Attorney General Alan Wilson Releases Opinion on Validity of Laws That Don’t Have State Seal

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – December 1, 2017 Attorney General Alan Wilson has released an opinion on whether laws are constitutional if they haven’t had the Great Seal of the State affixed to them as required. State Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Piedmont, requested the opinion after he found that more than 100 laws enacted over the last 15 years do not have the Great Seal on them.

Article III, Subsection 18 of the South Carolina Constitution says, “No Bill or Joint Resolution shall have the force of law until it shall have been read three times and on three several days in each house, has had the Great Seal of the State affixed to it, and has been signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives …”

Solicitor General Bob Cook, who heads the Opinions Section, studied the law and wrote the opinion. In it, he writes that the Secretary of State has a constitutional duty to affix the Great Seal of the State when an Act is presented to his office.

As for whether laws that don’t have the Seal are constitutional and enforceable, the opinion states, “All acts which do not or did not have the Great Seal affixed by the Secretary of State in a timely fashion remain valid and enforceable unless and until set aside by a court or repealed by the Legislature.”

Our courts have not ruled directly on this issue, but the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the appointment of an officer whose commission lacked the Great Seal of the State as required by law. It said once that was corrected, the validity of the officer’s appointment went back to the time of his appointment.

In addition, if the Secretary of State’s failure to affix the Great Seal made laws invalid, it would give the Secretary of State a veto power even stronger than the governor’s, whose veto may be overridden.

The opinion concludes, “…while we emphasize that the Secretary of State’s mandatory constitutional duty is to affix the State Seal upon each and every act upon presentation to his Office, we also believe that a court will give effect to and uphold the acts in question, particularly if satisfied that the Secretary of State has appropriately cured these omissions.”

An Attorney General’s opinion does not carry the force of law but is the opinion of legal scholars who’ve studied the pertinent laws in question about how a court would likely rule.

You can read the full opinion here.

Schedule a Tour or Visit

Welcome to the on-line office for Attorney General Alan Wilson. Please visit the Contact Us page to stay in touch.

image description
Columbia, SC

Rembert Dennis Building | 1000 Assembly Street,

Room 519 | Columbia, S.C. 29201

Phone: 1-803-734-3970 | Fax: (803) 253-6283

Back to top