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The Attorney General Can Prosecute Cases in Magistrate and Municipal Court

In State v. Long, the supreme court held that the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute cases in magistrate and municipal courts.

The supreme court consolidated two criminal domestic violence cases where the defendant raised the issue of the Attorney General prosecuting a case in municipal court.  One municipal court granted the motion, while the other did not.

The issue before the court was whether Article V, Section 24 of the South Carolina Constitution prohibits the Attorney General from prosecuting cases in summary courts.  Section 24 reads, in pertinent part:

“The Attorney General shall be the chief prosecuting officer of the State with authority to supervise the prosecution of all criminal cases in courts of record.”

The defendants argued that the phrase “courts of record” prevents the Attorney General from prosecuting cases in summary courts, such as municipal or magistrate courts.  The supreme court disagreed.  The court held that section 24 serves two functions: (1) establishing the Attorney General as the chief prosecuting officer in both criminal and civil cases in South Carolina; and (2) granting the Attorney General supervisory authority in “court of records.”  Since the defendants were challenging the Attorney General’s prosecuting authority and not supervisory authority, the phrase “courts of records” had no impact on the Attorney General’s powers.

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