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Lowcountry Watch: Charleston County Register Of Deeds Hit With Lawsuit

Michael Miller accused of “dereliction of duty …”

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A Charleston County, South Carolina official tasked with processing property records in the second-most populous county in the state is under fire for alleged “chronic and willful failure” and “neglect” in performing his “ministerial duties,” according to a lawsuit filed last week.

Charleston County register of deeds (ROD) Michael Miller has been sued individually and in his official capacity – an office he assumed three years ago.

“Miller has allowed chronic delays of well over one month in the filing of real estate documents delivered to the Charleston ROD since late 2019 and these delays increased significantly by 2021, with some real estate documents being filed as late as four months after delivery,” a lawsuit (.pdf) filed by the Columbia, S.C.-based Finkel Law Firm noted. “Miller has also adopted a practice of immediately filing real estate documents that are hand delivered to his office, while allowing hundreds or even thousands of real estate documents delivered to his office by U.S. mail or parcel delivery to be stored at the Charleston ROD until a later date, often months after the date of delivery, before they are filed.”

Miller’s alleged failure has “caused and will continue to cause substantial harm and potential legal liability to the parties to those real estate transactions and the attorneys and law firms who represent those parties,” the lawsuit added.

The suit refers to Miller’s alleged failure as a “dereliction of duty” – statutory neglect that has exposed the law firm “to potential liability” and “substantially interfered with (its) ability to meet its professional obligations to protect the interests of its clients in legal matters.”

The lawsuit was filed last Wednesday (November 24, 2021) in Charleston County. It seeks a writ of mandamus (or a judicial edict) “ordering Miller to immediately comply with his non-discretionary and ministerial duty under law to file all real estate documents within one month of delivery to the Charleston ROD and to record these documents under the date and in the order of time at which they are delivered.”

The suit does not seek damages, but “expressly reserves the right to bring subsequent actions for such damages” on behalf of “itself or its clients as aggrieved parties.” 

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Miller is the first black register of deeds in Charleston County history. Last November, he gave an interview with Lowcountry journalist Quintin Washington in which he described the office as having been “neglected for quite some time.”

“The office is not modernized,” Miller told Washington at the time. “We are what we call an all-paper office, we collect nothing but paper – there’s no electronic, no e-recording at all.”

I reached out to Miller on Monday afternoon but a spokesperson for his office declined to respond to the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

As our regular readers are well aware, this news outlet has an open microphone policy … meaning anyone with an intelligent perspective on an issue (and certainly anyone who is featured in our coverage) has the opportunity to address our readers directly should they choose to do so. Oh, and unlike the mainstream media we don’t bury these responses on some back page … we feature them every bit as prominently as our original articles.

Should Miller seek to use our microphone to respond to this lawsuit, I will be sure to update this story accordingly …

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THE LAWSUIT …

FInkel-v.-Miller

(Via: Charleston County)

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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, he has LOTS of hats (including that “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates’ lid pictured above).

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