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South Carolina Supreme Court expected to be all-male for the first time in 35 years

By a Judicial Merit Selection Commission. Candidates must get a majority of the votes in a joint session to earn the seat.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If all goes as expected, South Carolina's State Supreme Court will be all male. This would be the first time in 35 years the Palmetto State Supreme Court would contain no women.

This after, lawmakers are poised to replace justice Kay Hearn with Judge Gary Hill after two other candidates under consideration, both women, dropped out. So what is the process to get someone on the supreme court? 


The state Supreme Court is the highest in South Carolina, which is comprised of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justice. The South Carolina General Assembly elects each justice to a ten-year term. Under the current process, lawmakers consider up to three candidates for the high court who have been deemed qualified. 

By a Judicial Merit Selection Commission. Candidates must get a majority of the votes in a joint session to earn the seat.

Virginia is the only other state in the country whose Supreme Court Justices are chosen by the legislature. The rest of the country either has the Governor appoint justices or has the people vote on who they want on the bench. 

So what is the qualification for a South Carolina Supreme Court Justice? 

According to the South Carolina Judicial Branch, they need to be-

  • A U.S. Citizen
  • Between the ages 32 and 72
  • A resident of the state for a least five years
  • A licensed attorney for at least eight years 

Nowhere in this qualification does it say they need to be a female or male. Nor is there a requirement that the bench must be comprised of different ethnicities. 

A Brennan Centers for Justice report back in May 2022 stated 59 percent of state Supreme Court seats across the country are held by men. Before the vacancy of Justice Kay Hearn's seat South Carolina had one of nine high courts with only one woman on the panel. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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