ELECTION 2014: Attorney who supports Nikki Haley joins debate over lawmakers appearing before magistrates

Posted by ADAM BEAM on November 18, 2013 

Attorney Leighton Lord

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Columbia attorney Leighton Lord -- a former Republican candidate for Attorney General and a member of Gov. Nikki Haley's finance advisory committee -- said Monday banning lawyer-legislators from appearing before magistrates they appointed is something "the bar ought to get behind."

"Honestly like every lawyer the state I've known about this issue for a long time. Everybody knows it. Everybody shakes their head about it," Lord said in a conference call with reporters organized by the Haley campaign. "It puts senators in a bad position just like it puts everybody else in a bad position."

The Haley campaign has criticized Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, for having eight cases before magistrates that he recommended for appointment. Sheheen, meanwhile, has criticized Haley for having to pay an ethics fine for not reporting the addresses of eight contributors from her 2010 campaign for governor and for not disclosing $40,000 in income she received from a well-known state engineering firm (the latter charge was dismissed by both the House Ethics Committee and the state Supreme Court.)

Monday, Lord said he is "almost positive" Sheheen is not the only lawyer-legislator who appears before magistrates he has recommended. He said the state has two options: either ban lawmakers from appearing before magistrates they appoint, or stop lawmakers from recommending magistrates for appointment.

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Lexington Republican who is not an attorney, said Monday she plans to sponsor legislation that would ban lawmakers from appearing before magistrates that they recommended for appointment. Sheheen, meanwhile, has already filed legislation that would make the state Supreme Court nominate magistrates.

"Having the Supreme Court appoint them might be a pretty decent option," Lord said. "You have to take the senator out of the equation."

Sheheen's camp fired back at Haley supporters attacking the senator on the magistrates issue.

"Nikki Haley’s baseless accusations and unethical behavior is disgraceful, and exactly what you’d expect from a hypocritical and self-interested politician who has failed the people of South Carolina on every issue that matters." Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen said in a statement. "Sheheen has repeatedly worked to improve the state government and improve accountability rather than posturing and playing self-serving political games as Nikki Haley, Katrina Shealy, and other failed-GOP candidates are trying to do today.

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