It hasn't happened yet

Just in time for the weekend, when y'all were thinking we were getting so serious and thoughtful, we decide it was time to give Mike Reino another load of Shat.

This time, a video of him performing "It Hasn't Happened Yet":

With videos like this, rest assured, it never will.

"Fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture"

Michelle Malkin reports on nationwide Tea Parties protesting efforts to squander our childrens' futures in Washington:

I’ve got tons of photos and e-mails pouring in from Tea Party people across the country. I joked to a Christian Science Monitor reporter covering the events that fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture. More coverage/photos/livestreaming at TCOT Report.

There is, as the old ’60s song goes, something happening here. And what it is, is very clear: A grass-roots revolt against the culture of entitlement. The spendzillas in Washington do not speak for us.

If this is, then this long-haired rock and roll Republican type is ready to fight the power.

SCGOP chair candidate to bring Rick Santelli to help SC economic policy?

As speculation continues to swirl over the potential candidacy of Earl Capps, well-known political blogger and raving mad lunatic, reports have surfaced that if elected, he will bring an outspoken expert in financial policy to help guide the Palmetto State's economic policies.

Rick Santelli's recent rant about mortgage bailouts was greeted by stock traders in Chicago and has since caught on like wildfire:

We're not ... conservative?

Recently's the Blogland was de-listed from SCHotline's list of featured blogs. We were told it was because we didn't post weekly. Shortly thereafter, two other very active sites went away when FITS was delisted and so was Wes Donehue.

When we heard this explanation, we were puzzled, especially when other blogs which were far less active remained i their roster.

But apparently, in SCHotlie's Truth, Version 2.0, it wasn't a question of which blogs were posting as much as they liked.

According to an explanation which was posted on the site today, it turned out that they are actually:

(R)eworking this portion of links that represent our conservative base...

This would seem to suggest that if we got kicked out, we must not be (at least by Hotlie's definition) conservative.

Ok, we know there are lots of blogs out there which represent a wide range of political opinions. But here in the Blogland, we've done rather un-liberal things like support school choice, challenge Barack Obama, praise judges who are tough on crime, question ineptitude in state government, criticize tax-and-spend educrats, endorse legislative roll call voting, called for reigning in the state's tax-and-spend mindset and support hunting down jihadists around the world.

... but in spite of all these position statements ... there are those out there who would say we're still not conservative?

Apparently, there's just not enough Kool-aid, vodka, or LSD to make some people happy.

Capps vetting pick for SCGOP Information Minister?

Reports have surfaced that Earl Capps, rumored to be pondering a bid for the SCGOP chairmanship, has already selected a candidate for the post of Information Minister for the state Republican Party. While the name of this individual is yet to be determined, inside sources suspect it may be someone who is about to defect from the camp of another SCGOP Chair candidate, or it may be one of two South Carolina bloggers - Mike Reino or Sic Willie.

We invite Blogland readers to watch the video of the person we suspect has been chosen by Capps for this role, and decide for yourself who this person may be:

This Saturday: Beaufort GOP Oyster Roast @ 1 PM

The Beaufort Area Republican Club presents

The Annual Bert Hines Memorial Oyster Roast

Day & Time: Saturday February 28, at 1:00 PM

Place: The Oyster Shack in rear of Port Royal Park,
the corner of Paris Ave. & 4th St., Port Royal, S.C.
Price: $20.00 Adults $5.00 Children

All Beaufort County Republicans are invited to come and enjoy all you can eat of Charles Gay's famous steamed oysters and fixings.

With the cold weather we are having, the oysters will be GREAT!

We will also have fried chicken for the non-oyster eaters. Please bring your folding chairs, your oyster knife and a dessert to share if you can.

Please email or call for reservations now! You can pay at the door, but we need to know how many oysters to order. To make reservations please email Jim Dickson at or call 843-838-3189

Sue Kirsh, wife of Rep. Herb Kirsh, RIP

Last night, Sue Kirsh, wife of York County Representative Herb Kirsh, died after nearly sixty years of marriage with Rep. Kirsh. A New York native, she came here in 1950.

Many saw her frequently at the State House, often coming along with her husband when the General Assembly was in session. Over the years, she gave many from York County and around the state tours of the State House, obviously proud of her husband and his work as a legislator.

She'll be missed at the State House, back in York County, and by many others whose lives she has touched. As someone who has spent a little bit of time in Clover, it can be a little hard to imagine how someone from New York City could end up spending their life there, but we're certainly glad she did.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family, as well as our appreciation for her hospitality, her loyalty to her husband, and her service to the people of York County and South Carolina.

Capps to declare for SCGOP Chair?

Recently, speculation has arisen that Earl Capps, publisher and head nutjob of the Blogland, may be entering the heated race for SCGOP Chair.

Capps, well-known as a political blogger who also delves into subjects related to Eastern Christian theology, human resources management and 80s heavy metal on his blog, gained a modest statewide following during his short-lived bid for State Treasurer.

