Magistrate - Civil

In South Carolina, jurisdiction, or the basic authority of a judge to hear and exercise judgment of a matter, is based upon three considerations: territorial jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, and the amount in controversy.

Territorial jurisdiction for each magistrate extends throughout the county in which he is appointed in both civil or criminal matters.
To understand the latter two determinations of jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction and amount in controversy, one must look to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-3-10, and 22-3-20. Section 22-3-10, as limited by § 22-3-20, sets out magisterial jurisdiction over fourteen areas of civil subject matter as follows:

1.  Actions on contracts for the recovery of money, where the claim does not exceed $7,500.00;
2.  Actions for damages for injury to rights pertaining to the person, or personal or real property, where the damages do not exceed $7,500.00;
3.  Actions for a penalty, fine or forfeiture, not to exceed $7,500.00;
4.  Actions commenced by attachment of property, as provided by statute, where debt or damages do not exceed $7,500.00;
5.  Actions upon a bond conditioned for the payment of money, not exceeding $7,500.00, whether the money is due in sum total or in installments;
6.  Actions upon a surety bond taken by the magistrate, when penalty or amount claimed does not exceed $7,500.00;
7.  Actions upon a judgment rendered in magistrate’s court when it is not prohibited by the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure;
8.  Taking and entering judgment on the confession of a defendant in the manner prescribed by law when the amount confessed does not exceed $7,500.00.
9.  Actions for damages or for fraud in the sale, purchase, or exchange of personal property, not to exceed $7,500.00;
10.  All landlord and tenant matters, as well as those included in Chapter 33 through 41 of Title 27, encompassing matters of leasehold estates, rent, ejectment of tenants and undertenants of life tenants;
11.  Actions to recover the possession of personal property, whose stated value does not exceed $7,500.00;
12.  In all actions provided for in this section when a filed counterclaim involves a sum not exceeding $7,500.00.
13.  In interpleader actions arising from real estate contracts for the recovery of earnest money, only if the sum claimed does not exceed $7,500.00.
14.  In actions for damages arising from a person’s failure to return leased or rented personal property within 72 hours after the expiration of the lease or rental agreement, such damages to be based on the loss of revenue or replacement value of the property, whichever is less, if the damages claimed do not exceed $7,500.00; however, the lease or rental agreement must set forth the manner in which the amount of the loss of revenue or replacement value of the item leased or rented is calculated.

Pursuant to §27-30-160, the magistrates court shall have concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate monetary disputes arising under the South Carolina Homeowners Association Act (Title 27, Chapter 30, Article 1) provided the dispute meets the jurisdictional requirements of §22-3-10. It should additionally be noted that magistrates have limited jurisdiction over mechanics’ liens (§ 29-5-130), agricultural liens (§§ 29-13-80 and 29-13-90), repair or storage liens (§ 29-15-10), and animal owner’s liens (§ 29-15-50).
In most of the above matters, for the magistrate to have jurisdiction over the amount of the contract, bond or judgment, the extent of damages, or the value of the property or dispute must not exceed the $7,500.00 limitation imposed by § 22-3-10. In cases involving liens, the magistrate’s jurisdictional dollar amount may be further restricted by the lien statute itself. Section 22-3-20 further limits a magistrate’s jurisdiction by prohibiting his hearing civil cases in which the State is a party, except actions for penalties not exceeding $100, and for disputes as to title in real property matters except as provided in §§ 22-3-1110 – 22-3-1180. Jurisdiction may not be waived or conferred upon the magistrate by consent of the parties or by order of a higher court.
As a rule, magistrates need not make a determination themselves of the amount in controversy for the purpose of determining their jurisdiction, since jurisdiction is determined by the amount claimed by the plaintiff and not the amount actually due. It should also be understood that if a defendant makes a counterclaim against the plaintiff in an amount in excess of $7,500.00, then the initial claim and counterclaim must be transferred to the Court of Common Pleas for that judicial circuit as required by § 22-3-30.

Statute of Limitation

Statutes of Limitations are legislative enactments which prescribe the time period within which actions must be brought in certain causes of action, or the right to maintain that action is lost. (§ 15-3-20). The legislative intention behind such enactments is to insure that certain causes of action are litigated within reasonable periods of time as dictated by the statutes. Beginning with § 15-3-20 and encompassing the entire Chapter 3, of Title 15, are found the statutes pertaining to Limitation of Civil Actions, which are made applicable to magisterial civil procedure by § 22-3-110, as previously mentioned. It is most important to note that the claiming of a statute of limitation is generally an affirmative defense, which the defendant must plead, and prove, in response to the plaintiff’s complaint; and should the defendant so fail to claim the statute of limitations in his answer, no cognizance of it may be taken. Gattis v. Chavez, 413 F.Supp. 33 (S.C. 1976). (See also, S.C. Rules of Civil Procedure).
A determination of when the statute of limitation period begins to run, and by what actions of the plaintiff the running of the period is tolled or frozen so that the plaintiff preserves his right to maintain the action, is essential to the consideration of a statute of limitation. Sections 15-3-20 through 15-3-150 pertain to these questions. The statutory period of the statute of limitation begins to run on the day after the cause of action arose. Magistrates should examine critically any action in which a long period of time intervenes between the arising of the cause of action and the commencement of the action by the plaintiff.

