SC attorney general asks for $1.5M+ to help cut down on growing court caseloads
"Those backlogs are jeopardizing the safety of the citizens of South Carolina," U.S. House Speaker Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, said Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
South Carolina’s top prosecutor asked state lawmakers on Wednesday to spend more than $1.5 million to help cut down on the growing court caseload, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money would help cover 10 full-time employees: four prosecutors, two paralegals, two investigators, one IT technician and one victim's advocate, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office budget request.
The employees would work with the state's 16 circuit solicitors in what would be called the Statewide Violent Crimes Case Reduction Unit, under the Attorney General's Office.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said the money would especially help the state's rural circuits, where resources and personnel already may be spread thin.
"They have trouble with their bandwidth. They have trouble with their resources," Wilson said Wednesday at the Statehouse. "They don't have the ability, they want the ability, but they don't have the ability to meet the demands that some of these backlogs are presenting."
South Carolina currently has at least 11,600 general sessions indictments that are three years or older, according to the S.C. House Speaker's Office.
Of that figure, House Speaker Murrell Smith told reporters Wednesday that the 9th Judicial Circuit — the state's largest, which includes Berkeley and Charleston counties — has 1,289 pending charges, 87 murder cases and 51 sex crime cases that are more than than three years old.
Smith said in his own circuit, the 3rd Judicial Circuit — the circuit includes Clarendon, Lee, Sumter and Williamsburg counties — there are 940 pending charges, 61 murder cases and 31 sex crime cases older than three years old.
Smith, a Sumter Republican, said the backlog problem is not unique to any circuit or any area of the state.
"Those backlogs are jeopardizing the safety of the citizens of South Carolina," Smith said. "... It's not criticizing what's happening in our current system. This was year's in the making, and it's going to take years for us to resolve this."