jump to navigation

FITSNews Exclusive – “Supreme Courting” May 2, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
trackback

blind justice

HOW POTENTIALLY UNETHICAL LEGISLATIVE DEAL-MAKING COULD BE TAINTING JUDICIAL SELECTION PROCESS

FITSNews – May 2, 2007 – Sources tell FITSNews that three powerful House Republican leaders have personally injected themselves into the S.C. Supreme Court selection process on behalf of a former Democratic legislator, creating alleged entanglements that could stretch the limits of legal and ethical legislative conduct.

In supporting the candidacy of S.C. Court of Appeals Judge Donald W. Beatty to fill a rare open seat on the Supreme Court, these legislators are facing harsh criticism from GOP party activists, leaders in the business community and social conservatives alike.

The brewing firestorm has also resulted in questions concerning the motivations that these three Republicans may have for supporting the elevation of a Democrat to South Carolina’s highest court. Here is what FITSNews has been able to uncover:

According to our sources, House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper, Labor Commerce & Industry Chairman Harry Cato and former Majority Leader Annette Young have rallied around the candidacy of Beatty, a former Democratic legislator from Spartanburg who conservatives say has a liberal voting history and a less-than-stellar report card from the S.C Bar Association.

Beatty, one of three candidates for the bench to emerge from a recent judicial screening process, was apparently integral in helping Republicans take control of the S.C. House of Representatives during the reapportionment debate back in the early 1990’s. The final reapportionment deal, which expanded black representation and created a Republican majority in the House of Representatives (at the expense of white Democrats) hinged on a number of tradeoffs with the Legislative Black Caucus, one of which was Beatty’s eventual confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, sources say.

Fast-forward to this year, when Republican in-fighting in the House has reached such a fever pitch that challenges to the leadership of Speaker Bobby Harrell are becoming less thinly-veiled with each passing day.

Sources say one would-be challenger, LCI Chairman Harry Cato, is already rallying support inside the House Chamber for a run at the Speaker’s chair – and using Beatty’s candidacy to do so despite the fact that the judge received the lowest marks among all Supreme Court prospects for “fair and effective settlement scores” and “absence of favoritism” according to recent reviews conducted by the S.C. Bar.

“Cato needs the Black Caucus for his bid to become Speaker to be successful,” said one top GOP House staffer who spoke with FITSNews on the condition of anonymity. “If someone thinks for one second there is some other reason for his support of such an unqualified candidate, they are incredibly gullible about this process.”

But the support of the Black Caucus for a Cato Speakership isn’t the only backroom deal that’s been cut regarding Beatty’s candidacy, according to those familiar with all the insider wheeling and dealing at the State House.

Rep. Annette Young, who sources say was a vigorous behind the scenes advocate for Summerville Judge Diane Goodstein prior to Goodstein’s failure to make the judicial screening cut, is rumored to have joined forces with Cato in support of Beatty under the condition that Goodstein receive the next vacant seat on the high court. In fact, both Young and fellow Beatty supporter Dan Cooper are said to be cozying up to Cato given his impending run for the Speaker’s chair.

“It’s an unholy Trinity,” said one of South Carolina’s top business lobbyists. “How else do you explain three Republicans throwing their weight behind a liberal black Democrat?”

Rep. Young’s involvement has also aroused suspicion given the fact that she is currently on the payroll of Judge Goodstein’s husband, former State Representative and Transportation Commissioner Arnold Goodstein.

“Annette Young is the vice president of the Goodstein residential building company down here,” said Joe Kress, a Dorchester County taxpayer advocate and one of Rep. Young’s constituents. “What’s she trying to do? Ingratiate herself with these guys so they will help get Goodstein on the court? When her employer’s wife is a candidate, I just wonder why she would agree to a deal that now has her supporting the least qualified candidate.”

