Judicial Merit Selection Commission report on Judge F.P. Segars-Andrews

The Judicial Merit Selection Commission report on Judge F.P. Segars-Andrews can be located here. It appears my concern that Mr. Simpson and his attorney may have sandbagged Judge Segars-Andrews about the alleged conflict created by the business relationship between her husband and Ms. Simpson’s attorney is not borne out by the facts.  It’s finally clear why Judge Segars-Andrews believes she made a mistake in ruling on the Simpson case: her husband had recently received a $300,000 fee from a fee-split with Ms. Simpson’ s attorney and she didn’t reveal this until she had heard the case.    She then reversed her decision to recuse herself based, in part, upon an affidavit of Professor Nathan Crystal without giving Mr. Simpson an opportunity to respond to that affidavit.  I still don’t believe this one mistake renders her unqualified to remain a family court judge.

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  • She’s done some fine work on the bench. Last year she went way beyond the call when the entire social service / youth system was wringing it’s hands to get a young man some help. Nobody in the courtroom had any answers and she came up with some money and put the kid on a sailboat for a week as crew to see if he could get his head in order. It really helped. She paid for a plane ticket out of her own pocket.

    She has ruled for and against my clients.

  • She’s ruled for and against my clients too. Some of her decisions were (partially) reversed on appeal and on two occasions I have had her temporary orders superseded. I have one of her decisions on appeal that I expect will be reversed.

    Still, I never felt her rulings were based on anything other than her interpretation of the law and the facts and if we start expecting judges to be perfect we will soon have no judiciary.

    Further she has been an unfailingly courteous judge (I cannot say that about some judges) and works tirelessly for the improvement of the family court system. If she is removed from the bench it will be a loss to all of South Carolina.

  • Dawes Cooke

    December 17, 2009
    Statement of the Commission on Judicial Independence and Impartiality

    The Commission on Judicial Independence and Impartiality is gravely concerned by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission’s failure, by a 7-3 vote, to find the Honorable F.P. Segars-Andrews qualified for reelection as a family court judge. While the Commission’s decision will not be final until its report is published, the reported basis for disqualification lies in her conduct in a single case after 16 years of service as a judge.

    Particularly alarming is the rehashing of this court case before a legislative commission charged with approving judges for re-election. Judicial independence is jeopardized if the judicial screening process becomes a place where cases that have already been thoroughly reviewed and disposed of through both the appeals and judicial disciplinary process can be retried.

    Further, these actions are evidence of a dangerous influence that must not be present in a judicial system that depends upon absolute impartiality. Judges must be allowed to rule in good faith and fulfill their constitutional requirements without fear of losing their jobs at the hands of disgruntled litigants. The very existence of the appeals court process contemplates that judges are human and will sometimes make mistakes. The ability and process for challenging rulings are already in place and functioning as they are supposed to. The judicial screening process must be one which resists political pressures and respects those safeguards already in place which ensure fair judicial review.

    The South Carolina Bar’s Commission on Judicial Independence and Impartiality was established in 2002 to emphasize the importance of judges’ independence and defend their freedom to interpret the law and make decisions. The Commission is an eight member commission, comprised of four lawyers and four non-lawyer citizens who exist and operate independent of Bar governance.

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