by
Appellant Retail Services owned and operated three separate liquor store locations in Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia, South Carolina. SCDOR was charged with the administration of South Carolina's statutes concerning the manufacturing, sale, and retail of alcoholic liquors. Retail Services petitioned SCDOR to open a fourth store in Aiken, however, SCDOR refused to grant Retail Services a fourth liquor license under sections 61-6-140 and -150 of the South Carolina Code, which limited a liquor-selling entity to three retail liquor licenses. Additionally, ABC Stores lobbied the General Assembly on behalf of its members who are owners and holders of retail dealer licenses. Therefore, Retail Services brought this action against SCDOR and ABC Stores seeking a declaratory judgment that these provisions of the South Carolina Code were unconstitutional. The trial court found the provisions constitutional because: (1) they were within the scope of the State's police power; and (2) they satisfied the rational basis test, which, because they did not infringe on a fundamental right or implicate a suspect class, was all that was required. Therefore, the circuit court granted Respondents' motions for summary judgment. Appellant appealed the circuit court's decision. The Supreme Court reversed. "Not only is there no indication in this record that these provisions exist for any other reason than economic protectionism, the provisions themselves and statutory scheme to which they belong lend further support to Appellant's position. As Appellant points out, the provisions do not limit the number of liquor stores that can be licensed in a certain area-only the number than can be owned by one person or entity. Another provision governs the specific placement of retail establishments away from churches, schools and playgrounds. Therefore, Respondents' contention that the provisions advance the safety and moral interests of the State, no doubt a legitimate State interest, is unavailing with respect to sections 61-6-140 and -150." View "Retail Services & Systems, Inc. v. SDCOR" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Henton Clemmons, Jr. injured his back and neck while working at Lowe's Home Center in Columbia. Although all the medical evidence indicated Clemmons had lost more than fifty percent of the use of his back, the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded him only permanent partial disability. The court of appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether a claimant's ability to work could affect his entitlement to disability benefits under the scheduled-member statute of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act (the Act). The Court reversed and held evidence of a claimant's ability to hold gainful employment alone cannot preclude a determination of permanent disability under the scheduled-member statute. View "Clemmons v. Lowe's Home Centers" on Justia Law

by
The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted this declaratory judgment action in its original jurisdiction to determine whether Community Management Group, LLC; its president, Stephen Peck; and its employee, Tom Moore, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while managing homeowners' associations. Community Management Group managed homeowners' associations and condominium associations in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley Counties. Until the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction in connection with this case, when a homeowner in an association did not pay an overdue assessment, Community Management Group (without the involvement of an attorney) prepared and recorded a notice of lien and related documents; brought an action in magistrate's court to collect the debt; and after obtaining a judgment in magistrate's court, filed the judgment in circuit court. Community Management Group also advertised that it could perform these services. After review, the Supreme Court found Community Management Group engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. View "Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC v. Peck" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Alphonso Thompson was convicted of trafficking in cocaine in excess of 400 grams, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, and possession with intent to distribute ("PWID") marijuana. He was sentenced to concurrent sentences of twenty-five years' imprisonment, and two terms of five years' imprisonment, respectively. At a pre-trial hearing, Thompson challenged the admissibility of the evidence recovered during a search conducted at his parents' home located in Spartanburg County, arguing the affidavit supporting the search warrant for the property was invalid. The trial judge found the affidavit was sufficient, and denied the motion to suppress the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed Thompson's convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court granted Thompson's request for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision. Because the Supreme Court found the affidavit supporting the search warrant failed to establish a fair probability that the evidence sought would be found at the home, the Court held the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial judge's denial of the motion to suppress the evidence recovered there. View "South Carolina v. Thompson" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Jeffrey Chapman met the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP) as set forth in South Carolina's Sexually Violent Predator Act (the Act), and the trial court subsequently signed an order to civilly commit him. In this direct appeal, Chapman presented a novel issue of law related to the right to counsel in SVP proceedings. The Supreme Court held that persons committed as SVPs have a right to the effective assistance of counsel, and they may effectuate that right by seeking a writ of habeas corpus. Therefore, although the Court affirmed Chapman's commitment on issue preservation grounds, he may reassert his ineffective assistance of counsel claims in a future habeas proceeding. View "In the Matter of Jeffrey Allen Chapman" on Justia Law

