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City councilman owes Attorney General an apology

Posted: September 20, 2011 10:54 a.m.
Updated: September 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

I read with great disappointment one of our city councilmen's rude and inappropriate comments regarding our state's attorney general. I am shocked that an elected official I voted for would speak of our state's chief legal officer in such a way. Perhaps Mr. Partin should be reminded that the people of South Carolina and the people of Kershaw County elected Alan Wilson to serve us as Attorney General.

Our constitution grants great authority to the Attorney General. Among his duties, he is directed to provide opinions, when requested, to the General Assembly, the Governor and the other constitutional officers. Since the tenure of Attorney General Dan McLeod, that service, as a courtesy, has been extended to other elected officials and bodies representing political subdivisions.

An Attorney General's opinion is a written public document responding to a specific legal question asked by a public official. All opinions represent the highest standards of research. An Attorney General's opinion attempts to resolve questions of law as the author believes a court would decide the issue. Unlike a court, however, Attorney General opinions cannot decide factual disputes.

The Opinions Section in the Attorney General's office is staffed with experienced and talented attorneys. The head of that section, Robert Cook, has been writing opinions for the past five Attorneys General. He has over 34 years of experience in the Attorney General's office and either writes or approves every opinion issued by that office. As for Attorney General Wilson, Mr. Wilson had the maturity and keen legal insight to retain Mr. Cook in this key role. Ultimately, the Attorney General is responsible for all opinions issued by his office. Mr. Wilson, as did his predecessors, will direct the Opinion Section as to what he believes is the correct answer on all major issues and questions that come before his office. Someone who thinks the Attorney General himself personally answers the hundreds of opinion requests that come to the Attorney General's office is clearly misinformed as to how that office operates. 

Whether the council wishes to request an opinion from the Attorney General is a matter completely at their discretion. However, Mr. Partin is not going to go unchallenged when he disrespects our Attorney General and the important role he and his office plays in South Carolina's legal discourse. Mr. Partin owes the Attorney General a public apology. The people of Camden deserve better than this from their elected officials.

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