Some State House insiders are already referring to the brewing scandal as “Beattygate,” particularly in light of the possibility that certain House members may have been lobbying for specific candidates when they shouldn’t have been. State law specifically prohibits the solicition or commitment of a vote from a legislator regarding Supreme Court appointments prior to the release of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission‘s screening report. Violators of the law can face fines of up to $1000 and up to 90 days in prison.

Rep. Young did not return phone calls from FITSNews seeking comment regarding her association with Goodstein’s company or allegations that she has agreed to support Beatty as a quid pro quo on behalf of Judge Goodstein.

Earlier this week, longtime Republican activist and former GOP Executive Committeeman Rusty DePass sent a letter to legislators sternly rebuking Beatty’s candidacy.

“My understanding is that some of you may be planning to vote for Don Beatty for the State Supreme Court and I want to urge you in the strongest terms NOT to do so,” DePass wrote in the letter. “If you will read the lawyer responses from the S.C. Bar survey and the information compiled by the S.C. Policy Council, you can see he does not have a good judicial temperament nor is he particularly gifted intellectually.”

DePass added that “altruism toward the Republicans in the legislature was hardly the motivation when Beatty helped with the reapportionment plan that allowed the Republican takeover in 1994. Clearly the black caucus and the Republicans had a common goal which worked to the advantage of both, and Beatty has been rewarded—handsomely—for what he did. In fact, he’s been excessively rewarded.”

Beatty’s candidacy has also ruffled the feathers of the Palmetto Family Council, a social conservative educational foundation based in Columbia, S.C. This week, Palmetto Family Council President Oran P. Smith sent out a “Judicial E-Alert” criticizing Beatty’s positions on a number of hot button social conservative issues.

“As we’ve reviewed their records, it appears that two of the three candidates for South Carolina Supreme Court, Don Beatty and Kay Hearn, are outside of South Carolina’s mainstream,” Smith wrote in the E-Alert. “As a member of the State House, Don Beatty voted for gay rights (1993), against school choice (1995), against concealed carry permits (1995) and for lowering the standards for selecting qualified judges (1996).”

Legislators are scheduled to vote on the next Supreme Court Justice on May 23.

Stay tuned to FITSNews for more on “Beattygate” and related developments …

Advertisements

Comments»

1. Laurin Manning - May 3, 2007

It is positively absurd that our state’s legislative branch unilaterally chooses who sits on the state’s highest court. This is yet another reason why we need to overhaul the structure of our state government.

The amount of power the SC General Assembly wields is ridiculous. Unfortunately, since it’s in the legislature’s hands to effect such change, it won’t happen without major grassroots pressure.

What happened to Sanford’s leftover campaign cash that was supposed to be used to drum up support for a structural overhaul in state government?

2. RINO Buster - May 3, 2007

Laurin, Sanford’s cash is ready to start flowing. He’s just getting all his ducks in a row. I do agree with you on our General Assembly, it’s time to take back what is ours and get rid of the bastards that want to run their own ship.

3. Craig - May 3, 2007

Somebody remind me again why the public election of judges is such a bad idea????

I mean even the hardest core elitists would have to admit that the SC public couldn’t do worse than those knuckleheads in the Gen Assy at picking judges.

4. E - May 3, 2007

Apparently the ability to mill about the statehouse and shake hands in the parking garage makes one a qualified judge. This is just a perfect example of how underqualified and inappropriate judges are placed on the bench.

5. Scott - May 3, 2007

Craig:

There are a myriad of reasons why elections for the judiciary (either partisan or non-partisan) are a bad idea, even if they have public funding (the “duh” argument against election without public funding is obvious: judges may be required to rule on cases affecting companies from whom they have taken campaign contributions via that company’s PAC).

Our legislative election method is a poster child for how a judiciary shouldn’t be selected as well.

