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2006-09-29-01 The Supreme Court of South Carolina

The Supreme Court of South Carolina


ORDER


In 1993, the General Assembly created the Office of Indigent Defense under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Indigent Defense.  By virtue of statutory amendment effective July 1, 2005, the Office of Indigent Defense was expanded and was additionally authorized to serve as the entity which “distributes all funds appropriated by the General Assembly for the defense of indigents, including funds allocated to counties’ public defender offices pursuant to formula, funds for the defense of capital cases, funds for attorney fees and expenses in noncapital cases, and other funds appropriated for these purposes.”  S.C. Code Section 17-3-330(A)(1).  Prior to this legislation being passed, S.C. Code Section 17-3-90 required that vouchers approved by the trial judge for attorney fees and costs be transmitted to the Judicial Department for payment to the appropriate party, while the new law requires the Office of Indigent Defense to effectuate payment.  Both of these provisions remain in the Code and conflict with one another; accordingly, as to payment, the most recent statute shall control.  See Hodges v. Rainey, 341 S.C. 79, 533 S.E.2d 578 (2000).

Moreover, the General Assembly, in S.C. Code Section 17-3-110, authorized the Supreme Court to establish such rules and procedures as may be necessary for proper administration of Chapter 3 of Title 17 pertaining to indigent defense.  Accordingly, pursuant to S.C. Code Section 17-3-110, and Article V, Section 4 of the S.C. Constitution, the procedures outlined herein are adopted for the processing of indigent defense vouchers.

1. Upon appointment by the court in an indigent case or proceeding, counsel shall notify the Office of Indigent Defense within 15 days of said appointment by registering online at Indigent Defense’s website at www.sccid.sc.gov.  Counsel shall further submit such documentation as may be required by the Office of Indigent Defense.
2. Upon appointment and registration, counsel is hereby approved and entitled under S.C. Code Section 17-3-50 to the payment of reasonable fees and costs based on the hourly rate and caps provided therein.
3. Vouchers for payment shall be submitted online through the Indigent Defense website or may be mailed directly to the Office of Indigent Defense if electronic access is not available.  Vouchers should not be mailed to the Clerk of Court for transmittal.
4. If there is no objection to the reasonableness of the request and the amount requested is within the hourly rates and statutory caps, then the Office of Indigent Defense is authorized to make payment of the requested amount without further action of the Court.
5. If there is an objection by the Office of Indigent Defense to the reasonableness of the amount or the amount requested exceeds the hourly rates or statutory caps provided by S.C. Code Sections 17-3-50 (A) and (B), then the Office of Indigent Defense shall pay such amount as may be authorized by the trial court.  The Office of Indigent Defense shall notify the trial court and counsel of any objection and shall forward any necessary materials to the trial court in writing or electronically.  The trial court may determine the matter with or without a hearing, as may be appropriate, or upon the submission of written materials. 
6. The Office of Indigent Defense, along with S.C. Court Administration, subject to the approval of the Chief Justice or the Supreme Court, may establish such additional procedures for the electronic award of fees and costs to minimize delay and to facilitate the administration of the Indigent Defense Chapter of the Code; any procedure to provide for the use of electronic signatures for the issuance of payment and falling within the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act in Title 26, Chapter 6 of the S.C. Code shall also be coordinated with the S.C. State Budget and Control Board or Comptroller General when necessary or as may be required by law.
7. The Office of Indigent Defense shall notify counsel of any action taken on a voucher.
8.  The Office of Indigent Defense shall provide such reports as may be requested by the Chief Justice or S.C. Court Administration.
9. Nothing herein shall preclude the trial court from taking immediate action on ex parte requests for fees and costs during the pendency of a case as may be authorized by statute or court rule.
10.  These procedures shall become effective within 30 days of the approval of this order and shall remain in effect until altered or changed by subsequent order or legislation.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

 

FOR THE COURT:

s/Jean H. Toal             C.J.
Jean Hoefer Toal
Chief Justice

September 29, 2006
Columbia, South Carolina