According to Voting Under The Influence:

Capps is a longtime GOP activist and blogger known for his Reaganism, his rum and his rock and roll. Those wishing to bring back the 1980s seem willing to flock to Capps in his bid.

A confidential inside source told VUI that Earl Capps has already created the "Capps Plan," to counter his opponents. In the Capps plan, Earl Capps promises his first act as Chairman will be to expel from the SC GOP Lindsey Graham, Bobby Harrell and Mark Sanford. Then, Capps will ban Howard Rich or anyone who gets money from Rich from the headquarters. There is even a list of consultants out there, that the source would not reveal, that Capps is planning to make pee in a cup before they can make public statements about the Republican Party.

As Chairman, Capps supposedly promises to bring a Ted Nugent approach to conservatism. "Their will be some serious no nonsense political ass kicking, good ole rock and roll, middle aged women screaming and some passing out, and beer flowing," The source said.

Having reported on these rumors, we'll now put the question to our readers - should he run for the chairmanship?

Updated links

I just updated a lot of the website and blog links in the links menus on the right side of the page. A few were dropped, but a lot more were added. If you're looking for some cool reading, go check 'em out.

If you're a regular Blogland reader and think I missed something, let me know.

Representative Erickson takes on state government fee increases

It's no secret that the answer to tough budget times is often found in practicing the not-so-fine art of "revenue enhancement". For small towns, the solution can mean making the cops write a flurry of traffic tickets, but for others, the gap is often closed by seeking to raise fees for everything a governmental agency does.

Representative Shannon Erickson thinks that practice is just plain wrong, and so do we. Her concerns were voiced via one of her grassroots constituent emails which she sent earlier this week:

Last week, the State Fire Marshal’s office submitted new regs with added fees & when Philip Lowe & I asked them to reconsider that, they immediately withdrew the fee increases. Very graciously, I might add!

Unfortunately, DHEC has several reg bills coming before committees that have fee/fine increases in them. Even with opposition voiced by businesses it affects, the agency has decided to move forward on the increases.

This just another way to tax the business sector of our state. You can call it what you want, but right now the business community simply cannot afford ANY raise in fees/taxes/etc.

One of the reasons we're impressed with Erickson is because she doesn't just gripe about problems - she takes action. She's sponsored legislation (House Bill 3576) which would require that:

... no state agency, department, or entity by regulation or otherwise may administratively increase or implement a fee for performing a service or function, or a civil penalty or fine for failure to comply with a requirement or provision of law under its jurisdiction without the specific approval of the increased or new fee, fine, or penalty by the General Assembly by concurrent resolution.

The Blogland is glad to endorse Erickson's legislation, and are pleased at the bi-partisan team of legislatiors who've already signed on to support this measure:

Brantley, Ballentine, Huggins, Bowen, Duncan, Vick, Chalk, Bedingfield, Nanney, Merrill, Haley, Toole, Allison, Anthony, Bannister, Bingham, Forrester, Hamilton, Hardwick, Hearn, Herbkersman, Horne, Limehouse, Long, Millwood, Owens, Parker, Parks, E.H. Pitts, M.A. Pitts, Rice, Sandifer, G.R. Smith, Sottile, Spires, Stringer, Umphlett, Viers, White, Whitmire, Wylie and A.D. Young.

Legislators who are concerned about the impact of the cost of government upon individuals and businesses in these tough times need to get behind this bill and get it passed into law.

FITS gets de-listed, and so did we

Saturday, we got several calls and emails letting us know that the Blogland was de-listed from SCHotline's blogroll. We checked it out and found out that our readers were right - as they usually are.

Sources told us that Jeff Sewell, who runs SCHotline these days, said his advertisers were complaining that his listed blogs weren't posting on a daily basis, and that we were one of those slow-posting sites. We'd invite you to look at some of the other blogs to see if they meet this standard - and then we'd invite you to look on the sidebar of the Blogland and look at the number of postings each month, which typically exceed the number of days in any given month.

After you take a look, we'll let you reach your own conclusions about what he did, and why. But it's his site, so it's his right to do what he wants and he doesn't owe anyone an explanation, so we're not going to worry about it.

Since our traffic hasn't been adversely impacted by the delisting, no harm was done, so we're not gonna take it personally.

Today, Sic Willie, the Mack Daddy of the SC political blogosphere, reported that FITSNews was also delisted from Hotline, which Sic suspected had something to do with Jeff being voted the winner of FITSNews' recent "Slow Zebra" contest.

To which we say "nobody's perfect". We're sure that after two divorces, the name Earl Capps would top the list of "last person to set your sister or mother up with a date" - and for good reason. But we wouldn't take it personally.

On social networking "friends"

A while back I was turned on to Meryl Runion's "Speak Strong" email newsletter, which discusses "power phrases" - words and phrases which can help motivate, connect and inspire others, as well as "poison phrases" - words and phrases which can turn people off or create hurt feelings, often unintentionally.

