May 9, 2012 South Carolina published opinions

Supreme Court

In the Matter of Christopher Blakeslee Roberts

Roberts admitted to sending a backdated letter in support of a collection claim, misappropriated $40,000.00 while serving on a tax board and failed to appear at hearing. He claimed the later two incidents were caused by his alcoholism. The Court accepted consent to discipline and disbarred Roberts. The order requires Roberts to pay the costs of the discipline process, complete the bar’s ethics course and fulfill the monitoring program under Lawyers helping Lawyers.

State v Binnarr

Binnarr was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and was required to register as a sex offender. Before his first annual registration, the law changed to require twice a year registration. The sheriff’s office mailed a notice to all offenders on file at their address on file. Binnarr did not register in August 2006 as required by the statute and was subsequently arrested and convicted of failing to register. He argued before trial that he did not receive notice and could not be prosecuted. The trial court rejected this argument as did the court of Appeals. The Supreme Court, 4-1, reversed finding that it had previously ruled actual notice was required and noting that no evidence was admitted demonstrating actual notice to Binnarr and an unreturned first class letter would not provide strong circumstantial evidence to sustain the conviction. The dissenting justice found sufficient proof of constructive notice and would have affirmed.

Eldridge v Eldridge

A series of trusts with members of the Eldridge family as trustees were created for estate planning and tax purposes. The father breached his fiduciary duty by transferring title to a condo into an unauthorized trust. The beneficiary sons sued for title to the house through a constructive trust more than five years after the transfer, but, just a bit over a year after father’s death. The trail court held there was an adequate remedy at law and the claim was untimely. The court reversed holding the practical outcome of a legal claim against father’s estate would be the appropriate trust suing itself for damages rendering any legal claim inadequate and that the proper measure of laches was the death of the father rendering the suit timely.

State v Dykes

Dykes was convicted of lewd act on a child. She served three years in prison. After release, she violated probation. Part of sentence was lifetime satellite monitoring. There was no mechanism to obtain review of the monitoring and out of state travel required prior permission from a regional probation supervisor. Overnight out of state travel was prohibited absent an emergency. Dykes argued that her low risk of reoffending rendered monitoring unconstitutional as to her. The trial court felt itself bound by the monitoring statute and rejected her challenge. The court reversed. The controlling opinion held the monitoring requirement for low risk offenders is irrational and thus violates minimum due process. Two justices argued that the monitoring violated a substantive due process right of a low risk offender to be free from lifetime satellite monitoring. The Court ordered the case to proceed as with all other monitoring cases which call for discretionary imposition of monitoring.

Court of Appeals

Way v Way

The family court awarded wife a judgment to equalize the benefit of a mortgage and alimony. On appeal, the panel held the equalizing judgment was not supported by the evidence as husband had no means to pay it and the supposed benefit received by the parties was a phantom asset. The alimony order was affirmed.

Campbell v Robinson

After their engagement ended and the ring was not returned, Campbell sued for its return. The trail court used a fault based rule in its jury instructions. The jury returned judgment for Robinson. The panel reversed and remanded on the issue of ownership of the ring. It held that fault cannot be considered in determining ownership of the ring. It also held that the inclusion of fault in the instructions and verdict form influenced the outcome and remanded for further proceedings.

Carolina Convenience Stores, Inc. v City of Spartanburg

Spartanburg police used a bulldozer to gain entry into a store in an effort to resolve a standoff. The building owner sued for inverse condemnation and negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment on the condemnation claim and a jury returned judgment for the city on the negligence claim. The panel affirmed holding the use of the bulldozer was an exercise of police power not a taking.

Burkey v Noce

Burkey brought suit in Charleston County courts alleging breach of an employment contract entered into in Costa Rica. Employers moved to dismiss on inconvenient forum grounds which was denied. The panel held order denying motion to dismiss on inconvenient forum grounds are not appealable and dismissed the appeal.

 

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