Showdown at the State Supreme Court

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – An appeal from state Attorney General Alan Wilson is headed to the state Supreme Court Tuesday.

Does State Attorney General Alan Wilson have the right to initiate a state grand jury investigation of the Speaker of the House, or does it fall back to the House ethics committee?

That was the question recently put forth before Circuit Judge Casey Manning, who ordered Wilson to stop his probe.

Judge Manning ruled that any allegations against Bobby Harrell should first be heard by the House Ethics Committee.

Wilson appealed the decision and now it will go before the state Supreme Court.

"What I think the question will be, is this an ethics violation that is covered by the ethics law that governs conduct by public officials or is it a criminal action. Now there are some ethics violations that can be criminal," said News 19 Legal Analyst Jay Bender.

Bender believes that Judge Manning's ruling was the most practical.

"We could have been three years down the road and the supreme court gets an appeal from a criminal case and say no there was no jurisdiction until the house ethics committee looked at it, so I think this is the most practical way to get it resolved. "

Manning said in his ruling that the Attorney General failed to offer or present evidence or allegations that any ethics complaints were criminal in nature.

There's been talk that since the justices are elected by the General Assembly, that politics will be played from behind the bench.

Bender believes that won't happen.

"Justice Toal is bulletproof, she has run her last race, she cannot be re-elected, and she doesn't owe anyone anything. I think these people will decide this case on their understanding of the law, it may not even be unanimous, it could be divided and it could be different reasons for any decision. "

Bender does not have a prediction for which way the justices will lean, but he says this will clear the jurisdiction question up for years to come.

"It will answer on the front end the jurisdiction question and that means that anything that follows will be proper in whatever form its in."

Bender says a decision could come down as soon as tomorrow.


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