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How Does the South Carolina Circuit Court Work?

In the South Carolina court system, the Circuit Court is the only trial court with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters. The court hears criminal cases and civil cases valued over $7,500. It also hears motions on such matters and post-conviction relief cases. The court’s powers and jurisdictions are covered by Section 14–5 of the South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated.

The South Carolina Circuit Court is a superior court and hears appeals from specific-jurisdiction courts, including the magistrate courts, probate courts, and municipal courts. It also hears appeals from the Administrative Law Judge Division, which attends to cases relating to state administrative and regulatory agencies.

The South Carolina Circuit Court is the state’s trial court that has general jurisdiction. It also has limited authority to hear appeals from lower trial courts, such as the Probate Court, Magistrate Court, and governmental agencies. South Carolina Circuit Courts have two main divisions.

The first division is the Court of Common Pleas, which handles civil cases, while the second is the Court of General Sessions, which oversees criminal matters. The criminal cases heard by the Court of General Sessions include felonies and some misdemeanors. Certain Circuit Courts also have a subdivision of the Court of General Sessions to prosecute first offense charges related to domestic violence.

The Circuit Court hears most general civil cases with claims for more than $7500. It also has exclusive jurisdiction on settlements of claims over $10,000 that involve an incapacitated person or minor. The South Carolina Circuit Court has jurisdiction to have formal proceedings for the probate of wills and appoint personal representatives.

It oversees cases involving the construction of wills, trusts, disputes over title to real estate, jury trials when the amount in dispute is more than $5,000, and lawsuits connected to the South Carolina Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. If a part of a probate case is taken to the Circuit Court, the Probate Court still has jurisdiction over the case’s remaining details.

The Circuit Courts also attend to some domestic relations cases, including divorce, annulments, and related child support, child custody, and alimony cases. It may, however, transfer domestic relations cases to the Family Court. The South Carolina Circuit Courts share jurisdiction with Magistrate Courts over specific types of civil matters with claims of less than $7500. This includes contract claims, penalties, fines or forfeitures, damages to real or personal property, attachment of property for debts.

Other types of cases in which the Circuit Court shares jurisdiction with the Magistrate Courts include cases without financial limits. Some of such cases are landlord-tenant matters, bonds, confessions of judgment, cases involving rented personal property, and interpleaders. Any civil case with counterclaims above the jurisdictional limits of a Magistrates Court is transferred to the Circuit Court.

The South Carolina Circuit Court also shares jurisdiction with the Probate Court over different types of cases. Such cases include those involving a power of attorney, matters requesting the approval of settlements in wrongful death claims, or the authorization of settlements of claims for less than $10,000 in favor or against an incapacitated adult or minor.

South Carolina is divided into sixteen judicial circuits, with each one having at least one resident judge who has an office in the judge’s home county within the circuit. There are forty-six South Carolina circuit court judges who rotate through the sixteen judicial districts. Thirty-three of the judges are resident judges of each circuit, while thirteen are at-large, elected from anywhere in the state.

The General Assembly elects the judges to a staggered term of six years each. Each judicial circuit has a Chief Judge appointed by the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Circuit Court Chief Judge directs and supervises the circuit’s administrative issues and is assisted by the Court Clerk.

However, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice handles the overall management and direction of the South Carolina court system. The Chief Justice and the Circuit Court Chief Judge work together with other judges to execute Supreme Court policies, assess the management of the trial courts, and assist in policy development.

To become a Circuit Judge, a person must have a minimum of eight years of experience as a licensed lawyer in South Carolina and must be above 32 years old but below 72 years. Retired justices and judges may also sit as active judges if the Chief Justice approves it. These retired judges are also subject to the same screening process of the legislature and can exercise all the powers of an active judge.

A South Carolina Circuit Judge may be removed or replaced in any of the following ways:

  • Dismissal, transfer to inactive status, retirement, or removal by the supreme court, on the recommendation of the commission on judicial conduct.
  • Conviction by two-thirds of the senate, after being impeached by a two-thirds vote of the house of representatives.
  • Removal by the governor, after an address by two-thirds of each house of the General Assembly.

Interested persons may find South Carolina Circuit Court case records on the South Carolina Judicial Branch website. Users may provide the name of either party on the case record to get results. Alternatively, visit the sites of the Circuit Court in the relevant county for more information. Note, interested persons may also visit the Office of the Clerk of the Court in the county where the case was handled for the case record.

