Lawyer Seeks Voluntary Disbarment For Fraud


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Cory Howerton Fleming (State Bar No. 292955) asked for voluntary discipline by the Supreme Court  Georgia before the issuance of a formal complaint. In the petition, Fleming admitted that during his representation of a client in South Carolina, he violated Rules 1.4 (a) (3), 1.5 (c) (1), 1.7 (a), 1.8 (b), 1.15 (I) (c), 5.4 (c), and 8.4 (a) (4) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (“GRPC”) found in Bar Rule 4-102 (d). As discipline, Fleming requested that the Court accept the voluntary surrender of his license to practice law.

In The Matter Of Cory Howerton Fleming, No. S23Y0970, Supreme Court of Georgia (November 7, 2023) the Supreme Court was asked to accept attorney Fleming’s request that he be disbarred to avoid a trial since his guilt was obvious. The State Bar filed a response, stating that the Supreme Court should accept the petition.


With regard to the conduct at issue in this case, Fleming admitted that he was asked by R. Alexander Murdaugh, a lawyer then-licensed in South Carolina to represent a woman injured at his property. The woman-who was a long-time employee of Murdaugh’s died from her injuries, leaving two sons. Murdaugh had two insurance policies providing coverage for this type of incident, one providing $505,000 and an excess providing an additional $5,000,000.

At some point in 2018, Fleming filed suit against Murdaugh-presumably on behalf of the woman’s estate-and, in November 2018, the primary paid its policy limits to settle Fleming’s client’s claims against Murdaugh. Fleming did not inform his client about this fact. Instead Fleming allowed Chad Westendorf to replace the son as the Personal Representative for the estate. Fleming admitted that the petition to the probate court detailed payments of $166,000 to his law firm for legal fees and $11,500 for “prosecution expenses”; that those figures were misrepresentations; and that there were no legitimate prosecution expenses.

In March 2019 a mediation with the excess insurer ultimately led to an additional settlement in Fleming’s client’s case that involved a total payment by the excess of $3,800,000. Fleming admitted that the presentation to the court was false.


After both settlements, Murdaugh, a defendant in the lawsuit, requested that Fleming make the net settlement proceeds check payable to “Forge,” apparently explaining that he had created structured settlement or annuity accounts for the woman’s surviving sons with Michael E. Gunn of Forge Consulting, LLC (“Forge Consulting”).  Murdaugh apparently converted the funds to his own benefit.

Although it was clear that the money was removed from Flemming’s IOLTA account and that it was not used for the purposes it was supposed to be used for, Fleming did not specify whether he retained the $26,200 for his own benefit or passed some of the money to Murdaugh, as suggested by the Bar’s response to the petition. He did admit, however, that he agreed to hold monies in his firm’s IOLTA account from the settlement that would be accessible to Murdaugh.

Fleming claimed that from the time of the settlement until September 2021, he was under the impression that Murdaugh was handling the creation of structured settlement annuities with Forge Consulting for the benefit of the heirs of Fleming’s client (the plaintiff). He asserted that, on September 3, 2021, he learned from one of Murdaugh’s law partners that the firm had discovered that Murdaugh was stealing money from it by using a fictitious bank account in the name of “FORGE dba R. Murdaugh.” Fleming then stated that thereafter, he was informed that Forge Consulting did not have any accounts related to this matter and had never received the funds from either settlement.

By this conduct Fleming admitted that his failure to reasonably communicate with the Personal Representative of the woman’s estate. Fleming stated that he has admitted facts sufficient to allow the imposition of discipline and offers to surrender his license as a way of streamlining the disciplinary process.

The Supreme Court concluded that Fleming admitted conduct sufficient to establish violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and that the underlying facts may well be more egregious than Fleming admits. Regardless, the Supreme Court found no need to delve into those details because the conduct to which Fleming admitted was sufficient to establish the violations that Fleming’s conduct was worse than he acknowledges because he admitted that he warranted the most serious sanction the Supreme Court can impose in a bar discipline matter: disbarment. As a result it ordered that the name of Cory Howerton Fleming be removed from the rolls of persons authorized to practice law in the State of Georgia.


Murdaugh was convicted of murder of his wife and son while trying to avoid prosecution for the theft of funds from his law firm and insurance fraud perpetrated on his professional liability insurers. He convinced Flemming to join in his crime and steal more than $4 million from the estate of his late housekeeper who, with the evidence of wrongdoing overwhelming sought to save the money and time to defend a disbarment proceeding, voluntarily asked the court to remove his license.  The sad destruction of a lawyer who trusted a prominent lawyer who turned out to be a murder, thief and insurance fraudster.

(c) 2023 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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