JEAN HOEFER TOAL
1231 GERVAIS STREET
TO: All courts
FROM: Jean Hoefer Toal, Chief Justice
RE: Court Operation Time
DATE: December 12, 2008
I have received numerous inquiries from around the State regarding interest in closing court facilities during the normal work week; namely, implementation of a four day county wide work week to include the courts. In keeping with the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and the South Carolina Code of Laws, the court system is not structured to allow a four day work week.
Rule 77(a), SCRCivP, states the “courts of this State shall be deemed always open for the purpose of filing any pleading or other proper paper, or issuing and returning mesne and final process, and of making and directing all interlocutory motions, orders and rules.” Further, 77(c), SCRCivP provides that the clerk’s office shall be open during business hours on all days except Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.
Additionally, a 1983 Attorney General’s Opinion cites Code Section 14-17-220 which requires county offices to be open weekdays except legal state holidays. These provisions support the conclusion that the courts must be open during regular business hours short of a public holiday.
While I understand many local county governments are attempting to find solutions to address the economic pressures on government expenditures, a four day work week for any of our court offices is not an option. The courts serve as the repository of court records and are different from other county offices. Accordingly, citizens must have access to deal with court related matters and access to court records. The courts cannot be arbitrarily closed and citizens denied access. While individual offices may have sufficient staff to allow staff to work four day weeks, the court must be open on days excluding the weekends and legal holidays.
Cc: County Administrators