February 10, 2016

Two SC courthouses could be closed this summer

Two federal courthouses in South Carolina could soon be permanently closed.

In an effort to cut costs, the federal government is looking to shut down dozens of small, rural courthouses in 29 states. According to the Associated Press– which was able to get a copy of a government memo– two of those are in South Carolina. In fact, the federal court in Beaufort tops the list. The other site is the Charles Simons Courthouse in Aiken.

A committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which oversees the federal courts system, sent the list to the 13 circuit judicial councils for review in February. Those councils are scheduled to respond by mid-April.

Not every structure on the list is going to be closed. A courts spokesman told the AP that the list consists of every courtroom in the country that does not have a resident judge. He said the courts were cutting back because their funding has been frozen for three years and the rent for smaller courtrooms is a significant part of that cost.

Aiken is a site that is only used on occasion by traveling judges, as is Beaufort.

Even though the financial cost of maintaining a courthouse will be an important factor, the committee will also consider whether shuttering the court will create hardships for local citizens, particularly in rural areas.

A final vote on closures could come by June, the spokesman said.

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