A conservative celebrates “growing government” — in the judicial branch

Our regular contributor Bryan Caskey celebrates the Senate’s passage of legislation expanding the state judiciary:

Six More Family Court Judges On the Way

Normally, I view additional government spending with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, even as someone who extols the virtues of fiscal restraint, I can absolutely say that we need more judges here in South Carolina.

Finally, the State Legislature has realized that South Carolina needs more judges to help manage the rising caseload here in the Palmetto State. Today, the SC Senate passed a bill approving the creation of six new family court judges and three new circuit court judges; nine in total.

This has been long overdue. South Carolina has the fewest number of judges per population and more than twice the national average of case filings per judge. Each year, Justice Toal tells the legislature these facts in her State of the Judiciary Report.
As a practicing lawyer here in South Carolina, I can tell you that wait times for hearings are longer than they need to be. I do a fair amount of family court work, and I do it throughout the state. Some counties run a tight ship, and others are an absolute nightmare.
In a certain county, in family court, just to get a hearing scheduled, not heard, can take up to six months. That’s insane. I know the wheels of justice are slow, but six months to get a hearing scheduled means the wheels of justice have fallen off. If you want to get the dockets moving, you have to have more people available to get the cases disposed of. Alternative dispute resolution (mediation) has taken some pressure off the court, but you cannot force people to agree. Sometimes, especially in family court, you have to have an adjudication…

I give him joy of those new judges. They were needed. It’s good to see at least one of the neglected areas of state governmental responsibility get at least some of the resources it needs.

45 thoughts on “A conservative celebrates “growing government” — in the judicial branch

  1. Doug Ross

    This is one of the core functions of government and should be staffed to the proper level.

    Unfortunately, spending on core activities is offset by spending on non-essential activities (arts, museums, tourism, and on and on).

    Reply
  2. Mark Stewart

    As with everything, there is always a flip side.

    It’s the attorney’s who have created much of the Family Court caseload problem – at least on the divorce side of the ledger. Making it possible for people ending their marriage to simply dissolve that union without litigation would go a long way toward reducing the need for more family court judges. If any part of the practice of law is mostly make-work, it would be within the divorce field. Run amok is the only way to charitably describe the process in this state.

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  3. bud

    Kevin Fisher had a nice article today in The Free Times about the proposed bus tax. He suggests using the hospitality tax for that purpose is probably not illegal at all. Just say it’s done for the purpose of providing transportation for all the tourists. Kevin also suggests a repeal of the tax in exchange for the new bus tax would be the way to go. Didn’t I say that months ago? Seems like a pretty obvious choice to make. Like Doug says lets get rid of at least some of these unnecessary government projects before embarking on new stuff.

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  4. `Kathryn Braun

    Doug–and cutting those non-essential activities helps the economy how, to borrow your query from another thread?

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  5. Steven Davis II

    What Doug said. It’s not the duty of the government to make sure we have access to art museums, symphonies, and ballet productions.

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  6. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    The money doesn’t disappear – it goes somewhere else (i.e. where the consumer wants to spend it). If the arts can’t support themselves without government assistance it is because the people don’t want the arts that are being funded.

    My comment on the other thread was in regards to saving versus spending. The economy needs spending. The best spending is consumer spending, not government spending.

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  7. Silence

    @ bud – since the bus doesn’t run to the airport, how did all the tourists get to the bus? Did they get to Columbia on AMTRAK or Greyhound, or just roll in on a boxcar? ;P

    I kid, but I do support a tax swap to fund the bus system.

    @ ‘Kathryn – It’s not really the government’s job to help the economy. It’s their job to provide a framework for an economy to function. We’ve got to get off the all stimulus all the time kick.

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  8. Brad

    And not to provoke an argument, but I’d like to enlarge on what Doug said: “The money doesn’t disappear – it goes somewhere…”

    Yep. Whether consumers spend it, or government. Because government ultimately pays it to consumers, in the form of employees or contractors or vendors.

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  9. bud

    It’s their job to provide a framework for an economy to function.
    -Silence

    That’s why the tax rate on any type of income should be the same whether it’s wage, interest, capital gains or dividends.

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  10. Silence

    @ bud- we can go on debating that, but I don’t think we are going to agree on earned and unearned income taxation rates.

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  11. `Kathryn Braun

    Yeah, those schoolkids at the museum or the zoo should pay their fair share–fact is: the arts are an investment financially that pays off in money spent at private businesses, not to mention making a community far more desirable. There’s a reason Aiken attracts more investment than Edgefield–it’s a quality of life issue.

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  12. bud

    Back to the buses. Has anyone looked into making the bus system a bit more user friendly? Seems like it’s very difficult to figure out how to get where you need to go on the buses. Many of the USC affiliated appartments have shuttle buses that run every 30 minutes or so from the apts to a drop off location in front of the horseshoe. Seems pretty simple. And those things are always full during the school year. Yet I’m not sure where I’d start to try and figure out how to go to Harbison or Sandhills on the Columbia buses.

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  13. `Kathryn Braun

    @bud–there’s a transit center at Laurel and Sumter, a website, a phone line…plus most of the users probably learn from neighbors, friends and family who use the bus.

