SC

South Carolina Family Court Judge Accused Of Improprieties In Civil Lawsuit

Another judicial branch scandal in the Palmetto State?

A family court judge in Horry county, South Carolina has been accused of civil conspiracy and defamation after she allegedly inserted herself improperly into a domestic case, according to a lawsuit filed in the Palmetto State’s fifteenth judicial circuit earlier this month.

The allegations come at a terrible time for South Carolina’s scandal-scarred judiciary – which is facing calls for reform in the aftermath of a brewing scandal tied to the ongoing ‘Murdaugh Murders’ true crime saga.

In the Horry county case, family court judge Melissa Buckhannon of Conway, S.C. is accused of providing a local law firm with false information about Justin Shayne Fulmer – who is currently embroiled in a custody dispute with the mother of his young daughter.

Fulmer and Anna Coggeshall, the mother of the young girl, had a custody and child support arrangement in place per the order of another Horry county family court judge. This arrangement was challenged, however, when some of Fulmer’s confidential medical files were improperly obtained by Coggeshall, according to the lawsuit.


Buckhannon got involved in the case shortly thereafter, according to the lawsuit, pressing local attorney Melissa Frazier to “return to court” on Coggeshall’s behalf based on the “false information” obtained about Fulmer. Specifically, the judge allegedly encouraged Frazier to “recommence litigation” against Fulmer based on the false information she was provided, the suit alleged.

“Judge Buckhannon’s conversations with (Frazier) were highly inappropriate,” the lawsuit claimed.

Not only that, the suit alleged that Frazier’s firm sought to limit communication between Coggeshall’s family members and the judge’s husband, Tommy Buckhannon after the judge got involved – hoping they would be “able to appear before judge Buckhannon in court.”

Curtailing communication between the parties would ostensibly allow Buckhannon to hear the case – thus keeping Coggeshall from getting a “bad judge” or “an unknown visiting judge,” per the lawsuit.

“Because of judge Buckhannon and Frazier law firm’s actions, Justin is now suspicious and untrusting of the family court system, and he has lost faith that it will fairly and impartially interpret and apply the law,” the suit concluded.

Frazier declined to comment on the allegations on the advice of her attorney. Messages sent to judge Buckhannon and Anna Coggeshall were not immediately returned.

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Obviously, there are multiple sides to every story and this news outlet is committed to allowing everyone involved in this case tell their side – especially those who have been accused of impropriety.

But a source who tipped us off to the case said impropriety in this judicial circuit is the rule rather than the exception.

“All of the Horry county family court judges are extremely corrupt,” the source said. “These accusations are commonplace and are only the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Fulmer’s attorney – William B. von Herrmann – submitted a spoliation letter to the office of Horry county clerk of court Renee Elvis advising her to “take all steps necessary to prevent the destruction, loss, concealment, or alteration” of any “paper, document, or electronically stored information and other data” related to the case.

Von Herrmann also submitted a pair of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Horry county seeking “any and all emails and or communication” related to the lawsuit – as well as all of Buckhannon’s judicial emails.

Obviously FOIA requests in Horry county are hit-or-miss propositions of late … so it will be interesting to see what (if anything) comes of those requests.

Stay tuned … this news outlet looks forward to keeping our readers apprised of the status of this case as it moves forward. Similarly, this news outlet plans on continuing to host a conversation on the issue of judicial reform in the Palmetto State.

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THE LAWSUIT …

(Via: S.C. Fifteenth Judicial Circuit)

UPDATE: Some important context on this case …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, in addition to having lots of kids he has LOTS of hats (including that Chicago Blackhawks’ lid pictured above).

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