Richard Scruggs

We are just finishing up our first day at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit, our tech conference aimed at in-house counsel. So far it has been a great success. We’ve had no earthquakes or hurricanes — just a passing swarm of lovebugs (seriously), which are now lying dead on my balcony.

This morning, we kicked off with a keynote session from Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, the authors of Kings of Tort (affiliate link), a chronicle of one of the legal profession’s more infamous criminals. It’s actually not that specific to technology, although it does relate to the world of in-house counsel.

Keep reading for an inside look at the politically connected Southern gentleman who transformed from David to Goliath, conspired to bribe a judge, and made many an in-house lawyer’s life miserable…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dispatch from Amelia Island: Inside the Dickie Scruggs Scandal”

Richard Scruggs 2 Dick Scruggs Dickie Scruggs Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThis just in, from the AP:

Powerful plaintiffs attorney Richard ”Dickie” Scruggs and a co-defendant pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to bribe a judge for a favorable ruling in a case involving legal fees from a post-Hurricane Katrina lawsuit.

The surprise plea came Friday during a hearing in Oxford, Miss. on pretrial matters, court officials said. His trial was set to begin at the end of the month.

Scruggs, 61, and co-defendant Sidney Backstrom both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Scruggs’ law partner and son, Zach, also is charged in the case but did not enter a plea and is expected to go to trial.

Prosecutors said they would recommend five years in prison for Scruggs and 2 1/2 for Backstrom, penalties significantly lower than what they could have faced.

Two quick thoughts. First, has Scruggs employed bribery as a tactic in other matters — e.g., the tobacco cases that made him famous (and a movie star)? Second, could Mississippi give Louisiana a run for its money as most corrupt state in the union?
P.S. And maybe one could throw West Virginia into the running. See here (noting federal investigation of the West Virginia Supreme Court, in connection with the Massey Energy case).
P.P.S. No offense to any of the aforementioned states. Our home state of New Jersey is also up there — or down there, as the case may be.
Update: From the ABA Journal: “Dickie Scruggs: Now that he’s been accused of pleaded guilty to bribery, there are questions about how he achieved so much.”
Miss. Attorney Pleads in Bribery Case [AP]
Breaking News: Scruggs Pleads Guilty [WSJ Law Blog]
Long Live the King of Torts? [ABA Journal]

Akhil Amar Professor Akhil Reed Amar Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: As we recently mentioned, we're looking for someone to write Morning Docket, on an alternating-week schedule. To those of you who have already applied, thanks for your interest; we'll review the applications and pick a writer this weekend. If you'd like to apply, there's still time -- just follow the application instructions contained in this post (but please note that the gig now comes with pay -- a modest monthly stipend). Thanks.]
* It seems to get worse by the day. The CIA apparently destroyed interrogation tapes while a federal judge was still looking for information about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. [New York Times]
* So what exactly are the federal government’s policies on border searches? Two groups sue to find out. [Washington Post]
* We like funny legal ads. But state regulators are not amused. [Wall Street Journal via How Appealing]
* Kibbles ‘n bits ‘n indictments. Two Chinese companies and an American importer are indicted in connection with tainted pet food. [New York Times]
* Professor Akhil Amar (our former con law prof; pictured) will be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in the administration of… Mike Gravel! Amar: “I’m not quitting my day job.” [Yale Daily News via How Appealing]
* The latest legal woes of Dickie Scruggs and friends. [WSJ Law Blog]


Richard Scruggs 2 Dick Scruggs Dickie Scruggs Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgYesterday the FBI executed a search warrant on the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford, Mississippi — the shop of high-flying plaintiffs’ lawyer Dickie Scruggs. It wasn’t immediately clear what investigation the search was related to. Here’s some commentary on the situation that we enjoyed, from David Rossmiller (in brackets, following excerpt from news article):

“This is a surprise to everybody connected to the Scruggs Firm,” [lawyer Joey] Langston said, “but I’ve got to tell you people who are very high profile and very successful have to contend with unpleasantries and this is unpleasant, but we’ll contend with it.”

[I like the touch of noblesse oblige here -- as if the FBI descending on one's place of business is the same as, say, getting heckled by drunken lumpenproletariat while showing up in top hat and tails to receive an award for charitable giving.]

suitcase briefcase cash money Above the Law blog.jpgNow we have a better idea of what the office search was probably about. From the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger:

Multimillionaire trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs has been indicted on charges of conspiring to bribe a judge in the case involving $26.5-million in attorney fees involving Katrina claims….

According to the indictment, Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey cooperated with the FBI in the investigation after reporting a bribery overture to authorities.

According to the indictment, Scruggs and others tried to influence Lackey by giving him $40,000 in cash to resolve the attorney fees’ dispute in favor of Scruggs’ law firm. Some of the conversations between Balducci and Lackey were captured on tape.

An interesting observation, from the WSJ Law Blog:

Down in Mississippi, there has been speculation of a connection between the FBI search warrant and this week’s surprise resignation of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Scruggs’s brother-in-law. Lott’s office told the Sun Herald the two events were but a mere coincidence.

Because, you know, it’s so much better to have people think you stepped down because of a gay sex scandal, as opposed to your brother-in-law’s indictment.
(For the record, the rumors about Sen. Lott and the gay sex scandal appear to be unfounded. See HuffPo and Wonkette — two sites that would, of course, love for the rumors to be true.)
Scruggs arrested on bribery charges [Clarion-Ledger]
More on FBI search of Scruggs’ law offices [Insurance Coverage Law Blog]
Dickie Scruggs Indicted On Federal Bribery Charges [WSJ Law Blog]

Richard Scruggs Dick Scruggs Dickie Scruggs Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgIt’s Friday night, and we’re off the clock. So we’ll keep it short and sweet.
HAHAHAHAHA.
Judge Recommends Feds Prosecute Scruggs for Contempt [WSJ Law Blog]
Ala. judge asks criminal contempt prosecution of Scruggs [Associated Press]