I personally favor some variant of the “Merit Plan” aka the “Missouri Plan” where a (hopefully non-partisan!) commission with representatives from several groups including the sitting judiciary, the Bar for that state, and citizens nominate three or more candidates to the governor. The governor then appoints one of the candidates nominated by the commission. After a minimum of a year on the bench, there is a retention election where the citizens may vote that judge off of the bench. If they are left on the bench, they would still be removable by impeachment (or whatever other restriction, such as age, that the state chose to impose).

eh…that my $.02

6. No Respect? « FITSNews For Now - May 4, 2007

[…] McConnell specifically referenced our post on the current legislative controversy surrounding the Supreme Court selection process. […]

7. Somethhing big is brewing in Blogworld so I thought I'd post something favorable about Will Folks « the gravy train - May 4, 2007

[…] not say.  That is censorship.  They then began talking about Will Folk’s FITSnews post on Beattygate.  Are the members of the General Assembly afraid that a blogger has exposed the way that judicial […]

8. Scott - May 4, 2007

I am so glad that FITS NEWS blew the whistle on this particular issue. I’m also pleased that other groups are sounding the clarion call to their supporters urging action against the judicial activism of Beatty and Hearn.

9. billy joe jimbob - May 4, 2007

First of all, Annette Young is a drunk. Secondly, Dan Cooper ain’t no Republican. Harry Cato? What the hell?

Politicians are in it for themselves not the constituents they are supposed to serve. Politics suck. the people get screwed.

10. believeitnot - May 6, 2007

Why in the world would any reasonable person pay any attention to this foolish rumormonger? Fired by the governor, convicted of criminal domestic violence, fired by schotline.com (which is now oddly enough hosting a link to this so called news story) and the author of a new rumor claiming some midlands elected official has a “Strom” problem.

Please join the crowd demanding an answer. Enquiring minds want to know: who is the mystery elected official?

Or, is that story just another of sic(k) willie’s made up rumors?

Tune in next week when sic(k) willie tells us about the monsters under his bed who are eating all of his dust bunnies.

11. Ryan Castle - May 7, 2007

In an effort to be fair and balanced from all sides, Young did respond to the Summerville Journal-Scene when asked about this posting. She said, “There is absolutely no truth to the accusations…If you believe Will Folks, you need to see a doctor.”

12. you know I'm right - May 7, 2007

As a result of fitsnews.com’s dubious reputation for veracity, I thought it prudent to look into these allegations for myself. The sourse of negative allegations should always be considered. Their motivation questioned.

In this case the allegations are misrepresentations and are flat out lies. The idea that Don Beatty made a deal back in 1994 to put him on the Supreme Court is flat out stupid and preposterous. You are truly dumb beyond naive if you believe politicians’ or anyone else’s loyalty, memory and graditude last that long. Moreover, there was an open seat on the Supreme Court in 2000 so why would he wait until now?

Fitsnews.com misrepresented Beatty’s legislative record. Why? Beatty left the legislature in 1995. How could he lower the quality of judges in 1996? It simply couldn’t have and didn’t happen. Fitsnews, you lose credibility when you print false information that is obviously public knowledge. Who is your source? As for supporting gay rights, a review of of the house journals during the time that Beatty was in the legislature reveals that no such gay rights legislation was even considered at that time. In 1994 H3569 and H3649 were taken up by the House. These bills prohibited gays from joining the National Guard and adopting children. The roll call votes show that Beatty did not vote on these bills. As for school choice, Beatty again never voted for or against it because it was not an issue in the early 90’s. Finally, contrary to your allegations, Beatty did vote for the concealed weapons permit bill.

For an objective view of Beatty’s qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court I reviewed the legilative report of the Judicial Merit Selections Committee. I found it informative and positive. I suggest that you read it and ask Rick Q. and the boys to do so as well. It also appears that Beatty receiced 9 of 10 votes cast by the committe, your candidate received only six.

13. fitsnews - May 7, 2007

Dear “YouKnowI’mRight,”

Thank you for your comment. We are sure Chairman Cato, Rep. Young and Chairman Cooper will appreciate it as well.

As to its substance, we would encourage you to take up your points with the folks at the Palmetto Family Council, as every “mistake” you reference in our story came not from our reporting, but rather from a quote provided for the story by that organization.