This week's email makes an interesting point about how social networking sites have transformed the meaning of the word "friends":

When I accept requests on a social networking site, often from people I don't know, they tell me,

- Congratulations. You have three new friends.

Really? Will they check on me when I'm going through challenges, celebrate my wins with me and share their deepest secrets?

Social networking "friends" cheapen the word, and sugest that all there is to friendship is to agree to be in each other's network.

We don't talk highway policies here

Long-time readers may recall postings that have made it clear that due to conflicts of interest, discussion of highway policy will not be permitted on this blog*. Anything you read on this blog - from politics to heavy metal to religion, as well as anything else - will reflect the free and unbiased thoughts of yours truly.

Other blogs have been accused of shilling for clients and that's not something the Blogland will be accused of. You shouldn't have to wonder if something you read here has been, in effect, a paid political message, nor should I have to be drug into a discussion that may affect my ability to support my family and keep a roof over my head.

Some of you will understand this, which I appreciate. Those of you who don't understand - too bad. You probably don't have real jobs anyway, so go back to drinking the kool-aid of left or right-wing varieties.

* SCDOT disclaimer (1/31/07), Conflicts of interest? (3/4/08)


Big payoff for former Ports Authority director

We weren't surprised that former SC Ports Authority director resigned under fire after collecting huge bonuses while the ports authority continued to bleed shipping volume, but this little bit of news is the icing on the whole rotten cake:

Former ports chief Bernard Groseclose will receive $132,000 in severance pay and up to $4,000 for health insurance under the terms of a separation agreement he signed Friday.

He will also get a free trip overseas to attend a business conference.

Groseclose’s employment agreement, signed Dec. 30, 1998, calls for him to receive a severance payment of half of his annual base pay upon his resignation. He was making about $264,000.

Groseclose will receive the first $66,000 of his severance pay on Wednesday, the day he officially resigns, as spelled out in the separation agreement. The remaining $66,000 will be paid to him in installments of $13,200 on the first day of each month between April and August.

Let's review the facts - he fails miserably, he quits before he gets fired and gets rewarded with a great vacation and a severance package that is worth what several South Carolinians combined would earn. Most people who quit most jobs under such circumstances are lucky to get enough time to pack their stuff and a neutral employment reference.

If anyone has a logical explanation for this, we'd love to hear it.

Mike's "Blueprint" for GOP success

A major concern about the GOP's recent awakening to it's failure to keep up in the technology race with the Democrats is that they will think high-tech itself is the answer. It's important to recognize that the mastery of the electronic domain was simply a means to an end for Democrats, who used the netroots to build an intricate web which allowed them to project messages, raise funds and mobilize activists.

Simply put, the Democrats used a high-tech approach to enhance a traditionally low-tech organizing principle. One that Republicans would be wise to properly understand and adapt the successful approaches to their own support bases.

From down on Hilton Head, Mike's America has some excellent observations about how this can take place:

In 2006 we lost the House and Senate and we sat by in 2008 and watched again as the largest well funded political juggernaut of the 21st century swept away decades of GOP grass roots development. Are we prepared now to meet that challenge or will we fall back on the business as usual strategies which may have worked 20 years ago but failed utterly in the last two elections?

I'd like to think we have learned our lesson and I am encouraged by new GOP Chairman Michael Steele's efforts to invite new ideas for reaching voters and widening their participation; especially through the use of the same new media that Obama and friends used so effectively.

The Reagan revolution was fueled by new technology in direct mail fundraising. Patrick Ruffini, a leader in GOP new media, points out that in many ways, state and local campaign consultants are still doing business with that 20 year old method because they have built lucrative businesses based on commissions from offering those campaign methods.

Patrick goes on to suggest that a 21st Century plan with the simple goal of assembling 5,000 online activisits per targeted congressional district would create a foundation for eventual GOP takeover of the U.S. House. A similar plan could be used for targeted senate races.

SCGOP Chair race rumors

We would like to address several rumors about the Blogland and the ongoing race for state Chair, and head off any potential nasty fallout from what has been an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Normally, this matter might not be discussed openly, but since numerous calls and emails have come our way about the race made it clear that it has reached statewide, we wanted to address the matter here so that our readers are clear on the facts and that the matter can be put to rest:

  • We are not running for state GOP Chair or even state GOP Dogcatcher,

  • We did not offer our support to the first candidate willing to pick up our bar tab, and ...
We would like to address the many reports of conflicts between the campaign of a candidate for SCGOP Chair and yours truly. In the interests of ending the matter and avoidng further wasteful fighting and finger-pointing, as well as express our appreciation for the willingness to discuss the matter frankly and promptly, here is the sum total of what we will say on the matter:

1) The tensions had nothing to do with the candidate, or the leadership of that campaign, but rather a misunderstanding by someone not in a leadership capacity,

2) Any statements which may be attributed to the candidate or the candidate's supporters were influenced by statements which stemmed from the initial misunderstanding,

3) Apologies have been made and accepted all around,

4) We will NOT identify the individuals or campaign as the matter is over,

5) We would ask our readers to disregard anything we said over the last 48 hours - please understand we were rather irritated by the matter, and

6) The Blogland website, and yours truly as author, has not offered its support to a candidate and barring any exceptional or unusual circumstances, intends to remain publicly neutral in this race. Republican party members should be smart enough to seek out the candidates, consider the arguments and agendas they present and make their own decisions about the matter.

We would ask our readers to accept the information we have presented about this matter and move on to other matters and issues. The concerns expressed by Blogland readers are greatly appreciated and we thank them for bringing this matter to our attention, as well as the candidate and campaign in question, so that the matter could be resolved.

It is our desire that this race be conducted in as constructive and positive a manner as possible, so that the SCGOP can put together a strong team for the 2010 election cycle. As such, we are glad to inform our readers that the hatchet is officially buried and are confident that it will remain so.

My Zune ROCKS!

Recently, I decided that a good companion for my return to cycling was to pick up a Microsoft Zune player. Specifically the 120 gig model. I put my hundreds of CDs on there, comprising about 300 hours of music programming, and have a lot of room on there.

What I've made Ebaying CDs from my connection has paid back for the player, with plenty more unsold ... so yeah, Blogland readers can expect some giveaway contests real soon.

I'm sure nobody's going to be much surprised at the content of my player, but if you run into me in my car or on my bike, check it and maybe you'll be surprised ... or then again, maybe you won't.

Screw your loved ones - go buy one for yourself and enjoy.

Having fun today at the State House

After attending a labor law seminar at the Clarion in downtown Columbia this morning, yours truly stopped by the State House with Ken Privette, my company's HR director, to give him a little meet-and-greet tour of the State House.

We want to thank a few people for their hospitality during our visit and for helping Ken learn a little bit about how things (sometimes) work at the State House:

  • Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and Jim Miles, his Chief of Staff, along with several of their staff members,
  • Trey Walker with the S.C. Attorney General's Office,
  • Sammy Hendrix and Leslie Hope with Carolinas AGC,
  • Former Rep. Shirley Hinson, working for the College of Charleston these days,
  • Representatives Alan Clemmons (who was in a rather jublilant mood), Shannon Erickson, Anton Gunn, Chip Limehouse, David Umphlett and Annette Young.
  • We also want to thank Rep. Patsy Knight for taking a few mintues to chat with us, and Rep. Carl Gullick for giving us a short tour around the House.

This Saturday - Lowcountry GOP breakfast club to celebrate 7th annivesary


WHEN: Saturday, February 14th at 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Kelly’s BBQ restaurant, US 78, Summervile
CONTACT: Ron Turner, Chairman (843) 814-1805

Attorney General Henry McMaster, Secretary of State Mark Hammond, RNC National Committeeman Glenn McCall and Bryan Cox of the South Carolina Policy Council will lead an “all-star lineup” of state and Lowcountry public officials and policy activists who will lead a celebration of the 7th anniversary of the Lowcountry GOP Breakfast Club. Legislators, Republican party officials, and grass-roots organizations from across South Carolina will be participating in this special event.

For the last seven years, this organization has featured monthly meetings every second Saturday which have featured candidates, policy experts and grass-roots Republican party activists who have promoted candidacies and discussed current issues. Combined with an “open forum” question-and-answer session, the general public has been able to learn about important issues and express their concerns on these issues, as well as grill candidates for public office.

Past speakers have included each of the current GOP statewide office holders, including Governor Sanford, Congressman Henry Brown, Senator Jim DeMint, as well as many regional legislators and representatives from grassroots and policy advocacy organizations such as Gun Owners of America, Fair Tax, and the South Carolina Policy Council.

Breakfast is served for $6.50 per attendee, and the general public is cordially invited to attend, regardless of political affiliation.

RINO Millwood is right (this time)

Spartanburg County politics seems fertile ground for petty pissing matches that really amount to nothing. The feuding amongst Spartanburg County legislative delegation members is just the latest chapter in that county's ongoing drama.

Given the number of freshman legislators on the delegation, some turnover should have been expected, but it was surprising that freshman House member Joey Millwood became chair of the county's legislative delegation. To reach this office, Millwood worked with the county's Democratic Senator, Glenn Reese, a regular GOP target, to orchestrate the takeover of the delgation by four of it's eleven members.

The point of contention is the use of weighted voting to elect delegation officers. Since weighted voting is required to be used for some matters, it would make sense to use the same method of voting in all matters. But as is the norm in Spartanburg County politics, change is never without lots of fighting and controversy:

The rift has gotten increasingly personal and more complex. Much of the current tension has centered around appointments to area boards and commissions. Sanford’s office asked the current legislators to revisit appointments made in August by the previous incarnation of the legislative delegation.

