South Carolina Law establishes the Master-in-Equity Court in each County. The Equity Court is a division of Circuit Court. The Master-in-Equity, as Judge of the Equity Court, is entitled to all the benefits and subject to all the requirements of the South Carolina Court and Family Court Judges. The Master-in-Equity may hear any civil non-jury matter referred to the Equity Court from Circuit Court by consent of the parties involved or pursuant to court order. Additionally, the Master-in-Equity serves as a Special Circuit Judge on an ad hoc basis to hear civil non-jury and other matters.
The Richland County Master-in-Equity is a revenue-generating office. The Master-in-Equity collects fees in actions for partitions, foreclosures of liens upon property, supplemental proceedings by judgment creditors, deed preparations and receives a commission on sales of land. Funds collected by the Master or on deposit in an interest bearing account and are turned over to the General Fund of Richland County.
Masters are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the General Assembly for a term of six years. They may serve in a full or part-time capacity and are compensated by the county governing body. Masters-In-Equity have jurisdiction in matters referred to them by the Circuit Courts. They have the power and authority of the Circuit Court sitting without a jury, to regulate all proceedings in every hearing before them, and to perform all acts and take all measures necessary or proper for the efficient performance of their duties under the order of reference. This includes the power to rule on all motions, require the production of evidence, rule upon the admissibility of evidence, and call witnesses and examine them under oath. Masters may also conduct sales under certain circumstances. There are currently 22 Masters-In-Equity. Act 55 of 1999 and Rule 53, SCRCP, altered the appeals process or final judgments. Instead of going to the Circuit Court these appeals will now go to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals as provided by the Appellate Court rules.
Equity Court handles non-jury cases over $5,000. The Master-in-Equity Court provides a relatively quick and inexpensive means of litigation resolution for civil, non-jury matters. However, parties may not initiate action in the Master-in-Equity Court. Only cases assigned by the Court of Common Pleas through an Order of Reference signed by a Circuit Court Judge may be heard by the Master-in-Equity.
Additional Resources and Services
Master In Equity Court Rosters
Public Court Records Search
Links to External Resources and Services
South Carolina Bar
South Carolina Judicial Department
Richland County Judicial Center
1701 Main Street, Room 212
Columbia, SC 29201
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: (803) 576-1900
Fax: (803) 576-1865
Judge Joseph M. Strickland was born September 24, 1955 in Abbeville, South Carolina. Raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Judge Strickland completed his secondary education at Keenan High School in 1973. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1977. In 1981, Judge Strickland received his Juris Doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University Law School.
Upon his graduation from Vanderbilt University Law School, he served as a Second Assistant Parliamentarian in the United States Senate from 1981 to 1984.
He was employed in 1984 as a law clerk to the Honorable Matthew J. Perry of the United States District Court, District of South Carolina until 1985. From 1985 to 1989, he was employed by the firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley, & Scarborough in Columbia until he was appointed as the Master-In-Equity for Richland County where he has served since 1989.
- To efficiently process and complete most cases referred from Circuit Court within 120 days.
- To maintain an accurate bookkeeping system to account for all monies received and disbursed by the court.
- To render impartial thoroughly researched legal decisions on complex matters submitted for decision as well as prompt resolution of routine matters.
- To coordinate with the Chief Administrative Judge and South Carolina Court Administration to ensure the most up-to-date case management reporting methods are utilized.
- To assist the County and South Carolina Bar Association by presenting scholarly seminars and articles when called upon and informally answering inquiries as to procedural problems in specialized areas of Equity Court practice.
- To serve as liaison with other county departments and branches of the judicial system to ensure all county citizens are effectively served by the Equity Court.