Rule 3, SCRCP and Rule 5(a), SCRMC, states that a civil action is commenced by filing and service of a summons and complaint. Rule 3(b), SCRCP, provides “[for] the purpose of tolling any statute of limitations, an attempt to commence an action is equivalent to the commencement thereof when the summons and complaint are filed with the clerk of court and (1) delivered for service to the sheriff of the county in which the defendant usually resides. Delivery to a constable does not toll the statute. It must be delivered to the sheriff of the county in which the defendant usually or last resided, or if a corporation be the defendant, to the sheriff of the county in which any person designated by statute to accept service usually or last resided; provided that actual service must be accomplished within a reasonable time thereafter, or (2) actually served with 120 days after filing with the clerk of court.” Rule 6(k), SCRMC, provides that subject to the provisions of any statute, rule, or order, a magistrate may dismiss a summons and complaint against any and all defendants without prejudice to the plaintiff if service of process cannot be obtained within 120 days of the filing of the complaint.
The sections concerning the statute of limitation time periods as to specific actions are in § 15-3-310 through 15-3-680. Some specific sections are:

1.  Actions for trespass upon or damage to real property, actions for the specific recovery of personal property or for the taking, detaining, or injuring of any goods arising on contract must be commenced within three years, (§ 15-3-530).
2.  Actions for libel, slander, assault, battery, or false imprisonment must be commenced within two years, (§ 15-3-550).
In all civil actions in magistrates’ courts, the party beginning a case is known as the plaintiff and the party defending against the plaintiff’s claim is the defendant

Representation of Parties

Many of the parties who file civil actions in magistrate’s court and those defending those actions appear pro se, which means representing oneself without an attorney. §40-5-80 authorizes such an action by providing that a citizen may prosecute or defend his own cause, if he so desires. However, a non-lawyer may not represent another individual in any court action unless there is some exception allowing such representation. In fact, §40-5-310 provides that no person may either practice law or solicit the legal cause of another person or entity in this State unless he is enrolled as a member of the South Carolina Bar, or otherwise authorized to perform prescribed legal activities by action of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Rule 21, SCRMC, Business Representation, provides such an exception to the unauthorized practice of law. That Rule provides that a business, as defined by §33-1-103, may be represented in a civil magistrate court proceeding by a non-lawyer officer, agent, or employee, including attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions ad those possessing Limited Certificates of Admission pursuant to Rule 405, SCACR. The representation may be compensated and shall be undertaken at the business’s option and with the understanding that the business assumed the risk of any problems incurred as a result of the representation. §33-1-103. Prior to allowing such representation, the Rule requires that the court obtain a written authorization from the entity’s president, chairperson, general partner, owner, or chief executive officer, or in the case of a person possessing a Limited Certificate. Form SCCA/761, Authorization for Non-Lawyer Representation, is available for magistrates use for a single trial. Form SCCA/762, Authorization for Non-Lawyer Representation, is available for representation of multiple cases. 

You may file a civil lawsuit in magistrates’ court if you believe that you or your property have been injured or damaged and the amount of that injury is $7,500 or less. The filing fee is $80.00 for filing and service of process. The complaint and attachments must be filed in duplicate. At least one party must be a Florence County resident. Please provide the court with a clear and accurate legal name and street address for the defendant. Route and box numbers are not acceptable. If filing against a business, determine whether or not the business is incorporated or privately owned. If privately owned, list owners full legal name. If incorporated, provide the name and address of the registered agent. The Secretary of State may be contacted to obtain the agent’s name. If filing to collect on an account or note include duplicate copies of the statement of account, invoices, or note to verify the amount due and have your signature notarized.

The Small Claims Court will issue a summons when the complaint is filed and the summons requires the defendant to answer the complaint within thirty (30) days after the date of service. The defendant must answer in writing and a clerk is available at the Small Claims Office to assist a party if needed. If the defendant has a claim against the plaintiff arising from the same facts the defendant may file a counterclaim in writing with the court at the same time the answer is filed. If the defendant does not answer within thirty (30) days after service of the summons and complaint a judgment by default may be entered against the defendant. The Court will schedule a bench trial if the defendant files an answer. The parties must appear with any witnesses and evidence that are necessary to prove their cases. A WRITTEN, NOTARIZED, OUT OF COURT STATEMENT FROM A WITNESS CANNOT BE USED AS EVIDENCE. A WITNESS MUST APPEAR IN PERSON IN COURT TO TESTIFY. There is a charge of $ 8.00 per subpoena if issued by the court. The court does not provide a court reporter. You must make any appropriate arrangements.

