South Carolina Case Law
The South Carolina state court system is divided into three levels. The highest court in South Carolina is the South Carolina Supreme Court, which consists of five judges. The Supreme Court reviews appeals of decisions by the South Carolina Court of Appeals. It also reviews appeals of decisions by trial courts in limited situations. Decisions by the South Carolina Supreme Court are final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review an appeal of a decision.
The middle level of the South Carolina state court system is the South Carolina Court of Appeals. This court consists of nine judges, who may hear cases in three-judge panels or as a whole. Most appeals of decisions by trial courts must pass through the Court of Appeals before reaching the Supreme Court.
The lowest level of the South Carolina state court system consists primarily of the South Carolina Circuit Courts, the South Carolina Magistrate Courts, the South Carolina Municipal Courts, and the South Carolina Probate Courts. The Circuit Courts are trial courts with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. They refer some cases to South Carolina Masters-in-Equity Courts, which are courts without a jury. The Circuit Courts also review appeals of decisions by Magistrate Courts, Municipal Courts, and Probate Courts. The jurisdiction of the Magistrate Courts is limited to minor criminal cases. The Municipal Courts review cases that involve violations of municipal ordinances. The Probate Courts review cases that involve estates, guardianships, marriages, and related matters.
South Carolina also has a separate set of Family Courts, which are divided into the same judicial districts as Circuit Courts. These are trial courts that review cases related to divorce, child custody, child support, and other aspects of domestic relations. Appeals of decisions by Family Courts are reviewed by the Court of Appeals rather than Circuit Courts.