Thursday’s historic legal duel before the S.C. Supreme Court between special prosecutor David Pascoe and Attorney General Alan Wilson over who has control of the public corruption investigation at the S.C. State House is sure to be closely watched.
Here are seven key points to keep in mind:
Q. What is at stake for the public?
A. Possibly whether a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into potential public corruption in the General Assembly can continue. Wilson is trying to fire Pascoe from the special prosecutor’s job Wilson appointed Pascoe to. Pascoe has refused to quit.
Q. Can the investigation into public corruption continue if Wilson convinces the Supreme Court Pascoe should be fired?
A. Possibly. Wilson says he wants the probe to go on but under the authority of 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson.
Q. Is it unusual for an attorney general to have a public fight with a prosecutor he has appointed to take over a criminal investigation?
A. As far as anyone can tell, this is unique.
Q. Are there political stakes for either Wilson or Pascoe?
A. Yes. Both men have reputations on the line – Wilson more than Pascoe, since Pascoe occupies a traditionally safe elected prosecutor’s seat as 1st Circuit solicitor in Orangeburg, Dorchester and Calhoun counties. Wilson, however, has angrily denounced Pascoe in a highly publicized press conference, charged him without being specific with “tainting” the investigation and told reporters that unnamed “haters” were out to get him. If the Supreme Court rules against Wilson, it won’t help his ambitions to be governor.
Q. What are the legal issues involved in Thursday’s hearing?
A. Legally, the basic question is: whether an attorney general, having excused himself because of a conflict of interest in an ongoing criminal investigation, can jump back into that investigation and fire his supposedly independent special prosecutor. Politically, the overarching question is whether Wilson is trying to protect certain lawmakers in the General Assembly. Wilson relationships with the lawmakers created his ethical conflict and he recused himself from the case. Wilson denies that his decision to fire Pascoe is politically motivated and says Pascoe was trying to do something only an attorney general may do under the law: activate a State Grand Jury to gather and hear evidence.
Q. Anything unusual about Thursday’s arguments?
A. Pascoe will be arguing the case himself. Wilson, who has a staff of public attorneys, has hired private attorney Mitch Brown from the Columbia law firm of Nelson Mullins. Wilson’s office declined comment on Brown’s hiring.
Q. When will the Supreme Court rule?
A. No one knows. It could be days, weeks or months.