Either party has the right to request a jury trial and it must be submitted in writing at least five (5) working days prior to the date of the hearing. A transcript of judgment will be issued with specific instructions about the enforcement of the judgment. It may be recorded immediately at the Clerk of Courts Office. The Execution Against Property Order may be filed with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office thirty (30) days after notice of judgment. The Sheriff’s office will determine if there is property that can be seized and sold at public auction to pay this debt. The recorded judgment will remain valid and enforceable for a period of ten (10) years. When the judgment is satisfied the plaintiff must notify the Clerk of Courts Office so that the judgment may be removed.

A motion for a new trial must be received by this court in writing within five (5) days after notice of the judgment. An appeal must be filed in writing within thirty (30) days from the notice of judgment. There is a filing fee and it must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas. The notice of appeal must be personally served on this court and on the opposing party.

SCCA/701 Complaint 

The relationship of landlord and tenant is based upon a contract, whether oral or written, which determines the rights and responsibilities each party has and owes to the other. Usually, the agreement between the parties takes the form of a lease. Tenancies may be for a specific term of period or may be at will. The lease usually provides for specific aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship such as subleasing, means of notice, termination, rent payments, and responsibility for repair and maintenance. If the tenant fails to pay the rent, the landlord can terminate the lease, force the tenant to vacate the premises, and recover any rent due. A landlord may bring an action of ejectment against a tenant in these situations: (1) when the tenant fails or refuses to pay the rent when due, (2) when the term of tenancy or occupancy ends, or (3) when the terms or conditions of the lease are violated. Even after service of process, rent continues to accrue so long as the tenant remains in possession, and the tenant is liable for the continually accruing rent.

You must file your ejectment action in the Magistrate’s Court that has jurisdiction over the property you are evicting the tenant from. You must submit an affidavit and pay a filing fee of $40.00 when you file the action. If the tenant was unable to be personally served with the Rule to Vacate or Show Cause notice after two attempts, a copy of the rule and the documentation of prior attempts at service must be mailed by first-class mail to the defendant. A $5.00 mailing fee must be paid to the Magistrate’s Office in-order to complete this Non-Service Mailing to the tenant. If the tenant does not respond within the time frame allowed by law you may begin the final step with a Writ of Ejectment (a $10.00 fee). When the $10.00 fee is paid the Magistrate’s Office will schedule a date to execute the eviction and turn the property back over to the landlord. The Constable does not set out the tenant’s property. It is the responsibility of the landlord to provide adequate labor to set out any property left by the tenant. Law Enforcement Deputies can be present only to assure a peaceful set-out.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was adopted into law March 27, 2020. The Act includes provisions for a nationwide moratorium on some, but not all, eviction and foreclosure actions.
Therefore, pursuant to the provisions of Article V, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution, any party pursuing an eviction or foreclosure in a trial court of this State must submit to the court a signed, original Certification of Compliance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. For evictions and foreclosures filed on or after the date of this Order, the Certification of Compliance must be submitted along with the initial filing. For evictions and foreclosures filed before the date of this Order, the Certification of Compliance must be filed with the court prior to proceeding with the eviction or foreclosure. If a party required to file a Certification of Compliance neglects to do so the eviction or foreclosure shall terminate without further action taken.

SCCA732 – Application for Ejectment
Certification of Compliance w/CARES ACT
773B – Instruction Page 

A claim and delivery is a legal action to recover personal property which is in the possession of another party. The party who begins the action is the plaintiff. The party who has possession of the property claimed is the defendant. The claim and delivery must be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over where the property is located. You must pay a filing fee of sixty-five dollars ($65.00) when you file the action. A valid address for the party who has possession of the property must be provided to the Court at the time of filing. The jurisdictional limit of Magistrates’ Court is $7,500. If the subject property is valued at more than $7500, you will need to file your claim and delivery action in the Court of Common Pleas. If the property includes a vehicle, you must provide the vehicle identification number. A constable will serve a copy of the affidavit along with a summons setting forth the court date on the defendant. A restraining order will be included within the summons forbidding the defendant from concealing, damaging or disposing of the subject property. If the restraining order is violated, the defendant may be held in contempt of court and punished accordingly. At the hearing, the Court will determine if the Plaintiff is entitled to the items listed in the complaint. If needed, the Court can issue an Order to pick up the items. This will cost an additional twenty ($20.00) dollars which can be paid immediately following the hearing.

Claim and Delivery 

An owner of any storage place or repair shop who stores or repairs any property has a lien on that property in the amount of the bill for storage or repairs. Upon the completion of repairs or the expiration of the storage contract, if the owner of the property fails to claim the goods and satisfy his debt to the lienholder, the lienholder may have such property sold at public sale to the highest bidder. This can only be done after sending a thirty (30) day written notice of his claims, to the owner and/or any lienholders.

