The South Carolina Court System consists of a Magistrate Court, Municipal Court, Family Court, Probate Court, Masters-In-Equity, Workers' Compensation Commission, Administrative Law Court, Circuit Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
South Carolina's Magistrate's Court is also called "'small claims" court, and hears both civil claims up to $7,500 and criminal cases of traffic violations and minor offenses. It also decides landlord and tenant cases of over $7,500.
Though not located in every municipality, the Municipal Courts exercise jurisdiction over violations of municipal offenses carrying up to $200 in fines and 30 days in jail.
The South Carolina Family Court decides cases regarding domestic disputes, divorces, child support and custody, property division upon a divorce, paternal disputes and adoptions. This court also hears juvenile delinquent cases unless the criminal charge is very serious, then the juvenile is tried in Circuit Court as an adult. Family Court does not conduct trials.
The Probate Courts approve settlements for people under the age of 18, administer wills and estates, and decide inheritances when no will is present. South Carolina's Probate Courts may also commit a person to a mental hospital, issue marriage licenses and approve settlements in wrongful death suits.
These courts have "'masters" who are appointed to oversee equity matters referred to them by the local Circuit Court.
The state's Workers' Compensation Commission has the power to grant or deny workers' compensation based on the evidence available to them. Initial disputes are heard by a single commissioner. The parties may then appeal to the entire board of commissioners.
The South Carolina Administrative Law Court exists to hear complaints and cases regarding professional licensing boards, various state departments and commissions in the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Circuit Courts hear most lawsuits in the state. The Common Pleas Division hears civil lawsuits and the General Sessions Division hears criminal cases. This court also hears appeals from lower courts including Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, Municipal Court, Administrative Law Court and the Workers' Compensation Commission.
The Court of Appeals hears cases that are appealed from the Circuit Court, Administrative Law Court and Family Court. These appeals are argued by lawyers and decided by a panel of three judges.
South Carolina's Supreme Court is the highest in the state's court system and is the court of last resort. Appeals from the Court of Appeals may be petitioned to the Supreme Court, which reviews it and determines whether it will grant an appeal.
The most notable case originating from the South Carolina court system is Edwards v. South Carolina (1963). This case began as a result of African-American students peacefully assembling to protest at a Baptist church in 1961. They marched to the state house to express their grievances regarding their civil rights in the state. Petitioners were not violent, but refused to disperse and were arrested on charges of breach of the peace. South Carolina trial courts convicted the petitioners and the decision was upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court, however the U.S. Supreme Court dissented and determined that the state had infringed upon their right to free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition.