In a positively mind-blowing decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court decided to allow 20 people who flunked the bar to become lawyers rather than inform one individual that he had been incorrectly told that he had passed. Worse still, the current and immediate past presidents of the state bar have dismissed the controversy as resolved.
The South Carolina controversy began with a mistake in reporting the results of a single individual. A week after the results of the bar were posted, an examiner learned that he had transposed the results of several examinees on the wills, trusts and estates section. One of those individuals had failed another section as well — and had thus failed the exam.
The solution would appear obvious. You informed the individual of a particularly stupid mistake, apologize, and encourage him to retake the exam next year. This would seem an obvious choice because the bar protects the public from people who are not qualified to practice law.
Not in South Carolina, it seems. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal and her colleagues voted to allow not one but 20 individuals who flunked the bar by negating the entire wills, trusts and estates section. That bizarre decision put almost two dozen individuals into the practice of law without meeting the minimal qualifications of the bar. It is a decision that should throw into question the qualifications of the state supreme court justices. Yet,
S.C. Bar president Lanny Lambert of Columbia and immediate past president Brad Waring of Charleston reportedly backed Toal after her explanation that they simply had no good option.
To make matters worse, two of those people were the daughters of two powerful bar members: S.C. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland, and longtime Circuit Judge Paul Burch of Pageland. Both men admit that they contacted court officials after learning that their daughters had flunked.
It is baffling how the Supreme Court could view this as the best of the available options. The paramount concern should be protection of the public followed closely by the integrity of the bar. One can only hope that the state medical board will show a modicum of such concerns in allowing South Carolina medical students to practice.
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