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Manning’s edict

Posted: May 15, 2014 9:19 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

 

We’ve certainly come a long way from the citizen-lawmakers envisioned by our forefathers -- farmers and craftsmen and professionals who would travel from their homes to the nation’s capital, tend to the country’s business and then go back home. But an even bigger divergence from the founding fathers’ vision would be the concept that there is a class of people in this country who are above the law. That’s the impression Judge Casey Manning gave recently when he ruled that Attorney General Alan Wilson didn’t have the right to investigate possible illegal activities on the part of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Manning ruled that Wilson must shut down his investigation into Harrell’s potential misuse of campaign funds, with the speaker perhaps diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions to his personal use. The judge said responsibility for any probe should instead rest with the House Ethics Committee, and if that body found something amiss, it could be turned over to the attorney general’s office. He said Wilson should stop a grand jury from investigating. Wilson responded by saying the grand jury can legally continue its work, thereby setting up what will almost certainly be a ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court.

Manning’s edict puzzled nearly everyone, and the reputation of chumminess among many members of the South Carolina General Assembly raises the specter of the worst kind of good-old-boy justice. Many leading lawmakers have decried the ruling, as they should. We hope for a speedy review by the Supreme Court, which should affirm the principle that nobody -- nobody -- is above the law in this state.

 

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