Murdaughs

Federal Judge Recuses Herself In Alex Murdaugh Jail House Phone Calls Case

A Fifth Judge Has Been Assigned To The Case

by  LIZ FARRELL and MANDY MATNEY ||

Just like FITSNews predicted last week, Judge Michelle Childs recused herself Monday in Alex Murdaugh‘s jail house phone call case.

That recusal came days after the attorney representing the director of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center filed a response arguing that Childs does not need to recuse herself.

On Friday, Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin made a surprising move asking Childs to recuse herself following FITSNews exclusive reporting on her potential conflicts of interest in the case.

The case will be reassigned to Judge Cameron McGowan Currie, who is the fifth judge assigned to the federal case in less than two weeks.

“Due to several unprovoked public attacks on the judiciary made as a result of the filing of the instant matter here, the court finds that a reasonable person would not be able to discern truth from falsity regarding any further allegations of impropriety,” Childs wrote.

Last Monday, Childs became the fourth federal judge — in seven days — assigned to a complaint filed Feb. 28 by Murdaugh’s attorneys seeking to stop any further release and publication of their client’s recorded jail house phone calls.


On Feb. 23, FITSNews and Murdaugh Murders Podcast posted transcripts and excerpts from 11 of the more than 100 calls Murdaugh has made since he was booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, also known as Richland County Detention Center, where he has been held in lieu of $7 million bond since Oct. 16.

The calls gave the public a closer look at Murdaugh’s machinations from behind bars and, as it turns out, directly contradicted many of the claims that have been made by his attorneys in an effort to gain his release from jail.

On March 8, Childs issued an order acknowledging that some might see the connections pointed out by FITSNews as conflicts and asked anyone who feared a conflict to request her recusal by March 11.

She also introduced an additional potential conflict, which was a credit to her transparency.

”Moreover,” she noted in the order, ”a current law clerk was employed in the office of Plaintiff’s counsel, Richard A. Harpootlian P.A., before starting her judicial clerkship.”

In Monday’s response, attorney Andrew F. Lindemann who is representing D. Shane Kitchens, the interim director of Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center— argued that it is unnecessary for Childs to recuse herself in the case. He said Childs has a “well-recognized reputation as a highly ethical and fair jurist.”

“D. Shane Kitchens does not believe there is any basis for recusal of Judge Childs and declines the court’s invitation to file a motion for recusal,” Lindemann wrote in the response.


Particularly, Lindemann suggested that the law clerk mentioned in Childs’ motion could step away from the case, but “additional factual information would be needed to properly address the disqualification issue as to the law clerk.”

In contrast, Murdaugh’s attorneys argued on Friday that Childs’ “tangential and irrelevant connections with Plaintiff and his counsel will be portrayed in a manner creating an ‘appearance of impropriety’ even in the eyes of reasonable members of the public, thereby eroding the confidence in judicial integrity.”

The potential conflicts FITSNews cited included Childs’ connection to NPStrategy, the public relations company that helped Murdaugh (attempt to) put a shine on his name after his wife and son were murdered this past summer is also the firm that helped Childs in her bid to become the next Supreme Court nominee.

NPStrat is wholly owned by the powerful law firm Nexsen Pruet, which used to employ Childs. 

Then there is the tight South Carolina Democratic political circle of which NPStrategy, Murdaugh, Childs and Harpootlian are members. 

And finally, according to sources, Childs’ campaign for Supreme Court nomination was funded, at least in large part, by the South Carolina Association of Justice — whose president in 2016 was Alex Murdaugh.

Click below to read the latest motion.

childs

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR..

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to mandy@fitsnews.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Provided)

Liz Farrell is the new executive editor at FITSNews. She was named 2018’s top columnist in the state by South Carolina Press Association and is back after taking a nearly two-year break from corporate journalism to reclaim her soul. Email her at liz@fitsnews.com or tweet her @ElizFarrell.

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