Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform.

“Hand-picked by politicians, some magistrates were found to have accepted bribes, stolen money, flubbed trials, trampled over constitutional protections and mishandled even the most basic elements of criminal cases.

And though they handle hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor and civil cases every year, roughly three-quarters of the state’s magistrates have never practiced law in their life, the investigation found.”

“The investigation found that a flaw in the application process removed a requirement for magistrates to disclose if they have been disciplined for misconduct by the state’s judicial watchdog. A dozen sitting judges with prior ethics offenses skated through their last reappointment, no questions asked, the investigation found.”

“Magistrates are the busiest judges in the state. They sit in judgment on cases involving petty thefts, drunken driving, domestic violence, assaults and disorderly conduct. They also issue arrest warrants, set bail, preside over trials and conduct preliminary hearings to assess if there is sufficient probable cause to support felony charges such as murder, rape and robbery.

Yet the news organizations’ investigation found that most magistrates are not lawyers and could not represent someone in a court of law — yet they preside over them.

Davis has stressed that the state must bolster its legal qualifications for all magistrates. Though he has not proposed details, he would at least increase their mandatory legal training from the current minimum of 57 1/2 hours.

By comparison, South Carolina is stricter with its barbers: Their training school mandates 1,500 hours.”