The statutes governing the jury system of the Circuit Courts of South Carolina are found in Chapter 7, Title 14, of the South Carolina Code of Laws, 1976.
The jury system in South Carolina involves both grand juries and petit juries. From the Clerk of Court's perspective, many but not all procedures for the selections of grand juries and petit juries are similar. The Clerk of Court is responsible for summoning of prospective jurors, venire preparation and management, and compensation of jurors for the Circuit and Probate Courts.
Source lists for juror selection are provided by the South Carolina Election Commission (§ 14-7-130). The South Carolina Election Commission compiles the source list from information provided by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the Election Commission's database and makes this list available to the county jury commissioners in October of each year. The source list is available on computer tape and list form to support both automated and manual juror selection methods.
S.C. Code Ann. § 14-7-140 provides for the automation of juror selection and summoning; however, the use of a computer assisted method of juror selection must be at the discretion of the county governing body and approved for use by the Supreme Court. By order dated May 21, 1986, the South Carolina Supreme Court approved such automation according to the following conditions:
(S.C. Code Ann. Title 14, Chapter 7, was the subject of Act 360 of 1986)
The order continues by stating "that the jury commissioners may adopt such procedures for computer use as they determine necessary provided they do not conflict with the terms of this Order or the statutory laws of this State." The physical presence of all three jury commissioners is not required at the computerized drawing and summoning of jurors if the governing body of the county establishes a secure procedure allowing for their participation by other means and the Supreme Court approves such a procedure.
As open-ended as the order and statute may seem with regard to the automated juror selection, the objective of both manual and computer assisted juror selection methods is to have a random and impartial juror selection that is free from discrimination. The full text of the above-referenced order can be found in the "Orders" section at the end of this chapter.
Each grand jury consists of eighteen (18) jurors and serves for one year, or six months in the alternative method of selection provided by S.C. Code Ann. § 14-7-1910. The Grand Juror Information Pamphlet, SCCA Form 238, is designed to assist in the orientation of grand jurors and should be distributed to grand jurors at the start of their time serving as a grand juror. The grand jury meets as ordered to consider matters presented by the circuit solicitor and to determine whether or not to return a bill of indictment on each matter presented. Grand juries may also investigate matters of local concern and make recommendations on their findings to the county governing body. As determined by the Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes, the grand jury may meet every week or a few times during the year. It is a well established matter of common law that grand jury proceedings are secret and nonadversarial. Twelve jurors must agree on a matter before it can be sent to the court. (S.C. Const., Art. V, § 22)
No person may be held to answer for any crime the jurisdiction over which is not within the magistrate’s court, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury of the county where the crime has been committed. (S.C. Const., Art I, § 11)
All General Sessions charges require indictment by the grand jury for prosecution except:
An accused individual may waive presentment to the grand jury. (§ 17-23-130 and 140)
Petit juries are used in both civil and criminal trials in the Circuit Court to decide the issues presented during the trial. This decision is a jury verdict. A petit jury usually consists of twelve (12) members whose verdict must be a unanimous decision (Art. V, § 18); however, by an agreement of parties, a jury of less than twelve may hear a case and, in civil matters, may reach a verdict by a majority vote. (Rule 48, SCRCP and Rule 14, SCRCrimP)
S.C. Const., Article I, § 14 guarantees the right to trial by jury for criminal matters, although the accused may waive this right to be tried by a judge without a jury (bench trial).
Trial by jury in civil matters is constitutionally guaranteed only in libel cases but is otherwise available under common law. (S.C. Const., Art. I, § 14)
Rule 38, SCRCP provides for the following:
A. Issues of fact in an action for the recovery of money only or of specific real or personal property must be tried by a jury, unless this right is to a jury trial is waived, also;
B. Any party may demand a trial by jury of any issue triable of right by a jury.
Additionally, a judge may order any issue tried by a jury. (Rule 39, SCRCP)
Section 62-1-306 of the Probate Code authorizes "trial by jury in any proceeding involving an issue of fact in an action for the recovery of money only or real or personal property." Additionally, the Court "may call a jury to decide any issue of fact" in an advisory capacity. Further, this code section reads, "The method of drawing, summoning, and compensating jurors under this section shall be within the province of the county jury commission and shall be governed by Chapter 7 of Title 14 of the 1976 Code relating to juries in circuit courts."
The Clerk of Court will be notified by the Probate Court when a Probate Court jury trial needs to be scheduled. If facilities permit, the Clerk of Court should schedule the probate jury trials concurrently with the next regularly scheduled General Sessions or Common Pleas term, and notify the Probate Court in writing of the date of the scheduled term within ten days of that Court's request. When concurrent scheduling is not possible, the Probate Court must submit a request for a special Probate Court jury term to the Chief Justice through Court Administration. If the request is approved, the Clerk of Court and the Probate Court Judge will decide upon a date for the special term. The Clerk of Court is responsible for summoning, venire preparation, and compensation of Probate Court jurors. The Clerk draws the jury panels and provides jury management when the Probate Court is using Circuit Court facilities. When Probate Court facilities are used, the Probate Court is responsible for jury management. For special jury terms, the Clerk's representative must be present for juror qualification, but drawing the panel and jury management become Probate Court responsibilities.
