RE: South Carolina Bar License Fees
The House of Delegates of the South Carolina Bar has adopted an amendment to increase the license fee for all members of the South Carolina Bar, other than Retired or Senior Members, by $20.00. The South Carolina Bar petitions this Court to amend Rule 410(b)(2), SCACR, to allow this increase to occur. The petition is granted.
Over the last several years, the Budget of the Judicial Department has been reduced significantly. In Fiscal Year 2000-2001, the appropriation for the Judicial Department was $42,988,000. Through numerous budget reductions, the appropriation has been reduced to $32,134,000 for the current fiscal year, a 25% reduction. This level of funding has severely impacted the ability of the Department to discharge its Constitutional responsibilities, and has forced the Legislature and this Court to consider various alternative funding sources for the Judicial Department.
In most states, the cost of operating the lawyer disciplinary system is borne in whole or substantial part by the members of the bar. Based on information collected by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the amounts charged through assessments or dues for the support of the disciplinary process varies from $25 to $260 per year.
In light of the current budget situation, we find it appropriate to place a portion of the cost of operating the disciplinary system on the members of the South Carolina Bar. Therefore, we have decided that an additional fee of $50.00 shall be charged to Active Members (three years or more) and Judicial Members, with $20.00 being charged for all other classes of members other than Retired, Senior or Associate Members. It is anticipated that this will generate approximately 53% of the cost of operating the attorney and judicial disciplinary systems in South Carolina.
Accordingly, in light of the Bar's petition and our decision that the members should bear a portion of the costs of the disciplinary process, we make the following amendments to Rule 410, SCACR:
(1) Rule 410(c)(2) is amended to read as follows:
(2) The annual license fee for active members who have been admitted to practice law in this State or any other jurisdiction for three years or more shall be $190.00 plus the amount specified in (3) below. The license fee for all other members shall be in lesser amounts as may be provided for in the Bylaws of the South Carolina Bar plus the amount specified in (3) below. The license fee shall be payable on or before January 1st of each year. All income and assets, other than license fees, may be handled separately by the South Carolina Bar, as prescribed in its Constitution and Bylaws.
(2) Rule 410(c) is amended by adding the following:
(3) For each of the listed classes of membership, the following additional license fee shall be paid:
(a) Active Members (less than three years) - $20.00
(b) Active Members (three years or more) - $50.00
(c) Judicial Members - $50.00
(d) Inactive Members - $20.00
(e) Military Members - $20.00
(f) Limited Certificates - $20.00
The funds generated from this additional fee shall be placed in a separate account by the South Carolina Bar and shall be disbursed as directed by the Supreme Court to help defray the costs of operating the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Commission on Lawyer Conduct and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
These amendments to Rule 410, SCACR, shall become effective September 1, 2003.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Jean H. Toal C.J.
s/E.C. Burnett, III J.
s/Costa M. Pleicones J.
Columbia, South Carolina
August 25, 2003