Complex Case Designation for South Carolina Lawsuits

Most lawsuits in South Carolina are not assigned to a single judge for handling because the South Carolina Constitution requires rotation of trial judges.  Forty-six circuit judges serve sixteen circuits on a rotating basis and are elected by the General Assembly to staggered terms of six years.  Thus, motions in a civil case pending in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas will not necessarily be heard by the same judge but instead will be heard by the judge assigned to hear motions in that Circuit in a given week.  Likewise, the case may be tried by a judge who has not heard any motions in the case but is assigned to try civil cases during the week that the case is called for trial.  While this method works well for smaller, less complex cases, it is more difficult in complex cases involving many parties, substantial claims or very complex issues.

Accordingly, the South Carolina Supreme Court created procedures for the management and disposition of complex cases filed in the trial court by Administrative Order dated July 26, 2006.  That Administrative Order can be found here: http://www.sccourts.org/courtOrders/displayOrder.cfm?orderNo=2006-07-26-01  The Chief Administrative Judge for Common Pleas cases in a given Circuit may determine that a case is complex and will establish a date prior to which the case will not be called for trial.  For a list of Chief Administrative Judges: http://www.sccourts.org/adminJudges/adminJudgesCir.cfm.   The Chief Administrative Judge will assign the case to a specific Circuit Court judge in that Circuit or in an adjoining Circuit. For a list of the Circuits: http://www.sccourts.org/circuitCourt/circuitMap.cfm.  The designation of a complex case may be requested by motion of counsel.  Such a motion may be made after the filing of the original complaint.  For the Approved Form to request assignment of a complex case: http://www.sccourts.org/whatsnew/complexcaseform.doc

The Chief Administrative Judge may grant the complex case designation based solely upon the information contained in the motion.  However, a hearing may be required to determine if the case justifies unique treatment.  If the Chief Administrative Judge does not deem the case complex, the case will be placed on the trial roster pursuant to Rule 40 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and will not be assigned to a particular judge for case handling.

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