Regulating the conduct of both judges and lawyers is critical to preserving the integrity of the South Carolina judicial system and to instilling public confidence in the administration of justice. In South Carolina, the task of regulating both judges and lawyers falls to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and either the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the Commission on Lawyer Conduct.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is primarily tasked with screening and investigating all of the complaints made against both judges and lawyers in South Carolina. The Office is also responsible for prosecuting those judges and lawyers who have either committed ethical misconduct, or are suffering from a physical or mental condition which adversely affects their ability to serve the public.
Disciplinary Counsel, John S. Nichols, is the lawyer charged by the Supreme Court of South Carolina to receive, screen, investigate, and, as necessary, prosecute the complaints made against both judges and lawyers. They have a staff of attorneys reviewing, investigating, and prosecuting attorney and judicial matters. Over the last several years South Carolina has averaged approximately 1400 complaints a year for both the judges and the lawyers. Not all of these complaints are actual misconduct, or within the jurisdiction of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but each must be screened with many complaints requiring a more extensive investigation. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel is also aided in its efforts by Attorneys to Assist Disciplinary Counsel, appointed by the Court, who serve from all areas of the State of South Carolina.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, physically located at 1220 Senate Street, Suite 309, in Columbia, South Carolina, receives complaints either through the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the Commission on Lawyer Conduct.