SCPA Attorney Jay Bender

Past Columns by SCPA Attorney Jay Bender

Jay Bender is a retired University of South Carolina professor and media lawyer who represents the S.C. Press Association and its newspapers.


WHY WOULD AN INNOCENT MAN LIE? Published March 2023 Editor’s Note: Member editors can pick this column up and run it in print and online as they see fit. By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender Why would an innocent man lie to police about the last time he saw his wife and son alive?  I’m no closer to answering that question now than I was in January when Judge Clifton Newman appointed me liaison between the court and the press for the Murdaugh murders trial. Millions of people around the world were able to watch live a murder trial in Walterboro,…

Jim Holderman and open government in South Carolina

Jim Holderman and open government in South Carolina Published April 2021 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender Former University of South Carolina president Jim Holderman has died, but his legacy lives in a crucial interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. The FOIA has application to “public bodies” which are subdivisions of the government, government corporations such as the Ports Authority, and entities supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds.  If an entity is a “public body” it is subject to the open records and open meetings requirements…

The Readers Speak

The Readers Speak Published February 2021 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender From the earliest days newspapers in this country have published letters from readers.  A survey of early American newspapers reveals that a large portion of the content came from the letters of “correspondents.” The tradition of publishing letters to the editor continues, and in many instances online reader generated comment surpasses the volume of traditional print letters.  In terms of potential legal liability a distinction must be made between traditional letters to the editor and third-party comments on interactive websites operated by newspapers. If a paper publishes a letter…

Death Certificates

Death Certificates Published April 28, 2020 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender When I die, I expect friends, acquaintances, and perhaps strangers to ask a common question, “How did he die?” The answer to that question for all persons who die in South Carolina is recorded on an official state record—a death certificate. If a death is attended by a physician, the physician states the manner and cause of death on an official form. If the death is unattended by a physician, the manner and cause of death is recorded by a coroner or a medical examiner. Those forms must be…

Public meetings in a time of pandemic

Public meetings in a time of pandemic Published March 11, 2020 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender The current strategy to stall the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus is the maintenance of “social distance,” personal hygiene and youth. On the social distance side of the ledger, the Columbia Mayor has announced that City Council meetings will be closed to the public and staff not needed for the conduct of the meetings. Public comment periods would be eliminated, but written questions or comments can be submitted. As Bill and I were judging the barbeque at Palmetto Pig (it was good…

USC president search skirts FOIA

USC president search skirts FOIA Published July 2019 By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender Well, this is a fine kettle of fish. The group that hired a president who treated public money as a slush fund, then replaced him with a president who moved out of the president’s residence in a marital dispute with his wife, is now bowing to political pressure to hire a new president who was previously rejected at the end of a search that cost about $200,000 and didn’t produce a candidate who could get enough votes to be selected. The group, the USC Board of Trustees,…

Legal Q&A: Can an individual advertise guns for sale in the classifieds?

Legal Q&A: Advertising gun sales (July 2019) Q: Can an individual advertise guns for sale in the classifieds? By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender A: If your question is intended to provide guidance to a prospective advertiser, my suggestion is that you tell the seller that he or she must consult their own attorney to determine if they may sell a firearm without a license.  You do not want to assume liability for legal advice to a seller in a regulated industry.  Even if no license is necessary, that is to say that the person is not engaged in the business…

A refresher on camera’s in S.C. courtroom rules and procedures

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | Editor’s note: This is a column Jay Bender wrote in 2013. Little has changed and Jay says this column is must reading. An appropriate photo of Jay is also published!

Hiding from a school board member

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | A member of the Board of Trustees of Lexington School District 1 has had her requests for access to school district financial records denied by the school superintendent.

Legal Q&A: Advertising CBD oil

Q: Can I publish advertising for CBD oil? The sort answer is yes. The longer answer is that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that advertising for lawful products may be published without restriction where the advertising is neither false nor misleading. CBD oil may be sold lawfully in South Carolina, so advertising for the product may be published.

Behaving badly in Mount Pleasant

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | I don’t live in Mount Pleasant, but if I were a newspaper columnist writing regularly about the shenanigans of local officials, I’d want to live there. I would never run out of material. Not so long ago the Office of the Attorney General of South Carolina issued an opinion that Town Council had violated the law by bringing a controversial matter up for a vote without proper notice to the public that action would be taken. That same opinion said that Town attorneys were wrong to advise council members that they faced individual liability…

FOIA suit against S.C. House Republican Caucus

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | News organizations and associations, The State Media Company, The Post and Courier, Inc., Gannett GP Media, Inc., South Carolina Press Association, South Carolina Broadcasters Association, and the Associated Press, were rejected in their suit to have the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applied to the meetings and records of the S.C. House Republican Caucus (Caucus).

What to do when a judge closes a courtroom

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | You’re in the courtroom to cover a proceeding. You’re not taking photographs or recording the proceeding with your smart phone or other device. You’re doing what reporters have always done—you’re paying attention and taking notes.

The culture of arrogance and secrecy at DHEC

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | The board of directors of the state’s largest, and perhaps most vital regulatory agency, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced it had selected a fellow board member to be the agency’s new director.

Denial of courtroom access because you didn’t fill out a form

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | South Carolina has a distinctive constitutional provision that states that all courts shall be public.  Art. I, §9 S.C. Constitution.  The Supreme Court of South Carolina has consistently ruled that this constitutional provision, as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, allow the public and the press to attend court proceedings.

Access to judicial records

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | Years ago a young woman named Heather Elvis disappeared in Horry County. Her body has never been found, but two persons have been found guilty in connection with her disappearance.

Legislative corruption and the State Grand Jury

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | About five years ago Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council urged an investigation of then House Speaker Bobby Harrell for misconduct in office. That investigation led to Harrell’s resignation and a guilty plea.

Keeping weapons out of newspaper buildings

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | For many years I have advocated that newspapers implement measures to keep strangers out of newsrooms. My initial advocacy was provoked by my observations around the state that many newsrooms seemed to allow anyone off the street to walk through.

Free press, free people

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | Donald J. Trump is a bully and a thug.  I could tell you he is a liar, but you and everyone else in America—even his Republican minions in Congress, know that already.

Amending the agenda

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | I was in Mount Pleasant recently. It had been years since I had driven north of Shem Creek on Coleman Boulevard. My drive north in search of lunch put into context the Save Shem Creek movement and the desire of many residents to slow development in the town.

Money laundering made easier

By SCPA Attorney Jay Bender | Money laundering had its origins with crime syndicates. Former SLED chief Robert Stewart said that one of the dangers of South Carolina’s legalization of video poker was that it provided a state-wide network of money laundromats.