March 13, 2014

LETTER: John Monk (The State) To Judge Robert Hood

Reporter John Monk fir The State newspaper requested that any hearing held to consider the request that Attorney General Alan Wilson be removed as prosecutor in the Harrell case be open.

Judge Robert Hood

Judge Hood:

We understand you may be holding a hearing in the near future to consider motions by attorneys for Bobby Harrell to remove Attorney General Alan Wilson as prosecutor in the proceedings against Harrell due to an alleged conflict of interest on Wilson's part.

We understand that the grand jury proceedings against Harrell are confidential, and we do not question that.

However, we believe that any hearing that is held to remove or change the prosecutor in this case would NOT be part of the grand jury process, under the traditions and laws of the this state concerning open government and open courts. A S.C. Supreme Court opinion about secret hearings says a judge must hold an open hearing before deciding to close a hearing.

If you have already decided in advance to hold a secret hearing on the possible removal of Alan Wilson, and/or the possible appointment of another prosecutor, I respectfully request that you tell me so our newspaper, The State, can have Jay Bender, our media and open government lawyer, appear before you to argue that such a proceeding should be open to the public. It is my understanding that the S.C. Supreme Court requires you to allow our lawyer to appear before you to make this argument for an open hearing. Chief Justice Jean Toal has long been a supporter of such open hearings before a decision to close a hearing.

This is a matter of great public importance and interest. The confidence of the public in its courts depends in large part upon the transparency of the court system, according to the U.S. Supreme Court A secret court proceeding by you in which you secretly decide to kick the Attorney General off this important case could well undermine that confidence and public trust.

This is a formal request for you to let me know the time and place of your hearing and your decision on whether I can attend, as well as any instructions you might have for our lawyer Jay Bender. I will relay them to Bender. If you have granted a continuance, please inform me of that.

Thank you, John Monk The State

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