South Carolina

Quick Guide

  • Cost Per Capita: $7.56
  • State Funding Level: 65% State Funding
    35% County Funding
  • State Independence: Independent Commission
  • Primary Delivery Model: County-Based System

South Carolina employs a hybrid method of delivering and administering indigent defense services. The state’s 13-member Commission on Indigent Defense provides limited oversight and policy guidance for the delivery of services in each circuit, and maintains a central office staff in Columbia. The Office of Indigent Defense provides training and resources, and serves as a pass-through authority for the state’s limited financial assistance to the trial circuits for the cost of representation. The state funds approximately 36 percent of the overall annual cost of indigent defense services, which is intended as supplemental to the funding provided by county governments.

South Carolina’s trial-level juvenile and adult defender system is divided into 16 regions, designed to match the state’s 16 Judicial Circuits. In each circuit, representation is provided for by a circuit public defender who often employs a number of attorney staff deployed across the circuit into a number of branch offices, depending on the size of the circuit. The circuit public defender is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of a local oversight board composed of delegates of the county bar associations within the circuit. While most circuit public defenders employ the traditional public defender office model for providing trial services, some will contract with part-time attorneys to provide representation in a certain geographic area or court, or by the hour for their services.

The South Carolina Division of Appellate Defense is a unit within the statewide Office of Indigent Defense and is overseen by the Commission on Indigent Defense. It is directed by a chief appellate defender and has a staff of eight full-time attorneys who provide representation in approximately 1,000 appellate matters, including capital appeals, each year.

The Office of Indigent Defense also maintains and provides for representation in the state’s Family Courts through an assigned counsel system. Conflict representation is also provided for by assigned counsel, with payment administered by the state office.