Embattled South Carolina circuit court judge Bentley Price – the poster judge for dispensing excessive leniency to violent offenders in the Palmetto State – is attempting to fast track a case involving an attorney who amassed fame and fortune during the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
Price is attempting to fast track an action tied to the 2019 boat crash lawsuit involving the Murdaughs and multiple other defendants – even though the judge was found unqualified by a state judicial screening committee and denied another term on the circuit court bench as a result.
Beach – a 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C. – perished in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019. She died after a 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat owned by Alex Murdaugh – and allegedly piloted by his late son, Paul Murdaugh – slammed into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. Seconds before the boat crashed, GPS data obtained by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicated the vessel was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 miles per hour (or approximately 25 knots).
Four passengers – and Murdaugh – made it out of the water following the crash. Beach did not. Her body was discovered a week later by fishermen.
(Click to view)
Paul Murdaugh and others on the boat were in a “grossly intoxicated” state at the time of the crash, according to responding law enforcement officers. To quote the late Randolph Murdaugh III – one of three Murdaughs to hold the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006 – Paul Murdaugh was “drunker than Cooter Brown” at the time of the crash. And despite alleged obstruction efforts by his father, Paul Murdaugh was eventually hit with multiple criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Those charges – and a civil suit filed on March 29, 2019 by Beach’s family – initiated a series of events that brought down the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh,” a family legal dynasty which ran the Palmetto Lowcountry like a fiefdom for nearly a century.
Indeed, Beach’s death was also the driving narrative in ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ – a smash hit documentary that premiered on Netflix on February 22, 2023 and exposed the Murdaugh family and its dark secrets to an international audience.
The boat crash lawsuit settled last summer – but a separate “outrage” case alleging misconduct by one of the corporate defendants is still pending. That lawsuit – filed in December 2021 – focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in the employ of wealthy Savannah, Georgia convenience store magnate Greg Parker, founder of the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations.
It has spawned allegations of unauthorized disclosures by Tinsley as well …
(Click to view)
Parker’s attorneys have repeatedly sought to have Tinsley dismissed from this lawsuit – arguing he improperly received and reviewed privileged information and materials. Tinsley has also been accused of improperly disclosing privileged information – and engaging in improper communication with a party represented in one of the cases.
Tinsley has been very successful in his appearances in front of Price. And now that Price’s tenure on the bench is drawing to a close, Tinsley is hoping to have him hear as much of this complex action as possible prior to him stepping down. Parker’s attorneys are pushing back, arguing a new judge should be appointed because the case will “extend much farther beyond the end of judge Price’s current term.”
In a filing submitted to the high court last month, Parker’s attorneys asked for a writ of prohibition against Price – as well as a stay of the case. According to their filing (.pdf), Price has made “inconsistent rulings” in this matter which have been subject to “corrections” by the high court.
“There are a number of reasons to question judge Price’s impartiality and qualifications to continue to preside as the assigned judge in this case,” the filing noted.
Among them? Price’s recent disqualification by the S.C. Bar Association and the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (SCJMSC), which according to the filing raised concerns about his temperament as well as “his competence as a jurist, and his preferential treatment for certain counsel.”
Preferential treatment for certain counsel … like Tinsley.
Price was also rapped for dragging his feet on the matter … only to kickstart the process once he was deemed disqualified by the SCJMSC.
“Despite the fact that Judge Price has been presiding over this case for almost two years, very little has actually happened in this matter so far,” the filing noted, adding “there has been almost no discovery taken in this case and almost no movement on motions.”
“Months (and, indeed, years) have elapsed since the filing of these motions — and judge Price has failed to indicate why he now believes these motions to be pressing and require a hearing within the next several weeks,” the filing added.
Count on this media outlet to keep our audience up to speed on the supreme court’s decision regarding the writ of prohibition – and the bid to stay this case – sought by Parker’s lawyers. Also, count on us to keep our audience up to speed on the other saga which has the potential to ensnare Price in the months to come.
Finally, stay tuned for an update on how this story is linked to a recent tweet about an undisclosed conflict of interest on the part of a former employee of this media outlet.
UPDATE | Price stands down …
THE FILING …
(S.C. Supreme Court)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.