South Carolina Supreme Court Opinions

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On Wednesday, June 17th, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court published  four opinions: Dononhue v. City of North Augusta; Sanders v. State; Morrow v. Fundamental Long-Term Care; In the Matter of Steven Robert Lapham.

Donohue v. City of North Augusta is an appeal from a circuit court order upholding the validity of an ordinance amending respondent the City of North Augusta’s 1996 Tax Increment Financing District ordinance finding that respondents, Mayor and City Council, did not violate the Freedom of Information Act. This Court affirms the order to the extent it upholds the ordinance, but reversed the finding that respondents did not violate the FOIA and remanded with instructions.

In Sanders v. State,  In exchange for the State’s promise not to seek the death penalty on three charges of murder, Anthony Sanders consented to a bench trial and waived his right to any appellate, post-conviction, or habeas corpus review. He was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. His subsequent application for post-conviction relief (PCR) was dismissed based on the agreement. He argues the PCR court erred in dismissing his petition without an evidentiary hearing. The Court reversed and remanded. 

In Morrow v. Fundamental Long-Term Care, The court of appeals dismissed as interlocutory an appeal which severed a number of defendants from this lawsuit, ostensibly under the label of “bifurcation.” This Court held the order went far beyond our common understanding of bifurcation, thereby affecting a substantial right of the petitioners. We therefore reverse.

In the Matter of Steven Robert Lapham, the Court disbarred an attorney.

On Wednesday, June 10th, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court published five opinions: State v. Niles; MicroClean v. Envirofix; Livingston v. Livingston; State v. Simms; and In the Matter of Daniel A. Beck.

In State v. Niles, Niles was convicted of murder, armed robbery, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The court of appeals reversed Respondent’s murder conviction and remanded for a new trial, finding the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of the voluntary manslaughter.

This Court reversed the court of appeals decision finding that there was no evidence that Niles acted within a sudden heat of passion upon sufficient legal provocation. Therefore the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter.

In MicroClean v. Envirofix, the Court granted certiorari to review the court of appeals’ decision. Petitioner argued the court of appeals erred in: (1) reversing the master in equity’s finding that Petitioner provided proper notice of termination of a license agreement; and (2) reversing and remanding Petitioner’s claim and delivery action based on the Master’s finding that the parties intended a security deposit served as liquidated damages.

This Court reversed the court of appeals pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR and Butler Contracting, Inc. v. Court Street, L.L.C., 369 S.C. 121, 127 (2006). The Court directs the court of appeals to depublish its opinion and assign the matter an unpublished opinion number.

In Livingston v. Livingston, the Court dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

In State v. Simms, Simms appeals his conviction for high and aggravated breach of the peace, and resulting sentence. This Court considered three issues: (1): whether the circuit court erred in refusing to direct a verdict of acquittal with respect to the aggravated breach of the peace charge?; (2) whether the trial court imposed an illegal sentence? (3) whether the circuit court erred in refusing to admit certain eyewitness testimony?

On the first issue, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s refusal to grant Appellant’s directed verdict motion. The Court, in reviewing the evidence, reasoned that the State had presented enough evidence to exemplify the type of behavior constituing an

On the second issue, the Court affirms the sentencing of the trial court because Appellant’s sentencing fell safely within the limits of section 17-25-30 of the S.C. Code.

On the third issue, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to exclude this testimony of a witness that would have testified that the victim harass fans on foot as he rode past them in his vehicle. The Court found that whether or not the victim also engaged in a breach of the peace is irrelevant to the question of Appellant’s guilt for high and aggravated breach of the peace. Thus the court found any error in the circuit court’s refusal to admit the testimony was harmless.

Thus the Court upheld Appellant’s conviction for high and aggravated breach of the peace and resulting sentence.

In the Matter of Daniel A. Beck, the Court disbarred respondent retroactive to the date of his interim suspension, and imposed several additional conditions. The attorney was found to have violated Rule 1.8(e), 1.15,5.3, 8.4(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rule 407, SCACR. Also  well the attorney was found to have violated Rule 7(a)(1) and (5) and (6) of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413 SCACR.

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