by
Bobby Stone shot and killed Charlie Kubala of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office. Stone filed an application for post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The PCR court denied relief. Stone filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which was granted as to three sets of issues: (1) whether Stone's trial and appellate counsel were ineffective in dealing with victim impact evidence; (2) whether Stone's trial counsel was ineffective in investigating and presenting evidence of brain damage; and (3) whether Stone's trial counsel was ineffective in investigating and presenting evidence of the accident theory of the case. Finding trial and appellate counsel's performance was reasonable in almost every respect, the Supreme Court affirmed: counsel's performance did not meet an objective standard of reasonableness, and thus was deficient under the first prong of "Strickland." However, as to each of these failures, Stone did not prove a reasonable probability the outcome would have been different as required by the second prong. View "Stone v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

by
Hampton Hall Club, Inc. was a nonprofit organization in Beaufort County. Respondent Brad Lightner was a member of Hampton Hall, and filed this action individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Defendants, alleging Defendants wrongfully collected and retained an admissions tax on its members' club and golf dues. After Respondent filed a motion for class certification, the State and the SCDOR ("Petitioners") filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, or, in the alternative, to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f), SCRCP, to dismiss the State as a party and to stay discovery. In so moving, Petitioners asserted, inter alia, Respondent was required to exhaust the administrative remedies under the South Carolina Revenue Procedures Act ("Act") and was prohibited from proceeding as a class action against the SCDOR. The circuit court determined the Act was inapplicable to this case because the General Assembly intended to limit the Act's application to disputes with the SCDOR concerning property taxes, which both parties conceded were not at issue. Thus, contrary to Petitioners' assertions, Respondent was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies under the Act in order to proceed individually against all Defendants. The court, however, granted Petitioners' motion to dismiss the class action allegations, finding the Act, which it determined was inapplicable to this dispute, nevertheless prohibited Respondent from bringing a class action lawsuit against Petitioners. In sum, we hold the circuit court erred in finding the Act's application is limited to disputes with the SCDOR concerning property taxes. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Because the Act was applicable to this case, Respondent was required to follow the administrative remedies under the Act and was prohibited from proceeding as a class action against Petitioners. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lightner v. Hampton Hall Club, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Riverwalk at Arrowhead Country Club and Magnolia North Horizontal Property Regime developments were constructed between 1997 and 2000. After construction was complete and the units were sold, the purchasers became aware of significant construction problems, including building code violations, structural deficiencies, and significant water-intrusion problems. In 2003, the purchasers filed suit to recover damages for necessary repairs to their homes. Lawsuits were filed by the respective property owners' associations (POAs), which sought actual and punitive damages for the extensive construction defects under theories of negligent construction, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of warranty. As to the Riverwalk development, individual homeowners also filed a class action to recover damages for the loss of use of their property during the repair period. The defendants in the underlying suits were the related corporate entities that developed and constructed the condominium complexes: Heritage Communities, Inc. (the parent development company), Heritage Magnolia North, Inc. and Heritage Riverwalk, Inc. (the project-specific subsidiary companies for each separate development), and Buildstar Corporation (the general contracting subsidiary that oversaw construction of all Heritage development projects), referred to collectively as "Heritage." The issues presented to the Supreme Court by these cases came from cross-appeals of declaratory judgment actions to determine coverage under Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies issued by Harleysville Group Insurance. The cases arose from separate actions, but were addressed in a single opinion because they involved virtually identical issues regarding insurance coverage for damages. The Special Referee found coverage under the policies was triggered and calculated Harleysville's pro rata portion of the progressive damages based on its time on the risk. After review of the arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Special Referee in the Magnolia North matter, and affirmed as modified in the Riverwalk matter. View "Harleysville Group Ins. v. Heritage Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner-defendant Charles Cain appealed after he was convicted for trafficking methamphetamine. He argued the State produced insufficient evidence as to the quantity of drugs required for trafficking, and thus the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a directed verdict. The Court of Appeals found the core of Cain’s argument was not preserved for appellate review and affirmed. Finding however, that the argument was indeed preserved, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "South Carolina v. Cain" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Michael Gonzales was convicted for trafficking 400 grams or more of methamphetamine, for which he was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment. Petitioner applied for post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing his trial counsel had a conflict of interest that adversely affected counsel’s performance. The PCR judge denied relief, and in a split decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the PCR judge’s order. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the PCR judge’s order, so it reversed denial of petitioner’s application for PCR. View "Gonzales v. South Carolina" on Justia Law