Monthly Archives: July 2008

Everyone is asking where I am

Only about 35 emails today from people wondering why I’m not blogging on the Scruggs news — I’d love to, but I have doing deadline stuff for paying clients the past two days. Maybe later tonight I can get at some of the back log. You don’t know how much you miss blogging till you don’t have the time to do it anymore.  Like the song says . . . .  



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Blogging schedule, July 30

I have some stuff having to do with Dickie Scruggs and the McIntosh case, but have some appointments first thing this morning, so posting will have to come later this morning (Pacific Time). 


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The Rigsby Files, July 29: the unraveling begins

I grew up in a tough school with a lot of colorful characters who used a lot of colorful language, and consequently I have a wide repertoire of colorful expressions for a variety of situations in life, such as when stuff surprises or amazes me.  For public consumption, though, I censor most of these and translate them into one of several stock phrases, such as Holy Cow!  So in reading some depositions attached to the latest State Farm filings in Ex rel. Rigsby, the False Claims Act case where the Trailer Lawyers got kicked out, I had cause several times to say Holy Cow! 

Now, I have seen for some time that the Rigsby Sisters’ story line that had been sold originally — "Hero Sisters Aid Crusading Lawyer Scruggs In Stopping Insurance Company Fraud" — was going to undergo a substantial makeover.  This really didn’t require any great prescience, and the same observation could have been made by anyone who was paying a moderate degree of attention.  Obviously, Dickie Scruggs has totally discredited himself, so the demand for the original story line is somewhere up there with the demand for salmonella-laced tomatoes and new chapters of the Milli Vanilli fan club.  I mean, if someone was pitching this story to those two con men in The Producers today — the ones looking for the worst play possible to stage, one that was sure to bomb — they would pick the original Rigsby-Scruggs story over "Springtime for Hitler." 

So let’s face it, we all knew a change had to come.  The only question is how big the change would be.  Well, the results from the precincts are beginning to come in, and it looks like the whole darn Rigsby story might come unglued like a letter held over a steaming tea kettle.   

OK, but we don’t want to rush through all the details at once here.  First, we may want to acknowledge that there were some ridiculous elements to the story from the beginning, stuff that just never did add up.  I mean, it’s a little like the song "Hang Fire," by the Rolling Stones — I laugh every single time I think about this song, where the counterculture icon, party master Mick Jagger is berating his fellow Englishmen for being lazy slobs who won’t work for a living.  (Although if you have ever seen Jagger in concert, you have to admit he is one hard working son of a gun — thus, the source of his irritation). Here’s one thing that stands out from this new brief, which talks about the Rigsbys’ conversations with two fellow workers at the E.A. Renfroe Co., Dana Lee and Tammy Hardison. 

Sometime in March 2006, the Rigsbys told Ms. Lee that they were going to work for Dickie Scruggs by providing him with documents about his clients. (Lee Dp. at 59-60.) They tried to convince Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison to assist them, saying: “You’ll be heroes. We are going to get a book deal. We’re going to make a movie. . . . We’re going to be famous.” (Lee Dp. at 63.)

When I’m reading this, I’m saying Holy Cow! to myself: Book deal? A movie? And I’m thinking: this is starting to read like a sequel to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.    

Now there is so much good stuff here we could easily get ahead of ourselves, so we have to slow down a bit and talk just a little about what this brief is about.  It’s part of the continuing fight over whether the Provost Umphrey firm can take the place of the disqualified Trailer Lawyers.  We all know, of course, that for sheer hilarity no one can take the place of the Trailer Lawyers, so on that ground they are a poor substitute.  I will grant you that there is a certain Dickensian cast to the firm name — Provost Umphrey.  Sounds a bit like one of the great Dickens character names, like Uriah Heep (David Copperfield),  Uncle Pumblechook (Great Expectations) , Mr. McChoakumchild (Hard Times) or Paul Sweedlepipe (Martin Chuzzlewit).  But until I see evidence they’ve been in a trailer, I’m indifferent to whether they get to step into the case or not.  Here’s a copy of the brief, by the way.

