How to Become a Magistrate or Judge in South Carolina

The South Carolina court system employs judges in the trial courts, appellate court and supreme court. In addition, there are magistrates assigned to each county that have jurisdiction over criminal cases where the possible penalty is less than 30 days in jail or a fine of not more than $500. Magistrates also set bail, sign search warrants and conduct preliminary hearings. In civil cases, magistrates may preside over cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed $7,500. There are a number of steps to becoming a judge or magistrate.

Judge

Step 1

Complete your undergraduate education. Acceptance into most law schools requires the applicant to have a bachelor's degree. Applicants from all undergraduate majors are accepted.

Step 2

Apply for and get accepted to an American Bar Association-approved law school. Once accepted, spend three years in law school culminating in a Juris Doctorate degree.

Step 3

Practice law in South Carolina. A judicial candidate must have been licensed to practice law for at least eight years and been a resident of South Carolina for at least the past five years. A candidate must also be a United States citizen and at least 32.

Step 4

Submit an application for a vacant position to the Judicial Merit Selection Commission. The commission screens candidates for judge in South Carolina and reports the findings to the General Assembly. The screening process will include inquiry into the applicant's credentials, performance as an attorney, credit record and background record, as well as both public and private interviews.

Step 5

Win election in front of the General Assembly. Once a candidate has been screened and found appropriate for the position of judge, his name is passed on to the South Carolina General Assembly. The last step in the process is to receive the majority vote in the General Assembly.

Magistrate

Step 1

Complete a bachelor's degree. All candidates for a magistrate position in South Carolina must have a bachelor's degree in the field of her choice.

Step 2

Pass an eligibility test. The South Carolina Judicial Department Court Administration maintains information on when and where the eligibility test is given as well as practice materials. Court administration may be reached by calling 803-734-1800.

Step 3

Obtain a recommendation from the county senatorial delegation in the county where you wish to become a magistrate. A list of county delegations can be found on the South Carolina Legislature website.

Step 4

Accept an appointment by the governor. All South Carolina magistrates are appointed by the governor after a recommendation by the county senatorial delegation.

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