Littlejohn and his allies plan to address those appointments tonight. Millwood’s group — the smaller of the two, but legislatively more powerful based on “weighted” votes that take into account the number of people each official represents — has already sent a list of 16 appointees to Columbia.

Friday, Sanford seated eight of those and spokesman Joel Sawyer said the other eight are pending.

- Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Not that we're opposed to bipartisanship, but the last time we looked, many in Millwood's crowd are fond of calling Republicans who work with Democrats RINOs. So while Millwood is the rightful winner of the crown on the Spartanburg delegation, in winning it, he has also rightfully earned RINO status.

Millwood, a political novice, may have been right, but we think a power play where one-third of the members use the rules to run over the other two-thirds is going to leave a sour taste in some people's mouths. We're sure those who got railroaded are - in the best Spartanburg political tradition - already plotting payback.

Payback, while it is often petty, is a bitch. Mr. Millwood will probably find it delivered when he leasts expects it. Until that time comes, we hope Representative Millwood enjoys his chairmanship and his newly-minted RINO status. He's worked hard to earn them both.

Representative Gullick helps level playing field for prosecutors

Representative Carl Gullick has been falsely maligned by shadowy third-party groups who, in their blind ambition, distorted his record on helping fight crime through his service in the General Assembly.

Not surprisingly, they failed to give Gullick credit for being an early and strong supporter of Ninth Circuit Court Judge Kristi "Handcuffs" Harrington. According to our sources inside the legal community, tales of her tough-as-nails approaches to sentencing have led to defense attorneys employing a number of tactics to keep her from hearing contested criminal trials.

Representative Gullick's latest step in burnishing his conservative credentials is House Bill 3020. His bill would erase a long-standing advantage for defense attorneys by allowing prosecutors an equal number of jury strikes as defense attorneys.

Gullick sponsored this legislation out of concern that "the current law gives defense attorneys an uneven playing field. I can't believe an unfair law like this was on the books in the first place."

This legislation came out of a meeting with Maite Murphy, a Summerville attorney and former First Circuit prosecutor, who approached Gullick about this problem and asked him to sponsor the legislation. According to Murphy:

The bill will level the playing field for Solicitors in jury selection, but I don't anticipate the Defense Bar will be too happy about it.

That's ok - we're often not very concerned with what the Defense Bar members think here in the Blogland.

Gullick's jury reform initiative addresses a problem which has been long overlooked. Support for this bill can help illustrate the difference between those legislators who are truly tough on crime, and those who are simply giving the issue lip service.

We hope legislators see the obvious need to enact this legislation and sign onto support Gullick's bill.

Judge Young says "goodbye" to Sleezie

In the Ninth Circuit, it seems a really bad time to be a big-time criminal. Recently, we wrote about how a defendant received life without parole from Judge Harrington, whose judicial candidacy we endorsed. Now, fellow Ninth Circuit Judge Roger Young, who we've also endorsed, sent Terrell "Sleezie Boy" McCoy to prison for the next fifty years, where he too will probably not see the outside world except for a trip in a hearse. McCoy's trial received a lot of attention due to his choice to fire his defense attorney and represent himself:

Circuit Judge Roger Young complimented McCoy's conduct in the courtroom but repeated his reservations that it was terribly wrong for McCoy — who never finished North Charleston High School but has a GED — to fire his attorney and run his murder defense solo.

"The mistakes I saw were mainly a matter of tactics and experience," Young told him.

On the police and evidence collection errors that McCoy, 29, focused on, Young told him "You were never able to turn that into any theory that helped you out."

Young gave McCoy 50 years without the possibility of parole, saying that no matter his courtroom skills he is still responsible for a senseless act of murder.

"The facts were not in your favor on this," Young said.

... neither was sanity, if you ask us.

Fifty years seems like a good sentence to us for what he did, but even more so for being stupid enough to represent himself in the courtroom.

2009 Blogland state Judicial endorsements

In the week coming up, legislators will be asked to make decisions about who should fill a number of judicial seats. In the last few weeks, these candidates have worked hard to introduce themselves to legislators and make their cases.

Several of these candidates took the time to talk with us and we appreciate the growing willingness by judges and judicial candidates to shed a little light into the judicial selection process, as well as the need to reach out to new media outlets, such as the Blogland, to help make their cases.

Having met with a number of good candidates, we decided to endorse some of the more outstanding ones:

Judge Jeff Young - At-large Circuit Court, Seat 1

Jeff Young is one of three candidates for this seat. His record of service as a legislator, in the U.S. Air Force, both active duty and reserve, as well as a Family Court judge, shows a well-rounded professional background of public service.

We agree with the screening commission members, who observed that:

Judge Young has an outstanding reputation as a Family Court Judge. They noted he is known for his common sense and his good temperament which would serve him well on the Circuit Court.

We would also like to point out that those looking for a law-and-order judge will likely find it in Young, who was the sponsor of the state's concealed-carry handgun law.

Judge Young's record of service is outstanding and he is the best qualified candidate to fill this seat.

