What Happens When Judges in South Carolina Police Themselves In Secret? Not Much
Over the past two decades, more than 1,000 ethics complaints have been lodged against South Carolina judges who handle the state’s major cases in circuit court.
 
Beyond mere courtroom disputes, the complaints contain serious concerns about abuse of office, including allegations of influence peddling or judges mishandling conflicts of interest.
The number of judges punished publicly as a result: zero.
 
A judicial ethics watchdog created in 1997 is supposed to aggressively monitor misconduct on the bench. But instead, the system run largely by judges shields the accused and buries complaints, an investigation by The Post and Courier and ProPublica found.
 
The Commission on Judicial Conduct shares its work with no one — not even complainants, who receive brief letters telling them when a case has been closed. In thin annual reports, it acknowledges the number of complaints and the type of alleged offenses, but it offers no details.
 
Unlike in other states, including South Carolina’s neighbors, it’s nearly impossible for the public to know how seriously allegations against the state’s judges are taken.
 
The leniency results from one of the most insular systems in the country for selecting and disciplining judges, who hold unusual political connections in South Carolina. The state legislature chooses who sits on the bench, a provision of the state constitution dating to the 1890s that was part of segregationist U.S. Sen. Ben Tillman’s agenda to disenfranchise African Americans.
Only one other state, Virginia, allows lawmakers to elect judges.
 
Lawmakers filled many of the openings with their fellow legislators, including several who sat on the state Supreme Court. The high court is in charge of the bench’s ethical oversight, but it has skirted the practices of virtually every other state to stack the Commission on Judicial Conduct with judges.
 
Year after year, they reject any punishment of their colleagues.
 
Elsewhere, judicial discipline has erupted in major scandal, with judges in other states removed from the bench or sentenced to prison. Legal experts say more minor punishments of less egregious offenses help stem unethical behavior. Continue Reading
 
This article was produced in partnership with The Post and Courier, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
 
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    AAR

    4 months ago

    In right wing countries, Judiciary, the last bastion of justice, is crumbling.

    Earth Day 2019: Which Are the Companies Accused of Greenwashing
    A growing number of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products with a sustainability message. But when something sounds better for the environment than it actually is, that, my fellow earthlings, is called greenwashing.
     
    Here’s a roundup of companies and their products consumers should be mindful of this Earth Day 2019 that have been accused of not being as environmentally friendly as marketed:
     
    1. Volkswagen/BMW/Chevy/Ford/Mercedes-Benz (‘clean diesel’ autos)
     
     
    There’s nothing clean about diesel engines that spew pollutants at levels way over the legal limit. But that seems to be the scandal of the day in the automotive industry.
     
    Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal in which it admitted to rigging 11 million of its own 'clean diesels' with devices designed to cheat emissions may have garnered the most headlines, but several car manufacturers have faced similar allegations in recent years, including BMW, Chevrolet, Ford and Mercedes-Benz. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, class-action plaintiffs alleged that the luxury carmaker’s BlueTEC vehicles, which are marketed as 'clean diesel' and 'Earth friendly,' release nitrogen oxides at levels more than 65 times higher than what the EPA allows.
     
    Many of these clean diesel lawsuits continue to make their way through the courts. We’ll be keeping tabs on them to see, among other things, if any result in the kind of settlement that the FTC reached with Volkswagen, which agreed to refund eco-minded consumers more than $11 billion to settle the agency’s allegations.
     
    Click here for more green car claims that have gotten companies in trouble. 
     
    2. Nest Labs (programmable thermostats)
     
     
    Programmable or smart thermostats — marketed to help consumers save energy (and, by extension, the planet) — have been the subject of multiple inquiries by the National Advertising Division since 2013. The heat has been turned up on Nest Labs in particular, thanks in part to challenges to the company’s advertising by Honeywell, maker of competing programmable thermostats. NAD has found some of Nest Labs’ claims supported, while others, including one that its Airwave technology “cuts AC runtime up to 30%,” not so much.
     
    3. Kauai Coffee (compostable coffee pods)
     
     
    Kauai Coffee claimed its '100% compostable' coffee pods took the guilt out of single serve.
     
    “Now you can enjoy the great taste and convenience of single-serve coffee without worrying about the environmental impact,” the Hawaiian roaster said on its website. “Our certified 100% compostable pod is compatible with all K-Cup brewers and is designed to go back to the land — not the landfill.”
     
    But there was a catch, or as NAD put it, a 'significant limitation' to Kauai’s compostable coffee pods that was not clearly disclosed to consumers. The caveat? The capsules have only been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), an environmental advocacy group, to decompose at 'industrial facilities' and not in the compost pile in your backyard. And those industrial facilities are few and far between.
     
    4. Charmin Freshmates (flushable wipes)
     
     
    You may not want to bet on this flush.
     
    Moist towelettes like Charmin Freshmates that are marketed as 'flushable' claim to be safe for sewer and septic systems, and promise not to gum up the works. But some wastewater officials and consumers say that claim doesn’t hold water (and as a result is holding up water).
     
    To settle a class-action lawsuit, Procter & Gamble, maker of Charmin Freshmates, among other things agreed to add a disclaimer that the products should only be used in “well-maintained plumbing systems.”
     
