[NOTE: I originally added this as an update to the Scruggs Nation post of today, but then thought this story deserves its own post so it doesn’t get lost in a post many folks have already read.]
The sun never sets on the Scruggs Nation. Just when I thought my blog work for the week was done, I came across this absolutely outstanding piece in by Steve Korris in the Southeast Texas Record. Check out this excerpt:
Ten years after the Supreme Court of Mississippi turned the Attorney General’s office into a mint cranking out easy money for lucky lawyers, the luckiest one of all has dragged the whole state down in disgrace.
Dickie Scruggs of Oxford arranged a $40,000 bribe for Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, according to an indictment from a federal grand jury.
Lackey reported the bribe to authorities and cooperated in an eight month investigation.
Scruggs apparently panicked when a lawyer who had defended him in a lawsuit sued him and set out to prove that he routinely cheated lawyers who worked with him.
The story goes into extensive details about the legal culture created when then-Mississippi AG Mike Moore started the practice of hiring lawyers as special assistant attorneys general — continued under current AG Jim Hood — to prosecute what was in essence private litigation.
The scandal stunned the state but it would not have surprised the late Kirk Fordice, former governor of Mississippi.
Fordice tried to keep Moore from hiring private lawyers to sue private companies, but in 1997 the Supreme Court ruled in Moore’s favor.
The Court held that the Attorney General could seek to recover Medicaid funds from cigarette makers and other defendants, even if the governor had not asked him to do so.
Andy Taggart of Jackson, Fordice’s chief of staff from 1992 to 1994, said Fordice felt that state agencies should initiate litigation.
"His belief was that as chief executive of the state he was the representative of the state as client and the Attorney General was the lawyer for the client," Taggart said.
He said, "He believed that it was inappropriate for the Attorney General to seek to set policy by litigation."
Fordice and Moore strongly disagreed about putting the strength of the people behind privately run civil litigation, he said.
"The wheels that were set in motion by this state driven private litigation can result in all manner of mischief even when people’s motives are good," Taggart said.
And this e-mail exchange between Steve Funderburg and Scruggs is a must-read:
Jones claims that on March 2, at a meeting of the Scruggs Katrina Group, Barrett offered him six percent, about $1,500,000.
Jones claims he turned it down and asked again for arbitration.
His associate, Steve Funderburg, vented in a March 4 e-mail to Scruggs.
"I have looked in the mirror all weekend and tried to figure out how I could be so stupid," he wrote. "John and I DEFENDED you in fee dispute litigation for God’s sake."
He wrote, "We DEFENDED you when people said you were greedy, or were a back stabber, or a liar, or anything else."
He wrote, "You have developed a good routine. It worked. But go to your grave knowing that you have shaken my belief in everything I hold dear."
He wrote, "I did not believe that people like you really existed. I am ashamed and will always be ashamed of having defended you and protected you."
Scruggs wrote back, "I respect and am grateful for the devoted efforts you and Johnny made in your representation of me and those in privity in the Wilson/Luckey matters."
Scruggs added that the group had become leery of working with them because they might seize upon a pretext to sue.
A great story, one of the best that has been done so far on the current Scruggs controversy. Read it all.