In case you are unfamiliar with quotation marks, they look like this – ” – and this – “. And the stuff between them is called a quote.

And for the record, we don’t have a “candidate” (notice quotation marks) for the Supreme Court.

-FITSNews

14. Who's The Local Hero Now? « FITSNews For Now - May 8, 2007

[…] – May 8, 2007 – While State Rep. Annette Young is up in Columbia allegedly cutting illegal Supreme Court deals on behalf of her employer’s wife, our very own Sic Willie is helping meet the needs of hungry […]

15. suspicious - May 9, 2007

Is this blog is a smear campaign prompted and encouraged by another potential candidate for the Supreme Court? Why are these fabrications even relevant if not? It is expressly unethical for a candidate to campaign for the bench in most circumstances according to Rule 5(B)(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Further, it is unethical for a member of the bench to be involved in a smear campaign, especially in their own election pursuant to Rule 5(A)(3)(a)(iii). Even further, the common law of liable recognizes civil liability, even in the case for public officials, where elements of a smear campaign are untrue and designed with a malicious intent. Having the legislature elect judges is intended to protect judicial independence, detering the “dog and pony” aspect of politics from overpowering the quest for determining the most qualified candidates. It is surprising that anyone who fights judicial activism would support the public election of judges. In public elections judges run on platforms. I ask, how could a platform be relevant if a judge is truly a neutral, independant in his/her interpretation of the law?

16. suspicious - May 9, 2007

I’m considering filing a civil action with tax payer standing and subpoenaing you for any all receipts of payment, in kind or otherwise, taken from any candidate for the S.C. Supreme Court or any other documents relating to a connection between this blog and such a candiate tending to show that a smear campaign was prompted or encouraged by a candidate for that seat. What would I find? What motivates “gun for hire” political consultants to smear. Maybe we’ll just find out.

17. fitsnews - May 9, 2007

Dear “Suspicious,”

Bring it on. We’ve got nothing to hide here. Frankly, we could give a monkey’s left nut about who wins or loses the Supreme Court race. What we care about is elected officials who may have violated the law in advocating their candidacies.

One other thing: Our lawyers from time to time have been known to eat their young, which means that upon dismissal of your suit, we will quite simply own your ass.

So go ahead, make our day.

-FITSNews

18. suspicious - May 9, 2007

Fancy proposition in the name of simplicity. Its pretty obvious that you have more faith in your lawyers than knowledge of the law but I commend you on your alleged motive to root out elected officials who may have violated the law in advocating their candidacies. If that is truly your purpose, we share the same goal. So are you willing to publically attest on your blog that you are not involved in a smear campaign to elect Judge H. Bruce Williams to the Supreme Court?

19. Sleepless In Columbia - May 9, 2007

Does anyone know the name of the lawyer who approved the “Urgent Action Alert” for South Carolinians for Responsible Government? I was told a lawyer approved it.

20. Sleepless In Columbia - May 9, 2007

That is, the “Urgent Action Alert” that draws some questionable conclusions about 2 candidates only and tries to call them “liberal”?

21. Don't Blame Us, Judge Beatty « FITSNews For Now - May 10, 2007

[…] Supreme Court fight, nor does Sic Willie or any of his clients. Our primary interest in writing a recent blog that touched on his candidacy for the state’s highest court was to expose allegations of […]

22. Sleepless In Columbia - May 10, 2007

The Palmetto Family Alliance should check out State v. Gentile. http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/displayOpinion.cfm.caseNo=4244.

I wonder how the AG’s office and Charleston Solicitor feel about this reversal? Doesn’t seem very “conservative” after all.

