The State Supreme Court ruled this morning in a 3-2 decision that public prosecutors not private companies must prosecute routine cases in criminal magistrates courts.
The ruling may have statewide implications because up to now, some solicitors assign staff lawyers to prosecute minor cases in magistrates court.
Tuesday's ruling came out of a Richland County magistrates court dispute in two bad-check cases.
In those 2009 cases, a non-lawyer for a local business attempted to act as prosecutor. At the same time, both defendants were represented by real lawyers from 5th Circuit Public Defender Doug Stricklers office.
In those cases, Public Defenders lawyers moved to dismiss the criminal cases against their clients. They argued that if the magistrate allowed the non-lawyers to prosecute the case, that would be the unauthorized practice of law. The matter was then appealed.