consecutive term as a representative.
However, just one month later, at least as early as July 12, 2020, it became public knowledge that Clemmons was seriously considering resigning from his House seat immediately. Five days later, Clemmons notified House Speaker Jay Lucas of his resignation from office and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission, withdrawing from the nomination, stating he needed to spend more time with his family and his law firm had recently acquired new clients who would demand considerable time and work.
Clemmons had to swear to the Election Commission his resignation and withdrawal was for “non-political reasons” in order for the state Republican Party to schedule a special primary election to choose a new nominee.
According to the SC Senate Journal of March 5, 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley transmitted to the Senate the reappointment of Cynthia Ward Howe to a new six-year term as Horry County Master in Equity “with the term to commence July 31, 2015, and to expire July 31, 2021.”
On June 22, 2020, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) issued a media release announcing the commission was accepting applications for the Judicial offices listed in the release. Included in that release was the following, “A vacancy will exist in the office currently held by the Honorable Cynthia Graham Howe, Master in Equity, Horry County. The successor will serve a new term of that office, which will expire December 31, 2027.”
(Master in Equity judges are appointed to six-year terms. There was no explanation why a five-month gap existed between the end of Howe’s term and the apparent beginning of a new six-year term on December 31, 2021 to end December 31, 2027.)
Four days later, on June 26, 2020, the JMSC issued a “Media Release Amended” in which the only change was removal of the advertisement for applications for the Horry County Master in Equity position. The chairman of the JMSC for 2020 was Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin.

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Questions for Clemmons Judicial Screening – The Public Has a Right to Know

If we have learned anything about the political arena since 2016, it is that American voters are sick and tired of the back room, secret deals that serve the self-interests of politicians, often at the expense of the public, and the accompanying political spin used to justify them.
Next month, Alan Clemmons will appear before the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) to begin the official process in his hope for appointment as the new Master in Equity Judge for Horry County.
Last year, five weeks after winning the Republican Primary for nomination on the general election ballot for what would have been his tenth term as the representative for House District 107, Clemmons resigned his seat as a representative.
By waiting to resign until after winning the primary, Clemmons was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission explaining he was resigning for “non-political reasons” in order for a new Republican candidate to be determined by a special primary election. The cost of the special primary election was approximately 40,000 taxpayer dollars.
Clemmons’ affidavit cited spending more time with his family and new clients for his law firm who would “require a large investment of my time and focus.”
But, was there another reason? According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.
Horry County Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced around the time of the June 2020 primary that she would retire in July 2021 at the end of her current term in office. State law requires state lawmakers to be out of office for at least one year before they are eligible to be appointed to a judgeship.
If Clemmons is certified as being qualified for the Master in Equity job by the JMSC, the next step in the process is for the Horry County legislative delegation to vote to recommend a candidate for the job to Gov. Henry McMaster.
After a background check, the governor then decides whether or not to submit nomination of the candidate to the full General Assembly for approval. The entire judicial selection process has been criticized by various organizations in the state as giving an unfair advantage to former state legislators.
According to sources, each legislative delegation member has a weighted percentage vote based on voters in the county represented and time in office. A candidate needs to secure over 50% of those percentage votes to be recommended. The highest individual weighted percentage sits with Sen. Luke Rankin.

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Clemmons Application for Master in Equity – Déjà vu

(pictured above Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford)

Recently local media and TheNerve.org ran stories that former state representative Alan Clemmons is seeking appointment to the Horry County Master in Equity judgeship.
The Nerve postured a question whether Clemmons’ resignation from his House seat one year ago and his application for the Master in Equity position was a coincidence. When contacted by The Nerve for comment, Clemmons is quoted in its story, “I really have no comments on my application for Master in Equity for Horry County.”
Clemmons resignation from the House came just after current Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced she would not seek another six-year term after finishing her current term in July 2021. State law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for one year before they can be appointed as a judge or act as a lobbyist.
This seems to be a case of ‘déjà vu all over again’, as Yogi Berra would say.
One year ago, in a story about the special election to replace Clemmons on the November general election ballot, I wrote:
“Only two months ago, Alan Clemmons won the regular Republican primary for nomination to what would have been his tenth term as representative for District 107.
“Five weeks later, Clemmons resigned from the House and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission citing the necessity of concentrating on his family and law practice as reasons for removing himself as the Republican candidate.
“It is important to note here that Clemmons affirmed to the election commission, under penalty of perjury, that his dropping out as the nominated candidate was for “non-political reasons”, a requirement for the party to conduct a special election to nominate a replacement candidate for the general election.
“Nowhere in Clemmons’ statement did it mention the widely circulated story that Clemmons expects to be selected as the Master in Equity judge for Horry County when the position becomes vacant next July. South Carolina law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for a minimum of one year before they can become a judge or a lobbyist. The Master in Equity position currently pays approximately $180,000 per year. State funded pensions are based on a person’s highest three years of salary.

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