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Governor, state GOP lawmakers express thoughts on changing the judicial selection process

After the South Carolina Supreme Court's ruling on the state abortion ban, Republican lawmakers are looking at changing the election process for these Justices.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Almost a week after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling on the state abortion ban, Governor Henry McMaster mentioned something in his inaugural address that has been weighing on the minds of Republican lawmakers.

Right now State Supreme Court justices are elected by a vote by the General Assembly but in his inaugural speech on Wednesday Governor Henry McMaster says he wants more transparency in this process hinting at the State Supreme Court's recent ruling on the abortion ban.

"We must also ensure that the public has confidence in whom and how all our judges are selected- by making the processes more transparent and accountable; so that every South Carolinian, born and unborn, may enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Governor McMaster said.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman, Drew McKissick says there have been rumblings of a "need for change".

"There are a lot of folks that are talking about the need for some potential reform," McKissick explained. "Whether or not that involves the Governor, maybe, potentially being able to nominate candidates and then have the legislature vote on them. You know a lot of different things that could be done but just beginning to see a consensus that something needs to change."

However, that change can not come without a lot of work. Attorney Christopher Kenney spoke about what power state lawmakers might have to change the judicial selection process.

"I think more transparency and better public understanding of how judges are elected would be wonderful, but I will say that's not really what's happening here... so, you can through a constitutional amendment change the way judges are elected but that process would have to be put to the people as well," Kenney explained.

In the next two weeks, a new justice will be elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court to take the place of the retired Justice Kaye Hearn. 

However, Kenney says lawmakers will not be able to change the process before her seat is filled.

"The General Assembly is going to elect a replacement for Justice Hearn and I think it's important to understand what's happening here," Kenney explained. "You cannot be for the rule of law if you decide you want to change the rules when you get an outcome in a case you don't like."

Along with Hearn, Chief Justice Donald Beatty's time is coming to a close as well, and only time will tell what the selection process will be for the new head of the State Supreme Court.

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