Murdaugh jailhouse calls show SC legal system has no smell test, or is that also for sale?

·3 min read

Let’s stop rowing through the Murdaugh cesspool just long enough to savor one specific stain on South Carolina’s so-called justice system that has surfaced in the jailhouse phone calls.

This chapter would be called “How To Get A Wink-Wink Law Degree from the University of South Carolina.” Most law schools, one would assume, award Juris Doctor degrees. The University of South Carolina also offers Juris Daddy degrees.

Alex Murdaugh lays bare the law school farce in his calls to family members from a county jail in Richland County.

That’s where the scion of the Lowcountry’s leading family of the law, the Murdaughs of Hampton, is locked up on a $7 million bond facing more than 80 charges claiming he has stolen more than $8 million.

It’s where Murdaugh continuously schemes, not only to skirt the canteen rules but to get his son Buster back in the law school.

Buster Murdaugh, who they wanted to be a fifth-generation lawyer, had not been allowed to return after his first year, due to what court records show were low grades and reported plagiarism.

In South Carolina, one doesn’t seek advantage by changing ones ways. One does this by hiring a “high-powered lawyer,” as reported, “to quietly convince law school officials to give Buster another chance.”

The Murdaugh family paid the high-powered lawyer $60,000 to elbow Buster back into our state’s Who’s Your Daddy School of Law.

It was $30,000 up front and another $30,000 if the failed scholar got back in — and it worked.

The law school dean bought into it.

This is terribly wrong, even with the law school subsequently delaying the readmission.

What about kids who don’t have $60,000 to flash around? What about people who have to make it on their own merits, not a high-powered lawyer? Who gives them a second chance in life?

If the dean wants to give second chances, those chances should be offered freely to everyone, on equal footing.

Pay-to-play is never ethical.

But it is apparently openly accepted by the elites of South Carolina, and perfectly legal.

We wonder why the state legislature run by lawyers is routinely busted for massive corruption. We somehow are puzzled when laws can surface the same way flunkies get back into the University of South Carolina School of Law — buying it.

The law school attached some caveats to the Buster’s readmission — things he called “stupid sh--“ in the jailhouse calls.

But the Murdaughs feel deserving of yet more. They are adamant that Buster’s deal not only gets him back in the door, but that he return with a brand new, fake grade point average, without being unduly burdened by those pesky grades he actually earned so far.

What am I missing? Is this the common way things are done in this world?

Are we going to let doctors buy second chances and grade point averages?

Are our bridges designed by engineers who really didn’t belong in college?

Does the law school think no one is looking, and no one cares? Or that this is the way it’s always been done?

They should go ahead and change the curriculum to suit the Murdaughs while they’re at it, with courses like “When Ethics Slip and Fall,” “How to Buy Friends and Influence Jurors, Not Necessarily in That Order” or “How to Bank on Questionable Legal Practices.”

The jailhouse calls show once again that no Murdaugh chicanery happens in a vacuum. Others aid and abet it, and they are not always the so-called dregs of society.

When everyone dives into the cesspool, there is no smell test.

David Lauderdale may be reached at

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