Deborah Brooks Durden - Adminstrative Law Court, Seat 4

Administrative law may not be the most exciting kind of law, but it's crucial to the operation of the state. Someone who holds this seat needs to be able to understand the importance of the decisions this court makes, have a solid resume in the legal field, as well as experience with adminstrative law.

Durden's qualifications stand out above the other two candidates. She was also one of the first judicial candidates to reach out to us, signifying that she values the role new media outlets, such as this one, can play in educating the public about the judicial process.

Based upon what we've seen, we're not surprised that screening commission members found that:

Ms. Durden is enthusiastic and sincere about her desire to serve on the Administrative Law Court. The Commission also noted that Ms. Durden has excellent experience and is a hard worker which would serve her well on the court.

For these and other reasons, Durden has the unique background needed for this judicial seat and is best suited for the job.

Judge Roger Young - Ninth Circuit Court

Judge Young is unopposed, but we've been impressed with his intellect, temperament and willingness to reach out to new media outlets, as well as his great taste in BBQ.

We agree wholeheartedly with the finding of screening commission members that:

Judge Young is a dedicated, hard working, and exceptionally intelligent judge. They noted he has been a valuable asset to the Circuit Court bench for the past five years.

We hope that a vote is called for this seat so this guy can win it in a well-deserved landslide.

State House freshmen demand answers from SC DSS

In recent weeks, the operation of SC DSS has come under fire on this blog, as well as Voting Under The Influence. But it's not just us new media types who are asking questions.

We were tipped off about a meeting which took place the day after we wrote about the problems at SC DSS where Representative Tom Young and other House freshman legislators met with SC DSS Director Kathleen Hayes to discuss concerns with the agency's operations. In the meeting with Hayes and other DSS staff members were Representatives Bruce Bannister, Boyd Brown, Joe Danning, Shannon Erickson, Anton Gunn, George Hearn, Jenny Horne, Tommy Stringer, and Bill Wylie.

Along with Hayes & a host of DSS support staff, the timeline of the numerous problems, the seemingly poor coordination between the Governor's Chief Procurement Office, DSS, and the feds. It was made clear that the mounting cost of fines upon taxpayers was unacceptable.

Dr. Hayes explained that South Carolina was the only state yet to meet this federal mandate. She also said DSS was working with State & Federal officials to petition the feds to forgo additional fines - so long as progress was being made towards compliance.

Legislative commentary in that meeting included:

  • Rep. Tommy Stringer said that he had "no sympathy" for their plight.
  • Rep. Shannon Erickson expounded that if her small business had not met mandates like this it would not have had the endless pockets of the taxpayer funds to keep bailing & did not support requests for fine abatement due to our state's incompetence.
  • Rep. Boyd Brown admonished DSS for using Gov. Sanford & other Republicans to "get attention from the new administration" and promoted Congressman Clyburn as the effective person in SC's delegation.
  • Rep. Anton Gunn commented that he’d been present in DSS system update meetings for many years & that reports were “piece-meal”- and did not give a whole or clear picture of this issue.
  • Several Freshmen House members raised questions about the state’s auditing procedures and plan to look into that area in an effort to improve the state’s use of its fiscal resources.

Those we've spoken with give Dr. Hayes credit for taking responsibility for working to resolve the long-standing situation, which was well underway before she became director two years ago.

A rep from the EDS/Saber Co. said it was taking a lot of extra work to transition to the federally-compliant system from the state's current child support collection system, which reportedly is vastly different than any other states. Several of those in attendance asked if it would be possible to change how payments were being handled to fit an already existing system instead of developing a new system from scratch.

It was admitted that the system is not scheduled to be operational until 2011, and the state will face annual penalties of about $30 million in fines during that time.

Rep. Young confirmed that he was there and had called for the meeting:

Because the failure to install the system timely has cost our state $63.18 Million in penalties (all paid from the general fund) to date with another $30 Million expected to be paid through fiscal year 2011, I wanted to learn more about why this happened; what can be done to fix the current problem if anything; and what can be done to ensure that such waste and mismanagement of resources does not take place again. The meeting was helpful in providing us insight and our Freshmen Caucus plans to work together to address the inefficiencies in state government that caused this so that it does not happen again.

When contacted for comment, Representative Erickson also acknowledged that she'd been in the meeting, as well offering her concerns about the situation:

There was communication breakdown to the ultimate degree and that our procurement code needs attention. Having DSS not comply in this circumstance is negligence to the taxpayers of our state. I own child development centers licensed by DSS, if they mandated changes in our requirements and I didn’t comply for 10 years, or even 2 years, they’d have shut me down. There would have been no negotiations, in fact, absolutely no tolerance for non-compliance. They should practice what they preach and we should help them to develop the tools to do so.

As we've said before, the large size of the House freshman caucus gives them the rare opportunity for freshmen to stand up and be counted. The DSS meeting is a sign that this group isn't afraid to make their presence known in the State House, which we think is a great thing. We hope to see more of them in the future.