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  14. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn – we all pay for the zoo, it’s in our property tax bill. Then of course, we have a membership, so we pay again. It’s OK b/c we use it, so I don’t mind. Now the RCPL, on the other hand….

    Does Aiken attract more investment than Edgefield b/c rich people live in Aiekn, or b/c ten governors came from Edgefield? I like to think that Edgefield is being punished for the latter.

    @ bud – first you have to ride one bus down to the corner of Sumter St. and Laurel. Then you sit around with a bunch of sweaty, probably smelly people for a while. Eventually a bus comes along that takes you to where you want to go. Route 34 takes you to Harbison.

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  15. Steven Davis II

    Kathryn, what would Aiken be if it weren’t for SRS and USCA? Edgefield. Aiken ain’t all that much to talk about… especially if you didn’t grow up there. Even those who do don’t think “the arts” when they think of Aiken.

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  16. Juan Caruso

    Sorry to disagree, Brad. The words conservative and lawyer have been mutually exclusive for decades!

    Almost as poor a characterization as those who believe Thomas L. Friedman is a conservative.

    Reply
  17. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    The problem with funding arts is that the funding is distributed according to the whims of a small group of well connected people.

    We won’t be seeing a whole lot of arts funding for hip hop concerts, comic book conventions, or clogging competitions. Or would you be okay with sharing the funding with those alternative cultural events?

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  18. bud

    I’m going to do an experiment. I’ll take a day off from work and see how difficult it really is to go from one place to another. Then I’ll report back.

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  19. Phillip

    @Doug: I think you have an outdated view about the diversity of grants in the arts, and the definition of “the arts” or “culture.” First of all, about distribution: the higher-up the chain, the less frequently one sees the trail of the “well-connected few” distributing the money. The biggest danger of this happening is at the local level: but SC Arts Commission uses a number of outside-the-state reviewers to evaluate grant applications, and the process is even more nationally-distributed and spread-out among a wider “jury” at the level of an NEA, for example.

    And I don’t know about SC in particular in this regard, but I know for a fact that NC Arts Council has supported clogging troupes from the western part of the state for years; and in SC and locally to be sure, monies are distributed to all sorts of organizations that incorporate hip-hop into their programming (at festivals) or indirectly through fostering study of musical skills that can be used in creating work in that genre. Also, SC Arts Commission gives grants to a number of organizations (Clemson’s Youth Learning Institute and the SC Dept. of Juvenile Justice’s School District) that work with at-risk youth…given the unfortunately disproportionate numbers of African-American kids in that category, I suspect (based on what I know of these kinds of programs in other parts of the US) that hip-hop may well be one area of creativity explored with these kids.

    The key phrase here is “non-profit.” Of course, when you’re talking about hip-hop (or any widely popular, commodified music) at a level where the primary goal is to make large profits, then of course there’s no point in adding taxpayers’ money, which would be like a drop in the ocean to them. The point of most arts support by a community (be it the nation, state, or town) is to make the difference between existence and non-existence of the particular enterprise in many cases.

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  20. Mark Stewart

    Support for the arts has been a pillar of all political and religious institutions since the dawn of time.

    Why is this so anathema to some Americans over the past 50 years? Because such funding wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution? Or is it something more mundane; perhaps an inchoate fear of grandiosity and/or courtly “refinement”?

    Innovation in the arts goes hand in hand with scientific progress and cultural/political evolution. Art provides both physical and experiential evidence of our social progress. Arts worth supporting – especially as it has to be just about the smallest line item of any governmental budget.

    Tourism funding as a govermental endeavor? Now that’s a joke. Almost as bad as chasing convention center return on investment…

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  21. Doug Ross

    @Phillip

    But it will always come down to someone deciding what arts should be funded and to what level. That “someone” probably doesn’t represent the tastes of the community as a whole. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in such a subjective area.

    And there has to be some sense of priorities. I believe there was a multi-hundred thousand dollar grant given to restore (I think) the Woodrow Wilson house. To think of that expenditure being made a few blocks from where there are homeless people who can’t afford to buy a meal brings into question what the priorities of the government should be.

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  22. Steven Davis II

    Yeah but Doug, remember Woodrow Wilson lived in that house for what 3-4 years?

    Wikipedia states that he spent the majority of his childhood, up to the age of 14 in Augusta, GA where his father was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church.

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  23. `Kathryn Braun

    @Doug–there are plenty of sources for the homeless to get food. That’s a red herring.

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  24. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    Really. You’re telling me everyone on the street who wants to eat can eat three square meals a day. And that since that has been covered, the next best place to spend tax dollars is on Woodrow Wilson’s semi-childhood home?

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  25. Silence

    @ Doug – Transitions feeds, so does Christ Central. Ebenezer Lutheran feeds too, I think. All about 3 blocks from the Wilson House. Our local homeless may need mental health care, but I don’t think they are starving.

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  26. `Kathryn Braun

    I believe that there are places that everyone on the street can eat three times a day–I think they get breakfast and a bag lunch, plus dinner at one or other of the soup kitchens run by the churches and Salvation Army. If someone is hungry, it’s more likely to be a kid who is not homeless but hidden in a god-awful home. The resources are there, but not everyone avails themselves of them.