A copy of the administrative order governing probate jury procedure can be found in the "Orders" section at the end of this chapter.
The County Auditor, the County Treasurer, and the Clerk of Court of Common Pleas are known as jury commissioners (§ 14-7-110). If a vacancy occurs in one or two of these offices, the Probate Judge will function as the first substitute jury commissioner and the Sheriff will be the second substitute in the event that there are two vacancies or in that the Probate Judge cannot participate. If more substitute jury commissioners are needed, a resident or presiding Circuit Court Judge may appoint substitute commissioners as needed (§ 14-7-120).
Each commissioner will have custody of a key that is unique to one of the three locks on the jury box so that all three commissioners must be present to access the jury box (§ 14-7-180). However, in counties where jury selection performed by computer, the jury commissioners will each have a unique code to effect jury selection. The physical presence of all three jury commissioners is not required at the computerized drawing and summoning of jurors if the governing body of the county establishes a secure procedure allowing for their participation by other means and the Supreme Court approves such a procedure.
NOTE: Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 14-7-220, the drawing of jurors must be a public affair conducted in the office of the Clerk of Court of Common Pleas and the jury commissioners must give ten days' notice of the place, day, and hour of each of the drawings by posting a notice in a conspicuous place on the courthouse door or by advertisement in a county newspaper.
The jury commission is charged with preparing the jury list from a computer tape or list of qualified voters and persons holding a valid S.C. Driver's license or a State issued identification card. As mentioned in section 4.0, this computer tape or list is compiled and provided to the jury commission by the State Election Commission using information from the Department of Motor Vehicles and delivered to the county jury commission in October of each year. This computer tape or list, as furnished to the jury commission by the State Election Commission, constitutes the roll of eligible jurors in the county. (§ 14-7-130)
Each name on the jury list should be assigned a unique number, starting with the number "1" and continuing successively until all names on the list are assigned a unique number.
Under an approved plan, as mentioned in 4.0.1, the physical task of drawing and recording the names of individual prospective jurors may be performed by computer. Computerized drawings take place in the clerk's office as a public event to ensure absolute integrity of the random selection process. All three jury commissioners must be physically present at the same location for computerized drawing unless the governing body of the county establishes a secure procedure allowing for their participation by other means and the Supreme Court approves such a procedure.
The Clerk of Court is responsible for notifying (or summoning) prospective jurors when they have been selected for jury duty in either the Circuit or Probate Court. As required by law, a juror must be notified of selection for service fifteen days prior to the start of the term for which he/she has been summoned (§ 14-7-160).
The process is as follows:
A. Mail each summons by first class mail from the Clerk of Court or from the State Election Commission as contracted by the Clerk of Court. (§ 14-7-390)
B. Mail each summons by certified mail with return receipt requested. (§ 14-7-410)
C. Deliver writ and summons to the sheriff for service. (§ 14-7-400)
NOTE: If mail service is used and a summons is returned as not being deliverable, the summons should be forwarded to the sheriff for service.
For many prospective jurors, aside from traffic court, jury duty may be their only substantial contact with the justice system. The attitudes of prospective jurors will range from having pride in performing a civic duty to resentment at being imposed upon, with general apathy falling somewhere in between. Also, first time jurors will be somewhat confused as to what their obligation as a juror will entail. Currently, the media is filled with glamorized depictions of court happenings as well as entertainment based "staged" courts and some jurors will bring these perceptions into the courthouse. The Clerk of Court should be aware of and sensitive to the many facets of dealing with jurors. If a jury manager's approach to his or her job is customer service oriented, the jurors' perspective and the image of the justice system will benefit. Simple efforts such as providing coffee, a clean jury area, and reasonably comfortable chairs can have a positive effect on jurors. Obviously, because the Clerk of Court is popularly elected, the Clerk has substantial experience and talent in dealing with the public. While there is no official guide to public relations for Clerks of Court, a few procedures are necessary for juror management. The following basic jury management procedures will vary from county to county according to tradition and the personal style of the Clerk.
When prospective jurors report to the courthouse for service, they should be directed to an area separate from the general public, i.e. courtroom or jury room, for roll call and qualification. The jury manager should have a master list of summoned jurors to record information relative to each juror, such as attendance, time of service, excuses, etc.