23. suspicious - May 10, 2007

Sometimes the interpretation of the Constitution yields a “liberal” result when you have sloppy cops. In many occassions, the constitution wouldn’t call for the suppression of evidence if the police were cognizant of how to constitutionally go about a search. In any event, its not necessarily “liberal” or “activism” to supress evidence. Just because a search yields drugs does not mean that the lending search is constitutional. If this were the case, then police could have the unfettered right to search anyone, whenever and prosecute when something illegal is found. On the other hand it is important in a lot of circumstances that the police be able to conduct a search. That being said, the law balances one’s privacy rights with the gov’t interest of police powers. Enter the concept of probable cause. “Probable cause” is somewhat of a liquid concept but it has been heavily examined and therefore placed within the context of thousands of factual scenarios and ruled on by inquiring minds. In the hierachy of courts a lower court is bound by the precedent of controlling courts. In this arena, the Court of Appeals is controlled by the S.C. Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Again, if a controlling court issues a “liberal” opinion, then a lesser court is bound to it. So determining whether a judge has a tendency to be liberal is not quite as simple as most people like to assume. Further, its important to note that while Beatty wrote State v. Gentile, Bruce(the “conservative” judge) Williams signed on to it. So I can only infer that Sleepless is a Hearn fan who isn’t beneath slinging a little mud, which is certainly Sleepless’ right. Maybe I’m overthinking this. Am I?

24. Sleepless In Columbia - May 10, 2007

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I actually like the opinion. It’s unfortunate, though, that “South Carolinians for Responsible Government” and “Palmetto Family Alliance” insist on using “conservative” and “liberal” labels when labels don’t mean anything after all, or use cases to pigeonhole judges unfairly. The intent of my previous post was misunderstood. Sorry about that.

25. Saturday Trade Talk « FITSNews For Now - May 12, 2007

[…] News was busy this morning picking up the pieces from the recent smart bomb we dropped on South Carolina’s Supreme Court race, we spent our Saturday morning mortgaging the future of our fantasy baseball squad on Florida […]

26. Disenchanted - May 14, 2007

I don’t feel that Williams is the lesser of two evils. It would be a terrible injustice to the children and families of this State for him to be on the Supreme Court, bad enough that he is on the Court of Appeals.
Williams as a former Family Court Judge has demonstrated a bias to support and defend the decisions of Family Court Judges, even when those decisions are clearly “an abuse of discretion”, to the detriment of the lives of the children and families affected by his “opinions”.
In my opinion, Williams should not be on the bench at all.

27. yep - May 15, 2007

And, to add to Disenchanted’s comment, people who work with Williams say that he’s pretty much clueless about anything other than family law. So, he has exhibited a personal motive to imprudently uphold family court judges (he empathizes with them because he used to be one), and in the areas where he has no motive, he has very little experience. EEsshh…. I’m a conservative but I’m not stupid. I think the G’ville News recent article helps, along with this blog post, prompts people to take their eyes off the ball. No question there is politics involved in every aspect of this, but isn’t the real quest to find the most qualified person? Williams saw an opportunity that no one else saw– to run as the conservative– and I guess we can’t blame him for that but that doesn’t mean he should be elected.

28. Beattygate Expands « FITSNews For Now - May 19, 2007

[…] – May 17, 2007 – Ever since we published our original article a little over two weeks ago about potential illegalities in the S.C. Supreme Court election […]

29. For the Record « the gravy train - May 19, 2007

[…] could not say.  That is censorship.  They then began talking about Will Folk’s FITSnews post on Beattygate.  Are the members of the General Assembly afraid that a blogger has exposed the way that judicial […]

30. Beattygate Just Won't Quit « FITSNews For Now - May 21, 2007

[…] could come down to a single vote. Critics allege that the process leading up to this point has been rife with scandal, replete with favor-trading and has even included some some misdirected venom aimed at […]

31. Rats At The State House? « FITSNews For Now - May 22, 2007

[…] the same day that the President of the S.C. Bar warned legislators about the illegality of vote trading in the current S.C. Supreme Court election, FITSNews has been informed that at least one State […]

32. More Beattygate Shiestering « FITSNews For Now - October 24, 2007

[…] October 24, 2007 – We’ve known that Dorchester County was a political cesspool ever since the Beattygate scandal rocked South Carolina politics earlier this year, but the corrupt little Lowcountry clique of State […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: