July 9, 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

Ferguson Fire and Fabrication, Inc. v Preferred Fire Protection, LLC

Ferguson provided fire sprinklers as a subcontractor in the building of a call center for Immedion, LLC. When the contractor failed to pay for the sprinklers, Ferguson sent notice under South Carolina Code 29-5-40 to Immedion and later sued to foreclose a materialman’s lien. The circuit dismissed ruling the notice to Immedion did not have all the information necessary to perfect the lien. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court, with one justice concurring in result only, reversed. It held that the notice gave all the information required under 29-5-40 and the Court of Appeals erred by imposing the additional requirements under 29-5-90, which perfects the lien, onto the 40 notice which merely put Immedion on notice that it paid the contractor at peril of later being sued by Ferguson if Ferguson was not paid. The case was remand for further proceedings.

State v Hill

Hill appealed his murder and burglary convictions alleging two evidentiary errors and violation of the interstate Agreement on Detainers. The Court affirmed. It held the trial judge properly excluded reference to the conviction of another man for the crimes holding the fact of conviction was irrelevant to Hill’s guilt or innocence. It next held that while it was error to introduce the letter identifying Hill as the DNA match in the CODIS system into evidence, the error was harmless as the letter was merely cumulative of other evidence on Hill’s sample being in the system. The Court applied an abuse of discretion standard on the detainer issue and held the continuance granted on the last day of the period allowed to bring Hill to trial was for good cause given the complex nature of the case, the seriousness of the charges and the need for a hearing to determine if Hill had to give a confirming DNA sample.

Ex parte Harrell v Attorney general of the State of South Carolina

After an ethics complaint was filed against Harrell with the House Ethics Committee, which did not refer the matter to the Attorney General, the Attorney General received permission to empanel a state grand jury. The presiding judge later discharged the jury ruling that absent a referral from the Ethics Committee, the state lacked jurisdiction to pursue criminal charges. The Court reversed. It held the Attorney General, under Article V, Section 24 of the state constitution and the cases law of the Court, had authority to prosecute all crimes including Ethics Act crimes and there in no requirement for a referral from eh ethics Committee. The court analogized the civil ethics process to professional discipline and noted professionals can be subject to simultaneous discipline proceedings and criminal prosecution. The Court also held that the presiding judge had subject matter jurisdiction over Harrell’s motion to disqualify the Attorney General as South Carolina Code 14-7-1630 and 1730 plainly authorize the judge to consider issues about the jurisdiction of the state grand jury after the jury is emplaned. The Courte noted all future argument on ancillary issues should be done in camera. The case was remanded to consider Harrell’s motion.

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