Judicial candidate interview - Deborah Brooks Durden, Administrative Law, Seat 4

As we did last year, judicial candidates were invited to do interviews. While a lot of candidates didn't choose to participate, several did. We've met Ms. Brooks several times out and about and she eagerly accepted our invitiation to help introduce her to our readers:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a native South Carolinian and a graduate of Spring Valley High School, Columbia College, and the University of South Carolina School of Law. I’ve been practicing law since 1991. During that time I have worked at a large insurance defense firm in Anchorage, Alaska, a small Columbia firm representing plaintiffs in employment and tort litigation, and I have been Assistant Chief Counsel at the South Carolina Department of Transportation for eleven years. I am married to my best friend, Kevin Durden, and we are blessed with three children – Jamie (age 13), Susan (age 12) and Angela Jane (age 5). We are active members of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Why are you seeking a judicial post?

I am seeking a seat as an Administrative Law Judge because it is the job that I believe I am called to do and one that I believe I would excel at. I have been interested in being a judge ever since I attended law school because it is an aspect of the law that really appeals to my personality. I am one of those rare and quirky individuals who will read the instruction manual before I play a new game or use a new product -- just as a judge must make sure she understands the law before she tries to decide the case.

What particular strong points would you bring to this office?

Experience: I believe that I have excellent experience in the areas of law that come before an Administrative Law Court and that I am prepared to be a fair and impartial judge to the parties that come before the Court. I have extensive experience handling contested cases before the court in several different types of matters (environmental permitting, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certifications, and relocation assistance benefits). I have been responsible for guiding all regulations promulgated by SCDOT for the last 11 years through the same process applied in hearings held by the Administrative Law Court. From SCDOT condemnation cases I have gained experience dealing with issues related to real property appraisals similar to those that are presented in many of the property tax disputes that come before the court. Perhaps most importantly, I have considerable expertise in statutory and regulatory interpretation developed by 9 years’ experience as legislative liaison for SCDOT. In that role I draft and review legislation and amendments proposed in the South Carolina legislature and give legal opinions on the likely judicial interpretations of legislative proposals.

Discernment and good judgment: My legal experiences have taught me that there are two sides to every story. When I was a young lawyer clerking for a judge, I was evaluating a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order in a family court matter. I read the motion and ran to Judge Reese to recommend that he grant the ex parte order immediately in light of the horrible allegations made by the plaintiff. Judge Reese listened to my impassioned speech and replied calmly, “Let’s set it up for a hearing right away. We need to hear the other side of the story first. Normally Mother Teresa does not marry Jack the Ripper.” We did just that, and when I heard the other side of the story I learned to reserve judgment until all the facts are known. It is a lesson I have taken to heart and a skill I have honed in the years since that day. The practice of law at its heart is the art of dispute resolution. To promote real resolution, I have learned that it is important for all parties to know that their story has been heard whether they are the first or the last to speak.

What are the most important qualities and strengths that a judge should have?

Strong skills in legal analysis and writing. I believe I have the intellectual ability to understand the fine points of the law, to focus on the most important issues necessary to decide a case, and to clearly and concisely communicate the court’s decision in a written order.

A broad range of life and legal experience to give a balanced understanding of the types of issues that come before the court. This is especially true in the Administrative Law Court where all the cases are tried by the judge without a jury.

A patient and kind manner coupled with a firm insistence that litigants in the courtroom behave appropriately. A day in court is of paramount importance to the parties and their attorneys. It is important that everyone in the courtroom be treated with dignity and respect by the judge and other individuals in the courtroom.

What issues about our state’s courts concern you the most?

I’m concerned about crowded court dockets and the length of time that it takes for some types of matters to be heard. I believe that each judge has a duty to diligently work the docket in the court to try to handle matters as efficiently as possible.

How have your life experiences influenced the type of judge you plan to be?

Time spent in and outside South Carolina has influenced my perspective.

I believe that all leaders, whether they are judges or political, religious or civic leaders, must truly be a part of the community they serve in order to be effective. I am a native South Carolinian and have an understanding of our state and its social and political climate that can come only from being born and raised here. However, I spent my first three years of law practice in Anchorage, Alaska where I gained both valuable legal experience and a new perspective on regional social customs and people’s behavior. It was interesting to observe how some things are fundamentally the same even when they are so different on the surface. Spending time away from my home state gave me an opportunity to broaden my horizons as well as a new understanding and appreciation for the legal community here in South Carolina. During that time I learned first-hand that things are done very differently in other places and that there are both advantages and disadvantages to all those different practices. It gave me a new perspective and understanding that has been very valuable to me personally, and I believe it will be especially useful in promoting the discerning spirit that is the hallmark of a good judge.

Happy Birthday to me

I turn 38 today. Happy Birthday to me.

Instead of getting egg on my face today, I'll think try cake instead.

Much better.

