April 4, 2012 South Carolina published opinions

Supreme Court

South Carolina Department of Revenue v. Blue Moon

Blue Moon served liquor as a nonprofit private club under a license. An undercover officer attempted to gain entrance and was denied. He called a number posted o the outer wall and the manager allowed him in. Blue Moon was cited for allowing a non bona fide guest to enter and drink in violation of the applicable administrative rules and their license was revoked. The administrative law court dismissed the citation and restored the license on the basis that the plain meaning of the regulation allowed strangers to get management permission. The Court of Appeals reversed, 2-1, on the grounds that allowing a stranger with no connection to a member or the nonprofit would eviscerate the rule. The Supreme Court, 3-2, reversed agreeing with the administrate law judge that the plain language allowed management to authorize entry and this outcome was not absurd. The dissent argued the result is absurd and the agency view should have been followed.

16 Jade Street, LLC v R. Designs Construction Company, LLC et al.

16 Jade brought construction defect suits against a general contractor, subcontractors and a member of the general contractor for negligence and other torts. Judgment was entered against the contractor and the member. Member appealed arguing the limited liability company statute shielded him from liability. The Court, 3-2, rejected this argument. It held that the shield statue only shielded those members who did not participate in the tortious act. The majority relied on the theories that the common law allows suit against tortfeasors, statutes in derogation of the common law must be narrowly construed and this approach is consistent with the treatment of officers and shareholders. It also noted their view was the majority view among the states which have ruled on the issue. The dissent argued the plain language of the statute shielded members who were acting as members at the time of the tort and would have reversed.

State v Green

Green chatted online with a person he believed was a 14 year old girl. He made arrangements to meet her for sex. The person was actually an undercover officer and Green was arrested when arrived at the agreed location. He moved to dismiss arguing the solicitation of minors statute was overbroad and vague. The court rejected these arguments. I noted that speech aimed and encouraging minors to engage in sex with adults was outside the first Amendment’s protection and the “knowing” element narrowed the statute sufficiently to survive the overbreadth challenge. It also held that Green lacked standing ion the vagueness challenge and that, in any event, that statute provided fair notice to the person of common intelligence what conduct is prohibited. The Court rejected legal impossibility challenges to Green’s conviction holding the statute plainly states that it is no defense to solicitation that the person believed to be a minor I actually a law enforcement officer. It further held that the lack of a real intended victim is no defense as specific intent to engage in sexual conduct with a minor is enough even if the specific target minor turns out to be fictitious. The Court held the evidence was sufficient and rejected a challenge to the admission of certain pictures into evidence.

Bayly v State

Bayly was cited for possession of marijuana and forfeited his bail rather than appear. After his drivers license was suspended, he sought postconviction relief arguing the magistrate court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court agreed and vacated his conviction. The Court reversed holding that the statute allowing the issuance of a ticket in lieu of arrest for offense committed in the officer’s presence vested magistrate courts with jurisdiction.

State v Whitesides

Whitesides was convicted of drug trafficking and possessing a firearm in connection with the drug trafficking. He appealed arguing there must be a nexus between the firearm and the violent offense. The Court agreed, but, affirmed on the basis that the trial court found Whitesides carried firearms during his drug dealing and let others know he did so. As carrying a firearm for defense is a sufficient nexus with drug trafficking, the conviction was appropriate.

Young v Charleston County School District

Young taught at an elementary school. She had been cited for potentially abusive and negligent behavior. Her contract was not selected for renewal. She appealed the decision and received a hearing before a committee of the Board. The full Board affirmed the nonrenewal. The transcript of the hearing was not available and notice was given Young’s attorney 15 minutes before the meeting. The Court, 3-2, reversed holding the lack of transcript and the short notice violated due process and statutory protections for discharged teachers. The dissent accepted the notation on the board’s order that the evidence and arguments of counsel had been considered and would have affirmed.

Court of Appeals

Ex Parte Lipscomb et al.

Upstream developers were enjoined from allowing pollutants and muddy runoff from reaching the ponds of a downstream development. They put in dams, hay bales and had engineers visit weekly. Runoff still reached the downstream community and homeowners field a contempt action. The trial court found willful violation and fined the developers. The panel reversed holding the efforts made to stop the pollution amounted to good faith which precluded any finding of willfulness.

Wachovia v Beane

Beane borrowed money from Wachovia for a business and secured it with a securities account at Wachovia. Wachovia brought suit to collect the remaining balance of the loan. Three years into the suit, Beane brought a setoff defense based on the underperformance of the account. The jury, in violation of instructions, awarded Beane a set off greater than claimed in evidence, attorney fees and forgiveness of the loan balance. Wachovia sought a new trial which was denied. The panel, 2-1 reversed holding the trial court abused its discretion in denying the new trial given the jury verdict which could only be explained by bias, emotion or other improper basis. The dissent would have reformed the verdict to allow the set off while removing the improper portions.

State v. Hoyle

Hoyle was convicted of DUI. He appealed to the circuit court arguing that the arresting officer failed to inform him that he could stop answering questions at any time thus violating the statutory requirement that he be informed of his Miranda rights. The circuit court agreed and reversed his conviction. The panel reversed holding South Carolina only recognizes the four rights mentioned in Miranda, the right to stop answering questions is not one of those rights and the four Miranda rights were mentioned to Hoyle by the arresting officer.

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