There are sixteen judicial circuits in South Carolina, which constitutionally consists of individual counties. Per the South Carolina Code of Laws, circuits differ in size from two to five counties. Each judicial circuit has the following counties:

First judicial circuit: Calhoun, Orangeburg, and Dorchester

Calhoun County Circuit Court

Calhoun County Courthouse

902 F. R. Huff Drive, PO Box 709, St. Matthews, SC 29135

Phone: 803–874–3524

Fax: 803–874–1942

Dorchester County Circuit Court

Dorchester County Courthouse

5200 East Jim Bilton Blvd, St. George, SC 29477

Phone: 843–563–0160

Fax: 843–563–0178

Orangeburg County Circuit Court

151 Docket Street, PO Box 9000, Orangeburg, SC 29116

Phone: 803–533–6260

Fax: 803–534–3848

Second judicial circuit: Aiken, Barnwell, and Bamberg.

Aiken County Circuit Court

Judicial Center

109 Park Avenue SE, PO Box 583, Aiken, SC 29802

Phone: 803–642–1715

Fax: 803–642–1718

Barnwell County Circuit Court

Barnwell County Courthouse

141 Main Street, PO Box 723, Barnwell, SC 29812

Phone: 803–541–1020

Fax: 803–541–1025

Bamberg County Circuit Court

2959 Main Highway, PO Box 150, Bamberg, SC 29003

Phone: 803–245–3025

Fax: 803–245–3088

Third judicial circuit: Lee, Sumter, Clarendon, and Williamsburg

Lee County Circuit Court

123 South Main Street

PO Box 387, Bishopville, SC 29010

Phone: 803–484–5341

Fax: 803–484–1632

Sumter County Circuit Court

Sumter County Judicial Center

215 North Harvin Street, Sumter, SC 29150

Phone: 803–436–2227

Fax: 803–436–2223

Williamsburg County Circuit Court

125 West Main Street, Kingstree, SC 29556

Phone: 843–355–9321 ext. 6200

Fax: 843–355–1580

Clarendon County Circuit Court

3 West Keitt Street

PO Box 136, Manning, SC 29102

Phone: 803–435–4443

Fax: 803–435–4844

Fourth judicial circuit: Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, and Dillon

Chesterfield County Circuit Court

Chesterfield County Courthouse

200 West Main Street

PO Box 529, Chesterfield, SC 29709

Phone: 843–623–2574

Fax: 843–623–6944

Marlboro County Circuit Court

Marlboro County Courthouse

105 Main Street

PO Drawer 996

Bennettsville, SC 29512

Phone: 843–479–5613

Fax: 843–479–5653

Darlington County Circuit Court

1 Public Square

Room B–4, Darlington, SC 29532

Phone: 843–398–4330

Fax: 843–393–6871

Dillon County Family Court

301 West Main Street

PO Drawer 1220, Dillon, SC 29536

Phone: 843–774–1425

Fax: 843–774–3706

Fifth judicial circuit: Kershaw and Richland

Kershaw County Circuit Court

Kershaw County Courthouse

1121 Broad Street, Room 313

PO Box 1557, Camden, SC 29021

Phone: 803–425–7223

Fax: 803–425–1505

Richland County Circuit Court

Richland County Judicial Center

1701 Main Street, Room 205

PO Box 2766, Columbia, SC 29202

Phone: 803–576–1950

Fax: 803–576–1785

Sixth judicial circuit: Lancaster, Chester, and Fairfield

Lancaster County Circuit Court

Lancaster County Courthouse

104 North Main Street, Lancaster, SC 29720

Phone: 803–285–1581

Chester County Circuit Court

140 Main Street

PO Box 580, Chester, SC 29706

Phone: 803–385–2605

Fax: 855–946–0423 (Civil)

Fax: 855–935–3708 (Criminal)

