The South Carolina Supreme Court on Friday suspended the law license of an attorney connected to the many woes and ailments of the Murdaugh legal dynasty.
The Oct. 8 order states that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel sought to place attorney Cory Howerton Fleming on an “interim suspension.” The Supreme Court agreed to make the suspension indefinite; it is slated to last “until further order.”
The rule used to suspend Fleming’s license is Rule 17(b). That rule applies to “other misconduct” not elsewhere defined. Rule 17(b) reads as follows:
Upon receipt of sufficient evidence demonstrating that a lawyer poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or to the administration of justice, the Supreme Court may place the lawyer on interim suspension pending a final determination in any proceeding under these rules.
Fleming represented the estate of Gloria Satterfield, 57, the housekeeper who died after what official records described as a “slip and fall” accident at the Murdaugh home. Satterfield’s heirs obtained new attorneys and filed a lawsuit that claimed they never received a $505,000 settlement Fleming negotiated from the Murdaughs. The lawsuit accused Alex Murdaugh, Fleming, and Fleming’s law firm of civil conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty. An attorney now representing the Satterfield family says he thinks the settlement amount was actually much higher — potentially running above $1 million — and that the family never knew.
The Satterfield family’s new attorneys said that Fleming “stepped forward and did the right thing by the Estate,” WCSC-TV reported. “Mr. Fleming and his law firm maintain, they — like others — were victims of Murdaugh’s fraudulent scheme.”
On October 1, 2021, Cory Fleming and his law firm reached a settlement with the Estate of Gloria Satterfield and Ms. Satterfield’s sons under which Mr. Fleming and his law firm are personally repaying all legal fees and expenses they received, and the firm’s malpractice insurance carrier is paying the full limits of its policy. The settlement was reached less than one month after Mr. Fleming first learned that the settlement funds recovered for Ms. Satterfield’s sons and her estate had been stolen by Alex Murdaugh.
Mr. Fleming acknowledges that material mistakes were made by him at crucial times throughout this matter and sincerely apologizes to Ms. Satterfield’s sons for everything they have been through and that they did not receive their rightful monies from the death of their mother. Mr. Fleming was engaged to pursue claims on behalf of Ms. Satterfield’s estate. He pursued those claims, negotiated substantial settlements with Mr. Murdaugh’s insurance carriers and reduced his fee by fifty percent (50%) to increase the net recovery for Ms. Satterfield’s sons and her estate.
When it came time to disburse the settlement funds, Mr. Fleming trusted his close friend and colleague to deal with him truthfully and honorably, only to be misled and deceived in one of the worst possible ways for a lawyer: Alex Murdaugh lied to Mr. Fleming to steal client funds.
Mr. Fleming maintains he was not a willing participant in Mr. Murdaugh’s scheme but was used. Mr. Fleming states he would never knowingly jeopardize client funds or put a personal or professional relationship above his professional responsibilities. Until early September 2021, he sincerely believed that the settlement funds had been properly disbursed. Since that time, Mr. Fleming and his law firm have made every effort to do the right thing by Ms. Satterfield and her sons, which is reflected in both their ongoing cooperation and the settlement reached on October 1, 2021. Mr. Fleming appreciates the professionalism shown by the attorneys representing the Satterfield heirs in uncovering the misappropriated funds and their intent on making the heirs whole. Mr. Fleming agrees to provide his continued cooperation in this matter.
Alex Murdaugh checked into rehab and pleaded poverty after authorities charged him with asking a former client to kill him so that his son Buster Murdaugh could collect a $10 million life insurance policy. That case is ongoing.
The legal scion’s son Paul and wife Maggie were murdered on the family’s property earlier this summer. Paul was being prosecuted over a boating crash that killed Mallory Beach, 19. Fleming has been accused of playing an alleged role in a cover-up scheme orchestrated by Alex Murdaugh to protect his son Paul from legal jeopardy. According to a lawsuit, Fleming represented Connor Cook, then 19, who was also on the boat — all at Alex Murdaugh’s behest. From that lawsuit:
Unbeknownst and undisclosed to Plaintiff Cook and his parents at the time Fleming was hired, Fleming failed to disclose that he had been Defendant Murdaugh’s college roommate, was one of his best friends, and was also Paul Murdaugh’s ‘godfather.’ Defendant Murdaugh and Fleming never disclosed these conflicts of interest to Plaintiff Cook; instead, they encouraged and instructed Plaintiff Cook not to cooperate with law enforcement. Fleming’s instructions served to convert the unwitting Plaintiff Cook into an agent of protection for Paul Murdaugh, exposing Plaintiff Cook to the potential of being charged as boat operator and therefore responsible for the accident.
Various Murdaugh family forefathers were for nearly a century in charge of the local prosecutor’s office in a district which comprises several eastern South Carolina counties.
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