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Court is in Session: From Columbia to Conway

The SC Supreme Court held two sessions at CCU in April 2019.

The bench, the flags, the podium, the court reporter, the air of solemnity: None of it was new to the five justices seated on stage. 

However, for the Coastal Carolina University audience, the scene was more foreign than familiar. Despite the fact that they sat in their own Wheelwright Auditorium, the students, faculty and community members were exposed to an entirely new environment.

In April 2019, the S.C. Supreme Court held two sessions on the campus of CCU in an effort to increase the accessibility of the judicial branch of state government. The justices left behind the state courthouse in Columbia, S.C., for the first time since 2010 to get in front of members of the public who don’t have experience viewing their professional activities.

“They’re having a push to be more visible, to let people in behind the curtain,” said Jacqueline Kurlowski, director of CCU’s Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy and organizer of the event.

“They’re having a push to be more visible, to let people in behind the curtain,” said Jacqueline Kurlowski, director of CCU’s Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy and organizer of the event.

“The justices want [the general public] to experience what goes on in this branch of government.”

The session provided an opportunity for viewers to increase their understanding of public policy and law and for students to connect their coursework with an authentic, professional setting. In addition, it was important to the work of the Dyer Institute, with its mission of offering students active learning opportunities in order to develop engaged, civic-minded citizens.

Cases ranged from a murder trial to a disability claim to an appeal of a utility rate increase, and proceedings were held in front of a crowd of about 100 students, faculty members and community members.

Emily Johnson, an English major who observed the sessions, said the experience gave her a realistic glimpse of her future career.

“I was surprised and honored that the S.C. Supreme Court decided to come to Conway and hold hearings on Coastal’s campus,” said Johnson. “As a future law student, I took the opportunity to attend the sessions with excitement and gratitude.”

Justice Kaye Hearn, the first S.C. Supreme Court justice from Horry County, who was appointed to the bench in 2009, is pleased that the court is taking its show on the road.

“It’s good for the public to understand and appreciate what we do,” said Hearn. “It’s a historical event, an opportunity for them to see the five members of the Supreme Court in action, and I’m glad people came out to observe.”

Though no dates or locations have been finalized, the S.C. Supreme Court plans to continue the initiative of traveling around the state, encouraging the public to approach the bench.

 

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