Article published June 5, 1996
Prosecutors win grant to help establish new court
The 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office received a $54,406 grant Monday, completing one more step in the creation of a separate criminal court. The grant will go to the hiring of a Transfer Court prosecutor and a secretary to do organizational work. "We are delighted that the grant has been awarded, " said Johnny Dyer , office administrator for the 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office, which serves Spartanburg and Cherokee counties.
The Spartanburg County Council Criminal Justice Committee, created in September, has been working to address issues such as Transfer Court as a means to alleviate jail overcrowding and speed up circuit court cases. The County Council, which has been waiting to hear whether grant money would be awarded, is expected to address the issue at its meeting Monday.
The Transfer Court, made possible by the Legislature in 1992, allows circuit judges to return cases to Magistrate Court if the maximum penalty does not exceed a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The Transfer Court magistrate would hear those cases.
The new court would require the cooperation of the public defender's office, magistrate court, clerk of court and solicitor's office. Dyer said representatives from all those agencies have traveled to Lexington to observe Transfer Court in operation there.
Currently, a circuit court judge must preside over cases with lesser penalties, including possession of a pistol and second offenses of driving under the influence or under suspension. To transfer a case, a circuit judge and the defendant must approve the move. The case then is heard by a magistrate, who would be responsible for determining guilt or innocence and handing down a sentence.
Dealing more effectively and efficiently with the minor cases on the court docket will allow circuit judges more time to concentrate on more serious cases, Gov. David Beasley said in a news release Monday. The increased efficiency, in turn, will improve the overall court system, Beasley said.
The grant, distributed by the state Department of Public Safety, is part of the $6.84 million awarded to South Carolina by the federal government under the Drug Control and System Improvement Program.