From the The Post and Courier, January 22, 2005
Jean Toal is calling on the state Legislature to ease what she calls a crisis in the judicial system.
In Charleston on Friday for the South Carolina Bar Association's annual meeting, the Supreme Court chief justice told several hundred people that the state is last in the nation in the ratio of judges to cases. Her solution? Pay for six new judges.
"I haven't had a new judge in 10 years in this system on either the family or circuit court level," she said, and the number of prosecutions, civil cases and family disputes has continued to grow along with the state's population.
"We are at a crisis point now in terms of the ability to manage the caseload in South Carolina," she said.
Quoting from the National Center for State Courts, Toal said South Carolina has about one circuit judge for every 100,000 people. That's created a load of nearly 3,800 cases a year per judge, the highest in the country, she said.
Toal plans to ask the Legislature this year to fund three circuit court and three family court judges. That would mean hiring support staff, clerks and court reporters.
Although caseloads are up, paperwork is down, she said, thanks to use of the Internet.
Toal said the state is moving toward a court system that relies less on paper, where all types of electronic filing and record-keeping, from the magistrate court level up, will be easily accessible in every community in the state.
She called it an "attempt to build a culture in which we start to exchange information in this way. It's something that's much less expensive and much more dynamic."
"Technology initiatives continue to be the hallmark of my administration," Toal said, adding that they offer a way to make the most efficient use of the system's resources.