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  27. `Kathryn Braun

    and Trinity does Sunday breakfast, there’s a ministry at Finlay Park for Sunday lunch, Washington St. Methodist does one, etc.

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  28. Doug Ross

    @Silence

    Then that would be a recent improvement. When I was doing the monthly feed the homeless at First Baptist Church, we would regularly get 100+ people who didn’t look like they were willing to pass up a meal. And they all need toiletries, shoes, jackets, sleeping bags, etc. I personally collected and distributed 200 jackets one December.

    Or use the money to fund some kind of training program… anything but wasting it on a hundred year old house that nobody cares about. I chaperoned school trips to the Woodrow Wilson house with my kids. The kids couldn’t wait to get out of there. “Here’s an old bed. Here’s an old desk. Oh, look, an old kitchen. Young Woodrow may have eaten a baloney sandwich just ten feet from where you are standing.”

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  29. `Kathryn Braun

    Well, it’s a stretch to say nobody cares about the Woodrow Wilson house. Even your town, Blythewood, is trying to prove that it’s a real place, and preserving its old houses.

    Just because some mouthy schoolkids didn’t care for it doesn’t mean they all didn’t, and since when is that the standard for what we do? I bet you’d find it hard to organize an educational school trip that certain kids wouldn’t bash.

    When I was a kid, especially when I was a kid, I was completely fascinated by old stuff. There was a place in Buffalo, NY, where my parents are from, that had a whole 1890s street scene recreated that completely obsessed me. Old clothes, old homes–top of my list.

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  30. Silence

    @Doug – I agree that historical preservation should fall below below eating on the scale of human needs, but I wouldn’t say that nobody cares about the Wilson House. The “garden district” with all of it’s historic homes is in fact as much of a tourist draw as just about anything else in Columbia.

    Historic Columbia does a good job with the museum houses over there. I agree it should be privately funded though, preferably. However, the way the current hospitality tax law is written (poorly) it is supposed to be spent on tourism and hospitality related stuff.

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  31. Doug Ross

    @Kathryn

    If they are preserving old houses in Blythewood with tax dollars, that is wrong.

    Go on a field trip with middle schoolers some time. Space camp = fun. Woodrow Wilson house = when do we eat?

    There’s no there there. What’s the attraction? What’s the significance? Why is that house worthy of tax dollars? How much revenue is returned for the investment of tourism tax dollars? (Isn’t that the purpose of the tax – to drive the local tourism / hospitality economy?)

    Reply
  32. Doug Ross

    @Silence

    “The “garden district” with all of it’s historic homes is in fact as much of a tourist draw as just about anything else in Columbia. ”

    Can you quantify the number of tourists who make trips to Columbia to visit the “garden district”. Let me know if you get to three digits.

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  33. Silence

    @ Doug – LOL, Mayor Bob once told me that the largest tourist draw for Columbia was church conventions. They come in by the busload and use the coliseum or arena. My only question about that was how many of them stayed overnight in hotels, ate at restaurants, etc. vs. how many of them came in on a bus in the AM and left in the evening, never seeing any of Columbia beyond the arena parking lot and inside the arena.

    The other biggie was sporting events. It might have actually been the biggest, with church conventions at #2. Not just USC sports, but families coming for their kids to play in tournaments.

    Certainly the Zoo is a regional draw, but I doubt many of its patrons stay overnight or do much else as well. Edventure’s probably the same way.

    How many tourists come to see the Columbia Museum of Art or go to a show at the Koger Center? I’d say it’s mainly just locals.

    What else we got?

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  34. Mark Stewart

    Actually, what gets me about the Woodrow Wilson house is the renovations (read money) that the preservationists push as necessary to protect the historic integrity of the house.

    I agree that the Woodrow Wilson house connection is a joke; it’s not like the League of Nations was conceived in the study. I do, however, believe that protecting and maintaining good examples of our built past is important – publically and privately (I really like what the law firm did to renovate the house next door). I simply cannot justify a museum-quality restoration process and budget for this house. We are not talking about Drayton Hall here. It boggles my mind that they are spending millions and millions of dollars on this restoration when it would seem that anything over six figures would have given someone pause to simply say “no”.

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  35. bud

    I just drove past the USC baseball park at lunch and there must have been several thousand people trying to get in. Many of them were from other parts of the state and will probably stay at least one night. There may have even been a handful of people from NY since Manhattan is in the tourney. Those folks might be curious enough to stay a couple nights although mostly they will drive down to Charleston.

    Otherwise Columbia may draw a few folks for a few nights but it doesn’t seem like a big tourist destination for sure. Still, it’s worth exploiting what we do have. In addition to USC sports, the zoo and museums we have the Congaree National Park and a pretty good river system for whitewater enthusiasts.

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  36. Tim

    Local businesses don’t find the church conventions all that attractive. Most of the attendees spend very little here, often bringing their own groceries, box lunches, etc. And my restaurant buddies note they are terrible tippers when they do go out.

    Reply

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