Fairfield County Circuit Court

Fairfield County Courthouse

101 South Congress Street

PO Drawer 299, Winnsboro, SC 29180

Phone: 803–712–6526

Fax: 803–712–1506

Seventh judicial circuit: Spartanburg and Cherokee

Spartanburg County Circuit Court

Spartanburg County Courthouse

180 Magnolia Street, Suite 500

PO Box 5666, Spartanburg, SC 29304

Phone: 864–596–2591

Fax: 864–596–2259

Cherokee County Circuit Court

125 East Floyd Baker Blvd

PO Box 2289, Gaffney, SC 29342

Phone: 864–487–2571

Fax: 864–487–2754

Eighth judicial circuit: Abbeville, Greenwood, Newberry and Laurens

Abbeville County Circuit Court

Abbeville County Courthouse

102 Court Square, Room 103

PO Box 99, Abbeville, SC 29620

Phone: 864–366–5312 ext. 55

Fax: 864–366–9188

Greenwood County Circuit Court

Greenwood County Courthouse

528 Monument Street

Room 114, Greenwood, SC 29646

Phone: 864–942–8546

Fax: 864–942–8693

Newberry County Circuit Court

Newberry County Courthouse

1226 College Street

PO Drawer 10, Newberry, SC 29108

Phone: 803–321–2110

Fax: 803–321–2111

Laurens County Circuit Court

100 Hillcrest Square, Suite B

PO Box 287, Laurens, SC 29360

Phone: 864–984–3538

Fax: 864–984–7023

Ninth Judicial circuit: Berkeley and Charleston

Berkeley County Circuit Court

300-B California Avenue

PO Box 219, Moncks Corner, SC 29461

Phone: 843–719–4400

Fax: 843–719–4509

Charleston County Circuit Court

Judicial Center

100 Broad Street

Suite 106, Charleston, SC 29401

Phone: 843–958–5000

Fax: 843–958–5020

Tenth Judicial circuit: Oconee and Anderson

Oconee County Circuit Court

205 West Main Street

PO Box 678, Walhalla, SC 29691

Phone: 864–638–4280

Fax: 864–638–4282

Anderson County Circuit Court

100 S Main Street

PO Box 8002, Anderson, SC 29622

Phone: 864–260–4053

Fax: 864–260–4715

Eleventh Judicial circuit: McCormick, Edgefield, Saluda, and Lexington

McCormick County Circuit Court

133 South Mine Street

Room 102, McCormick, SC 29835

Phone: 864–852–2195

Fax: 864–852–0071

Edgefield County Circuit Court

129 Courthouse Square

PO Box 34, Edgefield, SC 29824

Phone: 803–637–4080

Fax: 803–637–4056

Saluda County Circuit Court

Saluda County Courthouse

100 East Church Street

Suite 6, Saluda, SC 29138

Phone: 864–445–4500

Fax: 864–445–3772

Lexington County Circuit Court

205 East Main Street, Lexington, SC 29072

Phone: 803–785–8212

Fax: 803–785–2215

Twelfth judicial circuit: Florence and Marion

Florence County Circuit Court

City-County Complex

180 North Irby Street, Florence, SC 29501

Phone: 843–665–3031

Fax: 843–665–3097

Marion County Circuit Court

100 West Court Street

PO Box 295, Marion, SC 29571

Phone: 843–423–8240

Fax: 843–423–8242

Thirteenth judicial circuit: Pickens and Greenville

Pickens County Circuit Court

214 East Main Street

PO Box 215, Pickens, SC 29671

Phone: 864–898–5857

Fax: 864–898–5863

Greenville County Circuit Court

Greenville County Courthouse

305 East North Street, Greenville, SC 29601

Phone: 864–467–8551

Fax: 864–467–8540

Fifteenth judicial circuit: Allendale, Hampton, Jasper, Beaufort, and Colleton

Allendale County Circuit Court

Allendale County Courthouse

292 Barnwell Highway

PO Box 126, Allendale, SC 29810

Phone: 803–584–2737

Fax: 803–584–7046

Jasper County Circuit Court

265 Russell Street

PO Box 248, Ridgeland, SC 29936

Phone: 843–726–7710

Fax: 843–726–7782

Beaufort County Circuit Court

102 Ribaut Road, Suite 208

PO Box 1128, Beaufort, SC 29901

Phone: 843–255–5050 (Civil)

Fax: 843–255–9412 (Civil)

Phone: 843–255–5057 (Criminal)

Fax: 843–255–9412 (Criminal)

Colleton County Circuit Court

101 Hampton Street

PO Box 620, Walterboro, SC 29488

Phone: 843–549–5791

Fax: 843–549–2875

Sixteenth judicial circuit: York and Union

York County Circuit Court - Common Pleas (Civil)

2 South Congress Street

PO Box 649, York, SC 29745

Phone: 803–684–8507

Fax: 803–684–8575

York County Circuit Court - General Sessions (Criminal)

Moss Justice Center

1675 York Highway, Suite 1G

PO Box 649, York, SC 29745

Phone: 803–628–3036

Fax: 803–628–3133

Union County Circuit Court

Union County Courthouse

210 West Main Street, Union, SC 29379

Phone: 864–429–1630

The court process in the Circuit Court depends on the type of case. A criminal case begins with a bond hearing, which occurs 24 hours after the arrest. The preliminary hearing comes after this and must be within ten days of the defendant’s arrest. The first appearance, called the roll call, is usually set up within 45 days of the arrest, and the second appearance within 120 days of the arrest. After both appearances is the trial, and there is no stipulated time limit for the trial.

For civil cases, the procedure is also dependent on the type of civil case. There is also no stipulated time limit for the resolution of civil cases in the South Carolina Circuit Court.

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