South Carolina Court of Appeals Decisions


On Wednesday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published six opinions: State v. Cain, Glassmeyer v. City of Columbia, Rogers v. Lee, Williams v. Lexington County BoardHelicicopter Solutions v. Hinde and State v. Cardwell.

In State v. Cain, Cain appealed his attempted trafficking of methamphetamine conviction, arguing the circuit court erred in (1) admitting testimony from the State’s forensic chemistry expert regarding the “theoretical yield” of methamphetamine he could have produced and (2) denying his motion for a directed verdict. This Court affirmed the circuit court.

In Glassmeyer v. City of Columbia, The City  appealed the trial court’s declaration it violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to disclose to George S. Glassmeyer the home addresses, personal telephone numbers and personal email addresses for applicants to the position of city manager. It also appeals the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to Glassmeyer. This Court affirm in part and reverse in part finding that the trial court erred in ordering the City to disclose the home adddresses, personal telephone numbers, and personal email addresses for applicants to the position of city manager and thus reversed the holding,. The Court affirmed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to Glassmeyer.

Rogers v. Lee was a legal malpractice action where the Court affirmed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the attorney and his law firm.

In Williams v. Lexington County Board of Zoning Appeals, Appellant Scarlet Williams seeks review of the circuit court’s order upholding the Lexington County Board of Zoning Appeals’ unanimous decision that the county zoning ordinance prohibits Williams from operating a dog grooming business at her home. Williams argued that the home occupation exception under Lexington County, S.C., Code of Ordinances Section 21.22 permits her to engage in dog grooming- despite section 21.10’s prohibition of permits for kennels- because the ordinary meaning of “kennel” does not include dog grooming.  This Court disagreed finding that the governing body’s intent as embodied in the ordinance “must prevail if it can be reasonably discovered in the language used. ” This Court affirmed the zoning board’s decision.

In Helicopter Solutions v. Hinde, Appellant Richard Hinde appeals the circuit court’s ruling that a helicopter sight-seeing tour facility is a permitted use within the Amusement/Commercial (AC) zoning district pursuant to Article VII, Section 712.1 of the Horry County Zoning Ordinance (County Ordinance). Hinde contends the circuit court erred in failing to recognize and defer to the findings of fact made by the Horry County Board of Zoning Appeals (Zoning Board) and by expanding the range of permitted uses in the Horry County AC zoning district to include a heliport or airport. This Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision..

In State v. Cardwell, Sarah D. Cardwell (Cardwell) appeals her conviction for two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and two counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Cardwell argues the circuit court erred in refusing to suppress her laptop computer and a video seized from the laptop without a search warrant. She contends that the search and seizure violated her Fourth Amendment rights because law enforcement instructed a computer technician to locate, play, and copy the video prior to obtaining a search warrant. Cardwell further asserts that her constitutional rights were violated when the Johnsonville Police Department provided the video to a Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office investigator, who viewed it prior to obtaining a warrant.

The Court held that the circuit court properly denied the motion to suppress the video file. While the Court disagree with the circuit court’s statement that Cardwell had no concept of privacy in the computer and its data when she voluntarily turned the computer over to the repair technician, the Court agreed with the decision to deny to the motion to suppress as to the particular video file at issue. The file contained images of minors engaging in sexual conduct- once the sexually suggestive still image appeared, no warrant was required to open and view this file containing that very image. There is no question that a computer repair professional is required to report a client to law enforcement after discovering child pornography in a client’s computer files. 

This Court finds that Cardwell had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the photograph of Minor 2 as it fell under the plain view exception. The Court also concluded that the inevitable discovery doctrine further supports the circuit court’s denial of the motion. Accordingly, this Court affirmed the circuit court’s decisions.

Last month, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published two opinions: Donevant v. Town of Surfiside Beach and State v. Samuel.

Donevant v. Town of Surfside Beach was a wrongful termination action, in which Surfside Beach (the Town) appealed the circuit court’s denial of it’s motion for directed verdict.  Donevant,  the building official and Director of Planning, Building and Zoning sued the Town for wrongful termination alleging it fired her in a violation of a clear mandate of public policy. Donevant asserted that she was fired in retaliation for issuing a stop-work order to a restaurant that was performing construction with only a demolition permit and not a construction permit. The town claimed it terminated Donevant for attendance issues, punctuality issues, and insubordination.

The Town argued that by denying its motion, the trial court erred in 1.) expanding the public policy exception to at-will employment beyond situations where the employer requires the employee to violate criminal law or the reason for the for the employee’s termination itself is a violation of criminal law. According to the Town, Donevant’s claim that she was fired for issuing a stop-work order at the Pier Restaurant does not fall under the public policy exception as applied by our courts because the building code merely “authorizes” Donevant, as building official, to issue stop-work orders but does not subject her to criminal punishment for failing to do so. This Court disagreed, “The public policy exception clearly applies in cases where either: (1) the employer requires the employee to violate the law . . . or (2) the reason for the employee’s termination itself is a violation of criminal law.”

By instructing Donevant not to “change, ameliorate, or in any other manner amend any action that was taken during her absence[,]” Duckett was requiring Donevant not to perform her legal duty as a building official to enforce compliance with the building code. If Donevant had followed Duckett’s directive and not taken action in response to the unlawful construction at the Pier Restaurant, she could have been charged with misconduct in office for failing to discharge this legal duty. Accordingly, Donevant’s claim for retaliatory discharge falls within a recognized exception to the doctrine of at-will employment in this state because she was required by her employer, “as a condition of continued employment, to break the law. The Court found that the trial did not err in denying the Town’s motion for a directed verdict and affirmed accordingly.

In State v. Samuel, Appellant appeals his conviction for murder arguing the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to represent himself. This Court affirms the trial court’s decision.

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