And the brief also contains this gem:

In fact, Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison testified that they were at Cori Rigsby’s house in December 2005 and observed the Rigsbys watching the movie “The Insider,” a film based
upon Scruggs’ exploits in the tobacco litigation. While watching “The Insider,” the Rigsbys
were discussing who was going to play each of them in their future movie. (Lee Dp. at 71-72; Hardison Dp. at 40-41.)

A couple things about this passage are striking.  First, the name "The Insider" takes on new meaning with Dickie Scruggs soon to go inside a federal prison. Second, December 2005 is before the Rigsbys acknowledge hooking up with Scruggs — but about the same time he went to then-Insurance Commissioner George Dale with a demand for Dale to support him in his quest to become a Katrina Czar overseeing a half-a-billion dollar fund he proposed to wring out of State Farm through the use of State Farm "insiders."  Third, if this is true — and I have no idea whether it is or not, I merely note the implications of the new testimony — it means the Rigsbys’ testimony about the timeline of their involvement with Scruggs is inaccurate. Fourth, what actresses did they want to play them?  We don’t learn this essential fact. UPDATE: A reader points out below in the comments that, in one of the depositions, Kerri Rigsby wanted Sandra Bullock to portray her in the movie.  Bullock is a fine actress, although I’m not sure she’s demonstrated the range to depict the Machievellianism suggested by the depositions.  I mean, Kerri comes across in these depos as a cross between Ma Barker and Lucrezia Borgia.   I make no representation as to the accuracy of this testimony, I merely comment as to its appearance. 

Another interesting passage suggests Cori Rigsby had to be talked into participation in The Katrina Follies by her sister, Kerri, and mother, Pat Lobrano: 

Indeed, it now appears that Cori Rigsby was initially a reluctant participant. (Lee Dp. at 59-60; Hardison Dp. at 36-37.) The fact that she had to be convinced by her sister and mother to join forces with Scruggs evidences her awareness that what she was being asked to do was improper. [This next part originally was in a footnote to the preceding paragraph]. In contrast, Kerri and her mother appear to have immediately enjoyed the “cloak and dagger” aspect of Scruggs’ underhanded methods. (Hardison Dp. at 43-44.) For example, Ms. Lee and Ms. Hardison saw Kerri Rigsby again in May, 2006, when they traveled to Pensacola for Memorial Day weekend. (Lee Dp. at 77-78.) Ms. Rigsby told Ms. Lee that she could only stay for a couple of hours because she had received a call from Scruggs and had to take her computer to a hacker for Dickie. (Lee Dp. at 79; Hardison Dp. at 46-47.)

Everyone has been pretty patient so far, so let’s get to the depositions.  Here is the deposition of Dana Lee, the one talked about in the brief. Some interesting things you will want to check out in it.  One is the supposed "shopping trip" the Rigsbys took to Texas in late 2005, which I heard about some time ago and wrote about back in April, and which some believe was merely a cover story for meeting Scruggs there (in support of this theory, you might note that Scruggs has demonstrated a fondness for out-of-jurisdiction meetings with witnesses and "insiders" over the years).  

Also, Lee testifies to Kerri Rigsby’s supposed efforts to influence the adjusting of her mother’s Katrina claim. And she talks about the supposed meeting Scruggs had with a State Farm "insider" in Bloomington, which he bragged about in a news story, and which turns out to be so much Scruggsian hot air — he hired a guy to meet him at the airport and hand him an empty envelope to make it look like he was getting some top secret documents.  I guess he had no qualms about staging this phony baloney stunt and then claiming it as real to the media, but then again, that’s not so hard to believe about a guy who would bribe a judge.   

Here is the deposition of Tammy Hardison.  This has a lot of the same information as the Lee deposition, but the testimony manages to portray Kerri Rigsby in an even poorer light, heavy on ruthless, two-faced conniving qualities but light on horsepower between the ears.  Here’s an example:

Q. Tell me about that. 
A. Kerri came over to my camper and asked me if I would look through my files and — any of my claimants and look and see if I saw anything that maybe looked kind of strange or something that maybe Dickie might want to, you know, have their name. And I told her no. 
Q. Okay. And did you ask her at any time why she was doing it? 
A. Well, yes. I was very upset that she was doing it. And she said, well, we’ll never get caught. We’ll never, you know, be found out. 