The Plaintiff must apply to the appropriate titling facility, including, but not limited to, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Department of Natural Resources for the name and address of any last known registered owner or lienholder.

The public sale must be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over where the property is located. The fee to file for public sale is thirty-five ($35.00) dollars. The Plaintiff must provide the Court a copy of the written notice that was sent certified mail to the last known registered owner and/or lienholders. The Magistrate will schedule a hearing to determine if the item can be auctioned at public sale. If the sale is granted then the Magistrate will advertise the property for fifteen days by posting the notice in three public locations. The property may then be sold by the Magistrate and the proceeds distributed accordingly.

Please see S.C. Code Ann. § 29-15-10 Liens for repairs or storage; sale of articles in the SC Code of Law for more information. 


If you are not in immediate danger, but believe yourself to be in need of protection, you can apply for a restraining order. Restraining Orders may be obtained from a Magistrates’ Court. You should contact the Magistrate for the area in which the offender lives. For a complete list of Magistrates’ Courts and their locations, click here.

Magistrates deal with cases of harassment, stalking, or abuse by a person who is not a member of your family. However, if you are uncertain whether or not your situation is “domestic” (for instance, a boyfriend-girlfriend situation, or a situation involving persons who cohabitate or share community property) you should check with Family Court or Magistrates’ Courts for information on where you ought to file your case.

Cases for Restraining Orders must involve at least 2 incidents of harassment, stalking, or other threatening situations. After court, the losing party has to pay the $55.00 filing fee. You will also be asked to fill out a complaint and motion. A hearing date will be set for 5 to 15 days from the date you file your paperwork in the Magistrates’ Court. This gives the court time to arrange for the papers to be served on the person named as the Defendant. Complaints will be served by a Sheriff’s Deputy or a constable. The defendant must be served before the hearing can take place. A Magistrates’ Restraining Order is good for a period of one year from the date of the hearing. These restraining orders can be renewed after the six month period, but you will need to request another hearing from the court in order for this renewal to be granted. If an immediate restraining order is required it can be issued and remain valid until the time of the “show cause” hearing.

A violation of either a restraining order or a temporary restraining order is a criminal offense, and if such an order is violated, you can contact the Magistrates’ Court and request that the Magistrate issue an arrest warrant.


If you are not in immediate danger but believe yourself to be in need of protection and the offender is either a member of your family or someone with which you cohabitate, you may wish to file a Domestic Abuse case. Cases involving Domestic Abuse are filed in Family Court.


If you are witness to a crime, you should call 911 or contact one of the local law enforcement agencies listed at the top of this page. If you have not actually witnessed a crime, but have good reason to suspect that a child or adult has been the victim of abuse or neglect, you may wish to contact the South Carolina Department of Social Services. DSS has local offices in Florence; the number for DSS Protective Services is 953-9422.

Adults: The mission of Adult Protective Services is to protect the health and welfare of elderly and disabled adults. Adult Protective Services are provided to individuals 18 years of age or older who are victims of actual or potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation. DSS is authorized, by the Omnibus Adult Protection Act of the South Carolina Code of Laws, to investigate all reports. DSS also provides services to meet the adults’ basic needs and to ensure their safety.

Children: Persons who come to the attention of the Department of Social Services in need of protective services are those who are potentially abusive of their children or who are suspected of having abused or neglected their children. DSS caseworkers assess reports of child abuse/neglect to determine their validity. This includes determining whether the child is “at risk” of being abused or neglected and determining the family’s need for support services.


Obscene or harassing phone calls should always be reported to your local police department. For further assistance in dealing with such calls, please contact your service provider.

S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-920 provides that either party in a civil case, or the prosecutor or the accused in a criminal case, may apply for a change of venue. In civil cases, the party seeking the change of venue must give the adverse party at least two (2) day notice of his/her intent to seek a change of venue prior to applying for such, unless the affidavit shows that the necessary facts were not discovered until it was too late to give such notice. In criminal cases the request for a change of venue should be made prior to trial, unless in view of all the circumstances the person requesting the change did not have a reasonable opportunity to make such a request previously. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 1733, dated 1963-64.

In either a civil or criminal case, the person requesting the change of venue must file with the magistrate an affidavit stating that the individual does not believe he/she can receive a fair trial. The affidavit must also state the grounds supporting the belief of the requesting party. If the affidavit sets forth grounds for a belief that the party cannot obtain a fair trial, then the grant of a change of venue is mandatory.

Upon granting a change of venue, the magistrate must turn over all papers relating to the case to the nearest magistrate in the county not disqualified from hearing the case. One such transfer only shall be allowed each party in any case.

Change of Venue 

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