This Week’s Decisions from the Supreme Court of South Carolina Continued

scsct  State v. Morris involved an appeal in which the defendant, Kenneth Morris, appealed the trial court’s decision to deny his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop.  Morris argued that the evidence was obtained via an illegal search, was thus fruit of the poisonous tree, and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Morris drove a rental car on Interstate 77.  While he was driving, the police observed him commit a traffic violation:  following a truck too closely.  When Morris pulled off the Interstate and into a gas station, the police followed and initiated a traffic stop.  Morris rolled down the window and was asked to produce his license and registration.  He did so and also consented to a search of himself.  When the police asked why he was traveling, Morris responded that he and his companion had been visiting girls in Atlanta.  When the police asked Morris’ companion the same question, they got a different answer.  Because of the inconsistent stories, the fact that the car was a rental, and the fact that the police insisted that they smelled marijuana in the car, a K-9 dog was called.  The dog sniffed the vehicle but did not alert.  Despite this, the police were still suspicious and asked Morris to search the car.  Morris refused to consent.  The police searched the car, including the truck, where they found 393 ecstasy pills and one-half a pound of marijuana.

Morris was indicted and tried.  He filed a motion to suppress the introduction of the pills and marijuana which was denied.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial and Morris appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.  The Court affirmed, finding “…the officers had both reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the entire vehicle.”    Justices Pleicones and Beatty dissented.

Cullen v. McNeal granted a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals holding.  They then dismissed the writ “…as improvidently granted.”

McNaughton v. Charleston Charter School involved employment and termination.  McNaughton was employed by Charleston Charter School.  Her employment was contingent upon funding.  School started and McNaughton’s position was funded.  She received praise from students and parents alike.  The administration found no fault with her performance.

In November, the school’s principal advised McNaughton that she was being terminated because the school needed to hire and fund an additional math teacher because of poor test results.  McNaughton then sued, alleging:

1)  wrongful termination/beach of contract;

2)  breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act;

3) third-party beneficiary breach of contract; and

4) grossly negligent supervision.

A jury trial then ensued.  The school filed a motion for a directed verdict on all allegations that was denied.  The jury then award damages and attorney’s fees in excess of $100,000.00.  The school asked for a judgment not withstanding the verdict (JNOV) and it was denied.  The Supreme Court of South Carolina denied the appeal, affirming the trial court.  The Court concluded that there was “…evidence to support the jury’s finding that Appellant breached McNaughton’s employment agreement….”  Thus the trial court correctly denied the school’s directed verdict and JNOV motion.

About Lisa Smith-Butler

Associate Professor of Law Charleston School of Law 385 Meeting St., Suite 322B Charleston, S.C. 29403 843.377.2144
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