Kerri Rigsby thought she would never be found out? Holy Cow!  Did someone tell her that, or did she come up with that idea all on her own? Because, you know, that is simply absurd, on the one hand talking about being big movie star heroes, and on the other hand, no one will ever know.  Kind of like thinking no one will ever know if you go to work wearing pants made out of aluminum beer cans.  

Just so it’s easier for you to compare what Lee and Hardison testified to what Kerri said to what Kerri said she said during her own deposition on April 30 and May 1, 2007, here is a copy of that Kerri Rigsby deposition

The import of all of this? The Ride of the Rigsbys is definitely over, finished, bye-bye, ancient history, kaput, ausgespielt. If I was in their shoes, I’d still be thinking about who would play me in the movie, but this time I’d be worried.





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Blogging schedule, July 28

I have been in west L.A. on vacation for the past five days, and hoped to have a post up already today, but some work-related matters intruded and sucked up the available time.  So posting will have to wait until this evening when I return to Portland — too bad, because I have some good stuff to write about.     


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Can’t we bring the Trailer Lawyers back somehow?

During the time in recent weeks I was preoccupied with other matters and couldn’t spend much if any time blogging, it crossed my mind that perhaps when I was able to come back to blogging, I would find that the Trailer Lawyers — Trailer Chip and Trailer Tony, Trailer Todd and Trailer Mary — had found a way to get back into the Katrina spotlight.  Sadly, it appears they have not.  Which can mean only one thing: it’s time for a mournful limerick. 

There once was a lawyer with a trailer,

Had a client named Rigsby, wouldn’t fail her.

But he got kicked off the case,

He’s gone with no trace.

Maybe he went to see Scruggs’ jailer.



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Plaintiffs lawyer pays tribute to Judge Senter

Couldn’t really think of a clever headline for this post, sorry. In working my way through the backlog after returning to active blog duty, I was interested in this post at the Merlin Law Blog, a tribute to Judge Senter, of Hurricane Katrina fame.  I certainly agree that Judge Senter has done a remarkable job.  He’s moved through an incredible docket load, and has shown he has a mind that is adaptable and open to new information, something that cannot be said about every federal judge. He’s shown firmness without being imperious — most federal district court judges aren’t, but a significant portion of them are, like all other judges, I guess.

I don’t know Judge Senter except what I’ve read in his opinions and what people tell me about him, but one thing I can say, having followed his opinions and actions for a couple years, it has given me a new appreciation for how difficult it can be to be a judge — he’s handled some really tough issues, some really contentious, nasty lawsuits. His writing style is one of his best attributes — short, simple and direct, no hiding the ball. I’m basically a guy who grew up on a farm in North Dakota, a state devoted to a radical form of egalitarianism, and consequently one thing that is revolting to me is pomposity and self-importance, in legal writing or otherwise.  None of that in Judge Senter’s opinions, thankfully.  I haven’t agreed with every decision, but at least his opinions are open and accessible enough that I can work my way through them and pinpoint what I disagree with and why.




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Mississippi Bar seeks to disbar Scruggses

I’m a little late to comment on this one — it’s a couple days old — but it’s still worth talking about.  It’s a foregone conclusion that it will happen: the Mississippi State Bar is moving to take away the law licenses of Dickie and Zach Scruggs. I guess Dickie Scruggs won’t be able to claim to be a  "jailhouse lawyer."  Or to practice law in Cuba when he escapes.



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Dickie Scruggs to serve time in Bluegrass State

As I mentioned in an earlier post, due to escape concerns, Dickie Scruggs will not be going to prison in Pensacola, Florida, which unfortunately means he will not be nearby to consult with attorneys on lawsuits if a future hurricane strikes the area. Here is a story in the Sun Herald about how, as a second choice, he and Zach requested that they both serve time in a federal pen in Arkansas.   

