Friday, November 6, 2009

New From South Carolina

The South Carolina Supreme Court has denied relief to Governor Mark Sanford and the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives in an appeal over the confidentiality of an ethics probe. The court describes the procedural posture:

On September 30, 2009, Governor Sanford petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the [State Ethics] Commission to comply with the statute and regulations regarding confidentiality of Commission proceedings.  More specifically, the Governor requested that the Commission not be permitted to publicly disseminate any investigatory reports or other information about this investigation.  The Commission filed a return in opposition to the Governor’s petition for a writ of mandamus. 

Robert W. Harrell, Jr., Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, then filed a motion to intervene in the Governor’s action.  We granted that motion, and the Speaker filed a return in opposition to the Governor’s petition.  In addition, Speaker Harrell filed his own petition for a writ of mandamus in the Court’s original jurisdiction.  The Speaker asked the Court to direct the Commission to issue “its investigation materials and information to the House of Representatives” because the House is “the sole prosecuting authority for purposes of impeachment.”  The Commission filed a return in opposition to the Speaker’s petition.  The Governor sought to intervene in the Speaker’s action; we granted that request.

Because of the exigencies related to the case, we agreed to entertain this matter in the Court’s original jurisdiction, on an expedited basis, and heard oral arguments of the parties on October 19, 2009.  On October 21, 2009, we issued an order requesting additional materials and briefs from the parties on the issue of waiver.  With that briefing now complete, the matter is ripe for our decision.

The court holds that the Governor has available legal avenues to assert his contentions and that injunctive relief is not appropriate. (Mike Frisch)

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