At the end of last week, the South Carolina Bar Association published its assessments of those who intend to seek election by the General Assembly to fill seats in our state’s courts once the Legislature reconvenes in January.
You can see them for yourself at http://www.scbar.org/pdf/JQCNov07.pdf. But be warned, it’s a lot of reading.
Overall, we thought they seemed pretty much on the up-and-up, but some elaboration wouldn’t have hurt. Each judicial candidate’s background and qualifications were discussed, but only in two paragraph summaries. While each write-up gave a pretty good idea most of these people were pretty smart people with decent legal careers, it would have been nice to see more of the considerable feedback that helped guide their judgments as to how fit candidates really were to serve.
We did think they were being a bit unfair to two candidates, Judge Russo, who presently sits on the 12th at-large Circuit Court seat and is seeking another term, and Betsy Burton, who is seeking Seat 2 of the Family Court in the Sixth Circuit. They mentioned both candidates had their law licenses suspended for failure to pay bar fees, but that both matters had been resolved … so why bring those issues up at all?
Linda Lombard, currently a Magistrate in Charleston County, former Chair of Charleston County Council, and a long-time figure in Lowcountry government and politics, was the only candidate found unqualified for the job she was seeking: the 13th at-large Circuit Court seat:
During phone interviews, most members of the Bar expressed concerns about Judge Lombard’s temperament and experience. When questioned about these concerns, Judge Lombard denied any problems. Based upon the information and the interview, Judge Lombard lacks the experience and the temperament required for the position of Circuit Court Judge. Based on the information and the interview, the Committee reports that it is the collective opinion that the candidate is not qualified to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.
To be fair, we certainly would have liked to have seen a transcript or maybe sampling of some of those remarks made about her by interviewees. Especially in light of her long record of public service, including as a Magistrate.
While each of the three above cases were somewhat puzzling, the one finding that made us want to reach for our drug-test kits and check a few members of the Bar out was their finding that DuPree, a Charleston attorney, seeking the open Circuit Court seat in the Ninth Circuit, was somehow “qualified”:
Several members of the Bar raised questions about Mr. DuPree’s temperament. The Committee questioned Mr. DuPree about his temperament, and he candidly admitted that he can easily lose his temper. He does not believe that this will affect his ability to be a judge. Based on the information and interview, the Committee reports that it is the collective opinion that the candidate is qualified to serve as a Circuit Court Judge.
As we ponder Mr. DuPree’s claims that his temperament issues won’t affect his ability to serve as a judge, we have to wonder how hitting cops might affect his ability to serve:
Dupree struggled with police officers who tried to arrest him at the hotel after they responded to a report of a fight, according to a police report. Hotel security workers told police DuPree had argued with his wife and then fought with two men who tried to intervene, police said.
- Charleston Post & Courier, October 21, 2003
While DuPree admitted fighting with the cops, his excuse was rather lamely based upon “the fact that DuPree got into a fistfight before his Oct. 5 arrest at the Charleston Riverview Hotel on Lockwood Drive”.
An attorney getting off the hook for fighting with cops? Only in a world where well-connected attorneys are fit to judge themselves. The Blogland is willing to bet that if most of our readers took a shot at a cop, the charges wouldn’t be dropped.
In light of this history of conduct towards law enforcement officers, as well as showing how short a fuse the guy has, we believe that DuPree’s temperament is indeed relevant to the issue of his qualifications.
In the wake of the much-discussed Bar Exam grading mess, we can’t help but wonder what is going on. If you are too, please feel free to speak up – we’d love to hear from you.