Originally created 02/05/06

Solicitors disagree on funding



COLUMBIA - Members of the South Carolina Solicitors Association say they would rather have their share of $2.2 million in cash to prosecute domestic violence crimes than go along with Attorney General Henry McMaster's proposal to put a prosecutor in every county for those cases.

"The strong feeling of our group is that each solicitor knows and understands the needs of domestic violence prosecution better than anyone else," said Greg Hembree, the association's president and Horry and Georgetown counties' prosecutor.

The group's proposal would give each of the state's 16 judicial circuits $137,500. Mr. McMaster's proposal would give each county $47,826 to handle the cases in magistrate courts.

Mr. McMaster on Friday called the association's proposal "an unacceptable posture" after the group submitted its plan to the House Ways and Means Committee panel handling criminal justice issues.

If the panel doesn't approve his proposal, Mr. McMaster said, he'll ask for $2.2 million for his office instead of the state Prosecution Coordination Commission, which funds Mr. Hembree's office and the state's 15 other solicitors.

Mr. McMaster says he will use the money to hire and assign the prosecutors.

State Rep. Annette Young, R-Summerville, the chairwoman of the three-member Ways and Means subcommittee, said she was sympathetic to solicitors' concerns.

"I cannot disagree that they need more flexibility," she said.

Mr. Hembree said the association's proposal allows solicitors to decide to hire prosecutors to handle domestic violence cases solely in circuit courts.

But Mr. McMaster said prosecutors first should be added to the state's magistrate courts, where victims typically don't have a lawyer to represent them.

Henry McMaster: State attorney general wants to put a prosecutor in every county to handle domestic violence cases.