April 24, 2013 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

In the Matter of J David Flowers

Flowers failed to file income tax returns for several years. After a hearing, the panel split 2-2 on recommended discipline between a 90 day suspension and an admonition. Both Flowers and the bar appealed. The Court held that a 90 day suspension retroactive to the date when the tax returns were filed was appropriate. However, the court required proof of payment of any delinquent taxes and the costs of the disciplinary proceedings before Flowers can apply for reinstatement.

Hampton v Haley

The General Assembly voted an appropriation of $51 million to cover health plan premiums for the plan and fiscal years. This amount was consistent with an amount necessary for the state to bear all the premium increase for the coming year. The Control Board voted to split the increase between the state and the beneficiaries. Several beneficiaries sued in the Court’s original jurisdiction seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Court held the Board’s action was unconstitutional and declared the state should bear the whole cost of the premium increase and all premiums wrongfully collected should be returned. The Court reasoned that under separation of powers, the legislative branch is charged with making policy decisions as to what the law shall be. Under the appropriation act and South Carolina Code 1-11-710, the Assembly had appropriated the $51 million in order or the state to cover the whole cost of the premium increase. Thus, the Board was powerless to adopt a different policy. Allowing this action would effectively transfer legislative power form the Assembly to the Board which is not permitted under the state constitution. The Court declined to issue an injunction enforcing its decision noting that petitioners had an adequate remedy at law with the declaration of their rights and any harm form the wrongful withholding of premiums could be remedied by reimbursement.

Bryson v State Budget and Control Board

Bryson also brought suit over the Board’s premium decision. Based on Hampton mentioned above, the Court granted declaratory judgment to Bryson.

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