South Carolina's magistrate judges are a clown-car of corrupt cronies, but they get to put people in jail

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/28/dumdum-spiro-spero.html

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I’m surprised there hasn’t been a supreme court case regarding this problem, assuming that one would’ve been included in the post if it existed.

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This is almost unbelievable. I have never considered living in South Carolina but I will never do so now just based on this short article. Who could take the risk?

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Apparently well-connected buddies of politicians.

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KInda makes you want to avoid the state - not just as a moral boycott, but out of fear ,the way you’d avoid Saudi Arabia.

The more I learn about the States these days, the more I feel that “right” vs “left” is really “feudalism” vs “democracy”.

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I picked one name to look up: George Lyall.

According to “The Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Judges, Attorneys and Public Officials”:

The State of South Carolina presented George K. Lyall with a law license in 1985 after he graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School.

Disciplinary Counsel of the South Carolina Supreme Court found George guilty of the following misconduct.

  • Unlawfully obstructed parties access to evidence**
  • Engaged in conduct tending to pollute administration of justice**
  • Converted (stole) funds of another for personal use**
  • Refused to explain what he had done with other person’s funds**
  • Engaged in criminal act adversely reflecting on fitness to practice law**

As a consequence of his misconduct, the Patron Saints for Attorney Misfits sitting on the South Carolina Supreme punished George by gifting him with a complimentary 5-year suspension of his law license.

As we speak (ca. September 2016) George practices with The Lyall Law Firm at 4573 Coach Hill Road in Greenville, South Carolina.

http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15708:z&catid=172:south-carolina-attorney-misfits&Itemid=100

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I was just thinking about how my knowledge of the legal system, like most Americans, comes from movies and tv. Those programs are made in California and New York, and reflect (albeit usually inaccurately) those similar systems. It leaves me totally unprepared when I come across information like this, which reveals how varied the legal system actually is across various states, and how completely and totally fucked up it is in some of them - especially particular Southern states. It’s like I’m reading about the weird, corrupt, absurd legal system of some third-world countries, and you wonder how people live in those countries. Then I realize I live in one of those countries.

Yeah. Though this isn’t the only state that I’ve had this reaction to, just when reading about the legal systems there. Louisiana is another one, for instance.

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As are magistrates’ courts in England (and Wales). But AFAICT, magistrates are not a particularly terrible part of Garbage Island’s low-end criminal justice system. The fact they aren’t paid probably helps, as does the fact that people generally aren’t given the electric chair for stealing a loaf of bread so the stakes are inherently lower.

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New York State also has magistrate courts like those in South Carolina, and they’ve had a history of being about as well run. Since they handle misdemeanors and minor civil stuff they don’t pop up much in TV shows.

And hey, for legal weirdness, did you you that the big railroads have their own police forces staffed with peace officers?

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If you think that’s bad just look at the family court system. You got judges who will try to have your kids taken away from you if you are accused of smoking weed yet those same judges were arrested for weed. There is zero accountability of judges in this state and the Office of Judicial Discipline is one of the most corrupt offices you’ll ever encounter. I live in this state. I’ve seen what the judiciary is like. My advice is to never come here and avoid this place like the plague.

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Also I believe they have legally trained assistants/babysitters to help them with the law.

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Welcome aboard, Comrade!

We still have Magistrates/Justices of the Peace over here in the UK. However, according to Wikipedia, our ones are subject to some training and oversight. Still, one has got to wonder how much institutional racism, sexism and homophobia is flowing through this august organization.

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I did not know that (you forgot to mention the amazing education we get here), but I was somewhat relived to learn that a qualified legal advisor sits in on proceedings. (full explanation here).
Theoretically I could become a magistrate, hmmmmm.

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Having first hand experience of the UK selection process - I can attest to it’s stringency. The advisors are amazing also.

It’s worth remembering that Mags Courts can only deal with minor offences (and bail for more serious ones) and for the vast majority of cases, the accused can opt to appear in Crown Court (With a professional judge and a jury)

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