Our South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, has been in a long and very publicized battle with the General Assembly over how to appropriate the State Fiscal Stabilization (SFS) funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka Federal Stimulus monies, allotted to South Carolina. The battle has finally come to a head with the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in Edwards and Williams v. State and SCASA v. Sanford:
We hold under the circumstances presented that a writ of mandamus is warranted and issue a writ of mandamus* to compel Governor Sanford to apply for the SFS funds and take all legal and necessary steps to effectuate the State’s receipt of the SFS funds for the purposes as set forth by Congress.
*(Excerpt from the case explaining writs of mandamus)
The Supreme Court has the power to issue writs of mandamus. S.C. Const. art. V, § 5; S.C. Code Ann. § 14-3-310 (1976). Mandamus is the highest judicial writ known to the law. Brackenbrook N. Charleston, LP v. County of Charleston, 360 S.C. 390, 400, 602 S.E.2d 39, 45 (2004). It is a coercive writ which orders a public official to perform a ministerial duty. Wilson v. Preston, 378 S.C. 348, 354, 662 S.E.2d 580, 582 (2008); Ex Parte Littlefield, 343 S.C. 212, 222, 540 S.E.2d 81, 86 (2000).
For a writ of mandamus to issue, the following must be shown: (1) a duty of the Respondent to perform the act; (2) the ministerial nature of the act; (3) the Petitioner’s specific legal right for which discharge of the duty is necessary; and (4) a lack of any other legal remedy. Wilson v. Preston, 378 S.C. at 354, 662 S.E.2d at 583. A ministerial act or duty is one which a person performs because of a legal mandate which is defined with such precision as to leave nothing to the exercise of discretion. Id. at 354, 662 S.E.2d at 583