But this was not to be either.  Scruggs seems to have lost all his pull — where’s P.L. Blake when you need him? Zach is going to Pensacola, Dickie to Ashland, Kentucky. Sid Backstrom, who got a sentence of 2.5 years out of the Scruggs Bribery Scandal, will serve time in the Arkansas prison. As you know, prison gangs are a big concern, so with these guys scattered, they won’t be able to form a Scruggs Nation gang anywhere  . . . unless they each form their own Scruggs Nation chapter in each of the prisons.  Perhaps officials have unwittingly trebled the gang danger here.  Rumor has it that the official tattoo of the planned Scruggs Nation gang was going to be an S with a snake head on top, and then a line through the middle to make it a dollar $ign — but remember, that is just a rumor and I am still checking it out.   

Incidentally, speaking of the Scruggs escape risk, a reader pointed out to me the story of Bart Chamberlain, an oilman who fled to Switzerland in his private plane to avoid paying a civil judgment.  I hadn’t heard of Chamberlain before and read half a dozen stories on the guy, and strangely, I found myself liking him, possibly because the price control measure he was accused of violating was so stupid and counterproductive.  In the end, I think if Dickie wanted to escape, he’d do it right now before he reports to prison August 4.  However, Kentucky is a long way from the ocean, and harder to get overseas from, so I suppose it reduces the chance of successfully absconding. But if officials have that fear, why not just put him in a high-security prison? 


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Scruggs won’t serve time in Panhandle prison due to fears he will air mail himself out of the country

OK, I said blogging would resume July 22.  More like July 23.  Sorry for the delay, but the workload that was interfering with blogging has now eased, for the time being, sufficiently to allow for life’s necessities — such as blogging — to resume. 

This story from Patsy Brumfield — I had a sixth-grade teacher named Michelle Brumfield, I wonder if they are related somehow (that’s typical of someone from North Dakota, we had so few people we figured everyone was related somehow) — on Dickie Scruggs’ not being assigned to a prison in the Florida Panhandle.  Scruggs is a former Navy flyer and famously has his expensive Air Scruggs ride, and apparently officials don’t assign people to the prison if they have or have had a pilot’s license. (Rumor has it his ride is so nice it is being featured in an upcoming episode of a new reality TV series, "Pimp My Escape Plane"). 

Question: where’s he gonna go? Cuba? Is the fear that all of a sudden we’ll see Dickie Scruggs wearing fatigues and smoking a cigar on a podium next to Fidel and Raul? Actually, it might solve the question of who is to become Fidel’s successor: with his dough, Scruggs could instantly energize the Cuban economy.  With his ego, Scruggs could also instantly fit in as the ruler of a country, and let’s face it, even Scruggs is bound to be an improvement on the Castros.  His first act as El Presidente would certainly be to file a massive class action lawsuit in Miami against State Farm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Tim Balducci.

Fortunately, prison officials have thought this all through, and have come to the conclusion that while a guy who can fly is a great escape risk — he might walk away from his job hoeing peas and sweet potatoes and steal a plane from a nearby military base, I guess — a guy who can merely ride in a plane, boat or car is no threat at all. I mean, they’ve probably got all kinds of statistics that show the vast majority of people who escape from prisons do so by getting behind the controls of a conveniently parked nearby escape plane. Come to think of it, you ever been to Alcatraz and taken the tour, where they talk about that famous escape by the three guys who were never found? Of course they weren’t found! Everyone was looking for them in the water. Instead, based on this new information, I’m thinking it’s likely they went air mail. 

Of course, this new data means we must come up with a theme song for Scruggs’ prison sentence, and after some thought, I believe there is only one choice: the gospel standard "I’ll Fly Away."  I mean, it’s got to be, doesn’t it: "Like a bird from these prison wall I’ll fly, I’ll fly away/ No more cold iron shackles on my feet, I’ll fly away." 



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Regular blogging to resume July 22

My workload has decreased from 24/7 to a more manageable 18/7, so I will once again be blogging regularly, starting tomorrow.  Thanks for your patience and thanks for the e-mails, it will be good to get back to some blogging again. 


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