COLUMBIA – Two of South Carolina’s top Republicans are facing off at the state Supreme Court on Tuesday in a case that pits the power of the state’s chief law enforcement official against the sway of state lawmakers.
A think tank has accused House Speaker Bobby Harrell of using his powerful position for personal benefit, including getting a permit for his pharmaceutical business and appointing his brother to a judicial candidate screening committee.
Attorney General Alan Wilson asked state police to investigate the allegations and had been presenting findings to the state grand jury when Harrell’s attorneys challenged that process in court, first arguing that the attorney general had a conflict and should be recused from the case.
Wilson is appealing a circuit judge’s ruling that a legislative panel must first sign off before he pursues charges against lawmakers. Attorneys for Harrell argue that Circuit Judge Casey Manning was right to rule that the House Ethics Committee is the appropriate place to deal with such allegations.
Harrell, House speaker since 2005, has characterized the allegations and investigation as politically motivated. He has also called for the release of findings by the State Law Enforcement Division, saying the report will exonerate him.
A month ago, the high court ruled that Wilson could continue his investigation while his appeal is pending. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and will be streamed live on the Internet at a link at the court’s website:http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/