At some point prior to qualification, prospective jurors should be informed of what to expect during their time of service. The Uniform Juror Information Pamphlet, Form 3, SCRCP, is designed to assist in the orientation of jurors and should be distributed to jurors either when they arrive at the courthouse or before, such as including the pamphlet in a confirmation notice. A juror orientation video is also currently available through the S.C. Bar. Finally, jurors must be given a copy or informed of the substance of the Supreme Court order dated August 25, 2000, pertaining to pagers, cell phones, and other personal communication devices in the courtroom (See "Orders" section at the end of this chapter). This order also requires that a copy of the same must be posted on courtroom doors.
All jurors must be qualified before they become members of the jury pool. The judge makes the decisions as to who qualifies and who does not qualify based on statutory provisions. To assist in this decision making process, each summons contains a Juror Information Form and Juror Response Form which the recipient must complete and return to the Clerk of Court within three days after receipt. The Juror Response Form serves to indicate if a prospective juror believes they should be disqualified, exempted, or excused from jury duty. The Clerk of Court collects these forms as they are returned and retains them for use by the court during the term.
Between summons issuance and the reporting date, the Clerk's Office must monitor responses to the summonses so that the Clerk and the Judge know who to expect on the first day of the term. This same procedure is used for Circuit Court and Probate Court juries.
1. make appropriate entry on master venire list, and
2. send confirming correspondence to the prospective juror. Form letters may be helpful for this task.
When a petit juror requests for good cause to be transferred to a subsequent term of court, the Clerk of Court may do so without court approval. (§ 14-7-1010)
NOTE: A transferred juror's name is added to the end of the master venire list, i.e. transferred jurors' names appear in addition to the names normally drawn.
Grand jury selection is normally a two step process that results in a complete panel of six experienced, or "holdover", grand jurors and twelve new grand jurors for each grand jury term. Each year, or six months for use of the alternate method, at the last term of court of General Sessions, the Clerk of Court must draw the names of six of the current grand jurors to continue to serve for the next grand jury term. No juror, however, may serve for more than two consecutive terms. Then, at least fifteen days prior to the first term of court for the next year (or alternatively, the next six months), the names of potential new grand jurors will be drawn. The number of names drawn for this purpose is determined by either the Clerk of Court or the Chief Administrative Judge and should be a number sufficient to impanel a grand jury. The remaining twelve grand jurors will be selected from this group. (§ 14-7-1520)
Procedure for drawing a grand jury is as follows:
NOTE: Any person completing service as a grand juror, including service as a holdover grand juror, is exempt from any further service as a juror in any court of this State for a period of five calendar years. (§ 14-7-1510)
At the time designated for reporting to the court, the presiding judge will qualify the prospective grand jurors based upon the information on the Juror Information and Juror Response Forms, and by questions presented on the judge's initiative. Also, jurors will be disqualified, exempted, or excused in accordance with the requirements of Title 14, Chapter 7 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
NOTE: When a juror is disqualified, exempted, or excused, make a note of the reason for disqualification, exemption, or excuse by that juror's name on the master copy of the venire list.
Once the prospective grand jurors have been qualified, the names of twelve new grand jurors and alternates for the new term will be drawn by the clerk.
The drawing of a petit jury is a public affair and must take place in the Clerk of Court's office. At least ten days in advance of a petit jury drawing, the jury commission must publish in the local newspaper or on the courthouse door a notice detailing the place, day, and hour of the jury drawing (§ 14-7-220). Drawings must occur at least fifteen days but no more than thirty-five days before the first day of any term requiring a jury (§ 14-7-190 and § 14-7-200).
Jury selection by computer was authorized by a Supreme Court order dated May 21, 1986 (See Orders section at the end of this chapter), provided that the plan for computerized selection was approved by the Supreme Court.
Pursuant to § 14-7-260, the Chief Administrative Judge or presiding Judge may, by order, increase or decrease the number of persons drawn and summoned as necessary, however, a minimum of 75 persons must be drawn and summoned to serve as petit jurors for any one term of court. Instances of increasing the number of people in the jury pool may occur because: a case may be highly publicized, the Probate Court may require jurors when using Circuit Court facilities, or if more than one term of court requiring juries is scheduled for the same week. The Clerk of Court must determine whether the jury needs of the Probate Court can be met from a general drawing. The following chart is based on § 14-7-190 and is meant to help determine the amount of additional jurors drawn for multiple concurrent terms:
Number of Concurrent Terms
Percentage of normally drawn jury pool
5 or more
Note: If a drawing is required for a special Probate Court jury term, the number of jurors to be drawn will be determined by the Chief Justice.
At the start of each term, petit jurors will be qualified by the judge in the same manner as provided for qualification of grand jurors, including the processing of juror transfer, disqualification, exemption, or excuse. If a special Probate Court jury term is held, the Clerk of Court shall have a representative in the courtroom during qualification -- subsequent jury management matters are the responsibility of the Probate Court. After the prospective jurors have been qualified and the jury pool established, panels will be drawn as needed for scheduled trials.