I'll be in Columbia this afternoon at the Underground Utilities Coordination Legislative Task Force gathering. We'll be meeting at the AT&T building on Huger Street at 1pm. If these kinds of issues excite you, then please come and join us.

DSS problems challenge the credibility of Sanford's restructuring agenda

For the six years, Governor Sanford has engaged in considerable political posturing over the issue of restructuring. However, in looking at the part of state government which is already under his control, one has to wonder if Sanford can be trusted with control over any part of state government.

One example is the state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, which some jokingly refer to as “PRT – Prosser’s Rarely There”, referring to Chad Prosser, the agency’s director. Another is the Department of Corrections, an agency which has long been ignored, underfunded and understaffed, especially during Sanford’s tenure, creating unmanageable conditions which have become the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits.

The worst example of Sanford’s “do as I say, not what I do” approach to governance has been DSS, where the failures are counted in the lives (and sometimes deaths) of children who have been let down by this poorly-run agency. When twenty-nine month old Samuri Hayes died in DSS custody,
some asked why Sanford was silent about the problems in the agency.

During the trial of the former DSS Finance Director, along with seven co-conspirators, questions have been raised about the financial accountability of that agency. Strangely, Sanford, who is usually all about "accountability" has rebuffed calls for investigations into the agency.

But there's even more hypocrisy in how DSS is being mismanaged under this administration. Reports indicate that the state lags far behind the rest of the nation in child support collections. According to the
ACES website, South Carolina's collection rate was only 44% of child support due, lagging far behind the national average of 53% - roughly 25% worse than the national average.

This is due in part to the failure of DSS to modernize its child support system. California and South Carolina were the only two states to not meet new federal standards, for which the feds were providing funding. As a result, the South Carolina agency was penalized $47 million - about one-tenth of last year's budget shortfall which Sanford complained about. We've been told by legislators that another $30 million in penalties may be levied before South Carolina's system can be made compliant.

Instead of trying better manage his part of state government and avoiding these fines by demanding DSS meet higher standards, Sanford, who loves to rant about frivolous lawsuits, responded by filing a frivilous lawsuit of his own to avoid being held accountable by the feds.

When children are dying, millions of dollars are being stolen and tens of millions are being lost in unnecessary penalties, the Governor's silence is puzzling indeed. If this was taking place in some part of state government that was not under the Governor, every resident of the Riverbanks Zoo would be likely be under imminent threat of abduction for use in press conferences to lambast the guilty parties.

The ongoing problems at SC DSS serve as yet another example of the difference between the often-empty rhetoric and craven political thuggery that has defined much of the Sanford administration and the real reform-oriented leadership that this state desperately needs.

Carolinas AGC reception tonight - be there

This is just a friendly reminder to legislators and staff that the annual legislative reception tonight at the Koger Center from 6 to 8 p.m. Leslie, Sammy, Allen and a lot of others have worked really hard to make sure this is a great event for all who attend, so we know you won't be disappointed.

While we think listening to the concerns of business leaders from any industry is important, since the construction industry pays the bills for the Blogland, it's especially important to us that legislators hear our concerns.

As the current economic slump has hit this industry especially hard, with up to half its workforce statewide laid off over the last 18 months, we in the construction industry are understandably concerned about where things are headed.

We hope to see all of you there.

The last judge you'll want to mess with

Nearing the end of her first year on the bench, Ninth Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington is continuing to earn the nickname that some in the state's legal community have given her - "Handcuffs Harrington".

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Mr. George Salisbury, who attacked a female prison guard with a shank while serving 15 years at McDougall prison in Berkeley County, was given life without parole after a week-long trial in Harrington's court:

Salisbury started serving a 15-year sentence in March 2001 for criminal sexual conduct with a minor, a crime that was committed in Berkeley County. He was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault on a correctional officer, and taking of a hostage by an inmate. He was sentenced to life without parole by Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington. The life sentence won't kick in until after the assault on the minor sentence ends, around 2015.

The next time George Salisbury leaves prison, it will be in the back of a hearse - to which we say ood riddance to bad rubbish. Having someone like this removed from society so swiftly (the trial took under a week) also supports her right to hold the nickname which blogger Will Folks gave her - "Wonder Woman".

We hope legislators will elect more no-nonsense law-and-order judges like Harrington in the upcoming judicial elections.

In a surprising twist, the female guard's life may well have been saved by the actions of prisoners, who put themselves in harm's way to stop the attack and rescue the guard:

As the attack was going on and the officer screamed for help, at least three other inmates in the dormitory broke into the locked control room area to help the officer and subdue the man.

Ninth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Bryan Alfaro said the inmates broke windows and removed a door to get to the attacker, and helped carry the guard away to protect her.

"It really could have gotten horribly bad," Alfaro said.

Two of the inmates testified against Salisbury during his trial this week inside the Berkeley County Courthouse. Their contribution was significant because "it corroborated her version of events," Alfaro said.

We certainly hope that this good deed counts towards good-behavior credit for those inmates.