SC Supreme Court holds off on docket changes as lawmakers debate

astice@islandpacket.comFebruary 5, 2013 

Prosecutors have the power to schedule cases for trial in South Carolina, but the debate over who should control the docket continues.

State lawmakers are expected to take up a bill today that supports giving prosecutors the authority to call cases to court, with a few changes.

Local prosecutors throughout the state have long decided when to call cases to court. South Carolina is one of just a few states that gives prosecutors that power.

In November, the state Supreme Court <ruled that the current system is unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers.

The order was hailed by public defenders, who said it could lead to speedier trials.

But the state Solicitor’s Association strongly opposed it. After the association challenged the order, the high court instead opted to create a panel to study the best way to manage the state’s court calendars.

For now, the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office led by Duffie Stone continues to preside over the docket locally. Stone said he thinks that’s the best way, and that there are checks and balances in the system to prevent abuse of that power.

David Pascoe, the head of the state Solicitor’s Association, said he is working with the General Assembly on the new bill to guarantee that authority going forward.

Check back with the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette later today for more updates, and follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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