NOTE: The following statutes apply to excused and exempt jurors as related to the clerk's authority:
§ 14-7-870. Procedures
applicable to excused jurors.
Whenever a juror is so excused, unless the cause of the excuse is permanent physical disability of the juror or the juror is a member of one of the classes of persons set forth in § 14-7-840, the name of the juror must be placed by the jury commissioners on the succeeding panel of the same term, or the next term or a subsequent term of court. The name of the juror so placed on any panel must be in addition to the seventy-five names required to be placed on the panel under the provisions of § 14-7-200, and the juror shall attend the court on the first day of the week for which he has been so designated without the issuance or service of any further process.
He shall serve as a substitute on the panel in the stead and place of any one of the jurors drawn on the panel whose attendance cannot then be procured or who may be excused from attendance on the panel for cause as provided in this article.
§ 14-7-840. Exemption
from jury service; requirement of direction by court; maintenance of list of persons
No person is exempt from service as a juror in any court of this State except men and women sixty-five years of age or over. Notaries public are not considered state officers and are not exempt under this section. A person exempt under this section may be excused upon telephone confirmation of date of birth and age to the clerk of court or the chief magistrate. The jury commissioners shall not excuse or disqualify a juror under this section. The clerk of court shall maintain a list of persons excused by the court and the reasons the juror was determined to be excused.
NOTE: Please see section 4.6.2 for information regarding juror transfers.
NOTE: See 4.12 for Procedure for Calling of Qualified Jurors and Voir Dire in Criminal Cases
Once a panel has been sent to a courtroom, the process of selecting a trial jury from the jury panel by way of plaintiff and defendant strikes, known as "voir dire," will take place. Each juror on the panel must be sworn prior to voir dire. Section § 14-7-1130 provides that a juror may make an affirmation instead of oath with regard to being sworn.
"Any juror in any court of this State may make solemn and conscientious affirmation and declaration, according to the form of his religious belief or profession, as to any matter or thing whereof an oath is required and this affirmation and declaration must be held as valid and effectual as if the person had taken an oath on the Holy Bible." (§ 14-7-1130) Keeping this statute in mind, a sample of the voir dire oath is as follows:
Juror Oath - Voir Dire
"Place your hand on the Bible (if no objection). You shall truthfully answer all questions asked of you concerning this matter now before the court, by the court, or order thereof. You shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you God (if no objection)."
Civil Petit Jury Oath
"You shall well and truly try the issue joined in this case of Name of Plaintiff against Name of Defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence. So help you God (if no objection)."
The juror should come forward and face the prosecution and the defense. At which point the cerk will inquire of the solicitor, "What says the State?" The solicitor will respond with, "Present the juror" or "Excuse the juror." If the solicitor responds "Present the juror," the clerk will present the juror to the defense with the question of, "What says the Defense?" If the defense says, "Swear the juror," the juror should be directed to take a seat in the jury box. If the defense, or the solicitor when first asked, replies, "Excuse the juror," then the juror should be directed to return to his seat with the jury pool.
Criminal Petit Jury Oath
"You shall well and truly try the case number Read Case Number, The State versus Defendant's Name, indicted for Read Charge, and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence. So help you God (if no objection)."
When jurors conclude their terms of jury service, several tasks remain for the Clerk before closing the records on that jury. All jurors need to be paid and provided with official acknowledgment of their jury duty.
Each county establishes the amount, method and timing of juror payments. In all cases, however, the clerk must provide the information on the amounts to be paid and to whom. The Clerk of Court is also responsible for payment of jurors serving in the Probate Court. A basic guideline follows:
Employers frequently require that employees provide verification of jury duty for a specific period. Additionally, goodwill may be gained for the court by offering jurors a verbal or written note of appreciation for their service.
State law as related to acknowledgment of service is as follows:
§ 14-17-310. Clerk shall make out roll of
jurors and constables in attendance; certificates.
Immediately after the adjournment of any court of common pleas and general sessions the clerk thereof shall (a) make out a roll of the grand jurors, petit jurors and constables who shall have attended the same, exhibiting the name, time of service and amount due each juror and constable and the term at which the service was performed, (b) enter the same on the journals of the court of the term when such service shall be performed, (c) forthwith transmit to the governing body of the county a certified copy of such roll and (d) furnish each juror and constable with a certificate, in the following form:
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I, A. B. Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions for __________ County, in the said State, do certify that __________ attended as a __________ juror (or actually served as a constable, as the case may be) for said county __________ days at __________ Term, A. D. __________, and is entitled to receive for the same __________ dollars, and ___ cents.
Such certificate shall be signed by the Clerk of Court, who shall issue the same, and be countersigned by the sheriff of the county. All certificates so issued and executed shall be valid.