    5. Rainforest Alliance (Chiquita bananas, coffee, tea, etc.)
     
    The 'Rainforest Alliance certified' sticker conveys a message of environmental and social responsibility. A Seattle-based clean water group, however, claims that that message runs counter to the on-the-ground reality at the certified farms.
     
    “I saw aerial fumigation over schools and homes. I saw open source rivers with no protection from the chemical fumigation,” said Eric Harrison, director of Water and Sanitation Health, which sued Rainforest Alliance.
     
    The green sticker appears on some of America’s best-selling brands including Chiquita bananas.
     
    6. Reynolds American (Natural American Spirit cigarettes)
     
     
    The cigarette of choice for the modern day hipster, Natural American Spirit has been advertised in magazines as an 'eco friendly' smoke. Smoke and mirrors, said the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which accused Reynolds American of greenwashing.
     
    “Cigarette smoke spews more than 7,000 chemicals into the environment, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer,” the group said, adding that Mother Nature is the recipient of at least 5.6 trillion discarded cigarettes every year.
     
    7. AJM Packaging Corporation (paper plates)
     
    AJM Packaging Corporation claimed its Nature’s Own Green Label paper plates were recyclable but did not have the competent and reliable scientific evidence to prove it. The FTC found out and, pursuant to a 1994 consent order, the company agreed to pay a $450,000 penalty. 
     
    (The company also could not back up claims that products were biodegradable and/or compostable.) Under the FTC’s Green Guides, a product advertised as recyclable must be entirely recyclable.
     
    8. LEI Electronics (carbon neutral batteries)
     
     
    Though they may seem outdated compared to solar-powered homes and electric cars, batteries are still very much a part of most of our lives. But one battery maker’s carbon neutral claims were the subject of a 2016 action by NAD. NAD said LEI Electronics failed to provide information on when the emission reductions occurred or will occur and therefore referred the matter to the FTC. The carbon neutral claims in question concerned the company’s Eco Alkaline batteries and were challenged by competitor Energizer. In response to the NAD decision, LEI Electronics said the batteries’ certification through Carbonfund.org’s Carbonfree Product Certification program complies with FTC Green Guides. The company said it will not discontinue its claim that its Eco Alkalines are carbon neutral.
     
    9. SeaWorld (killer whale shows)
     
     
    Earth is nothing without its beautiful creatures. For decades, SeaWorld has fascinated large crowds with its killer whale shows. But recently the amusement park has faced scrutiny over its alleged concealed mistreatment of the animals. Several class-action lawsuits allege SeaWorld misrepresents that it 'cares for', 'protects', 'nurtures', and creates a “fun, interesting, and stimulating” environment for its killer whales when, in reality, the captive animals lead 'unhealthy and despairing lives.'
     
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    Trump’s Business Deal was Bigger, Lasted Longer and Fuelled More Secrecy, Reveals Mueller’s Report
    On Thursday, the “Trump, Inc.” team gathered with laptops, pizza and Post-its to disconnect — and to read special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
     
    What we found was page after page of jaw-dropping details about the inner workings of the administration of President Donald Trump, meetings with foreign officials and plots to affect our elections. But we also found rich details on how Trump ran his business dealings in Russia, itself the subject of our recent episode on his Moscow business partners.
     
    It backed up a lot of our earlier reporting: The deal with Andrey Rozov, a relatively unknown developer whose claim to international prominence was the purchase of a building in Manhattan’s garment district, did go further than agreements with other developers. The type of development they were hoping for would need signoff from Russia’s powers that be — namely, President Vladimir Putin — potentially putting Trump in the position of owing favors to a hostile foreign power. And the deal went on longer than the Trump campaign wanted the public to know, with the then-candidate rebuffing Michael Cohen’s concerns about the accuracy of his portrayal of his relationships with Russia.
     
    Here are a few of our takeaways:
     
    The deal was bigger…
     
    The Mueller report puts the terms of Trump’s most infamous Trump Tower deal side by side with a failed prior deal with the family of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov. In doing so, it proposes an answer to why Trump chose to move forward with Rozov: he offered Trump a much better deal.
     
    In fact, Cohen said the tower overall “was potentially a $1 billion deal.” Under the terms of the agreement, the Trump Organization would get an upfront fee, a share of sales and rental revenue, and an additional 20% of the operating profit. The deal offered by the well-known Agalarov developers, in contrast, would have brought in a flat 3.5%. We’d tried to reach Rozov to talk about the deal for our earlier reporting. He never responded.
    For Trump, this agreement promised to be the deal of a lifetime.
     
    There were more Russian contacts
     
    The report says Cohen and Felix Sater, a fixer who brought the Trump Organization together with the potential developer for the Moscow deal, both believed securing Putin’s endorsement was key. There was also plenty of outreach from Russians, many of them offering to make that very connection.
     
    But even as the two were figuring out how to pitch the tower plan to Putin, at least three intermediaries who claimed to have connections to the Russian president were reaching out to Trump and his associates. They promised help with Trump’s business interests and his campaign, the report says. Continue Reading
     
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 3 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)