By John Monk
In an order published Thursday, the high court in essence said that Murdaugh’s financial crimes are so great, and he has confessed to some of them, that it is a waste of the court’s investigative arm’s time and resources to investigate them any more.
“Respondent shall appear in the Supreme Court Courtroom at 11:00 a.m. on June 22, 2022, to present legal argument on the question of whether this Court should disbar Respondent from the practice of law,” the court’s order said.
It was signed by Chief Justice Donald Beatty for all five justices.
“In this unique case, (Murdaugh’s) admissions in the public record lead to only one conclusion — that (Murdaugh’s) egregious ethical misconduct subjects him to the most significant sanction available — disbarment. Accordingly, we find there is no need to expend additional resources to proceed through the normal disciplinary process,” the court’s order said.
Murdaugh’s attorney, Jim Griffin, said he doesn’t expect Murdaugh to contest the motion. He also said he expects Murdaugh to be there in person because the Supreme Court has also ordered a sheriff’s van to transport Murdaugh from the jail to the Supreme Court courtroom.
If Murdaugh is disbarred because of this order, it means the public won’t get to see a full public accounting by the court of the extent of Murdaugh’s misdeeds and how he carried them out.
Normally, the court’s investigative arm, called the Office of Disciplinary Council, conducts an investigation and after an in-depth process submits its findings for the court. The court then usually issues lengthy public findings of fact before taking serious disciplinary action.
In a final order of disbarment, the Supreme Court could still issue findings of fact, but how detailed that document would be is open to question.
State grand jury indictments issued last fall, winter and this spring charge Murdaugh with using sham bank accounts and con schemes to steal more than $8 million from his law firm, his clients and associates for a 12-year period.
But the indictments are only generally worded accusations and do not give the kind of details that would surface in a full-fledged Supreme Court investigation or a trial.
“There is no factual dispute about whether (Murdaugh) engaged in dishonest conduct,” the court said.
Murdaugh has been in the Richland County jail since last fall unable to post $7 million bond for his alleged financial crimes. It is one of the highest bonds ever set for a state criminal defendant.
Murdaugh has appeared by remote video in previous hearings. In this case, however, the high court said it wanted him in its courtroom.