More on yesterday’s ruling from Judge Biggers in USA v. Scruggs (Northern Mississippi edition)

I’ll have a few more things to say about yesterday’s orders by Judge Biggers, which are in this post from yesterday, when I have time to post, which will be over my lunch hour today.  Don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about these. 


What is striking to me about Judge Biggers’ orders denying defendants’ motions is how short the orders were — not much wringing of hands or fussing around.  The order denying defendants’ motion to suppress wiretap evidence, for example, was only five pages and from the looks of it, the actual number of words in it is substantially less than my average Scruggs Nation post.  

That order cuts right to the heart of the matter and refutes the defendants’ notion that the initial meeting between Tim Balducci and Judge Lackey did not involve "corrupt overtures."  As the judge points out, sending an attorney not involved in the case, unbeknownst to opposing counsel, to trade on his personal friendship with the objective of influencing the judge is certainly corrupt enough. As Judge Biggers wrote:

In the same meeting with Judge Lackey, Balducci offered Judge Lackey a job as "of counsel" in Balducci’s law firm when the judge chose to retire.  These actions are certainly a clear and gross violation of all known codes of ethics applicable to attorneys and judicial officers.

The judge’s order denying the motion to exclude evidence of prior related bad acts by Dickie and Zach Scruggs — their alleged involvement in a plot to influence Judge Bobby DeLaughter — was also a big blow to the defendants.  Biggers spent barely more than three pages on this order.

There is no question that the extrinsic evidence offered in the present case constitutes a similar alleged act within the meaning established by the aforementioned case law.  The 404(b) evidence reveals (1) the employing of a person not an attorney of record to approach a state court judge (2) with the intent to corrupt the state court judge in regard to (3) a fee dispute (4) involving two of the defendants herein as well as two others who have already entered guilty please in this case — all substantially the same elements as charged in the conspiracy count before the court in the present case.

Let’s also remember that, in addition to these charges, Scruggs faces potential charges in the DeLaughter matter.  Why is the government going to present this prior bad acts evidence of his alleged involvement but not charge him with a crime? It may be that the government wants to get this case out of the way, and a superseding indictment would lead to delay that is unacceptable to someone.    

Lastly, I want to address a recurrent theme I hear about this prosecution, the alleged plot to influence DeLaughter and the criminal contempt of court prosecution of Scruggs in Alabama.  That theme is that Scruggs is too smart and sophisticated to be involved in dumb stuff like this — it’s "too dumb for Dickie," in the words of one of his famous, rich friends

Scruggs undoubtedly was involved, in the Alabama case, in sending the Rigsby documents to Hood instead of returning them to the attorneys for the sisters’ former employers as ordered.  But even with that case, some presume he must have had some grand, sophisticated insight into the law, and that his non-compliance was either legally permissible or not worth bothering such a figure about.

This reasoning is a mystery to me for a couple reasons.  First, what evidence is there that smart people don’t do dumb things?  In my observation, other than the truly and incorrigibly stupid, no group of people is so prone to dumbness as smart people. Second, merely because something is not sophisticated does not mean it will not work well and work better than something complicated. We are so inured to complex schemes like Enron and hiding the source of campaign contributions that we forget — when it comes to being crooked, simpler is usually better, less risky and easier to remember.  Why involve some sheik from Saudi Arabia, a London solicitor living in his Mum’s basement and a couple former Congressmen to deliver a bushel of sweet potatoes? It’s better to keep it all in the family.  Think of Scruggs’ statement a few years ago about the Magic Jurisdictions in Mississippi, where it’s all just a put-on, where justice is just a puppet show for the foolish and the gullible.      

And people also ask why, why would he do it? To which I say, why does anyone do anything? Because you want to and you can.  



Filed under Industry Developments

18 Responses to More on yesterday’s ruling from Judge Biggers in USA v. Scruggs (Northern Mississippi edition)

  1. anonymous

    I have not checked in on this site for a while, but your tone has changed remarkably since the early days. At first it was notably neutral and objective, and it seems to have become feverish over time. While unfolding events may have locked you into a point of view, it’s detracting from the original appeal of the site.

  2. Whatever I do displeases somebody, some more than others, so I just call it the way I see it. I don’t pretend to be either all-knowing or unbiased, so my views evolve as I learn more about what is going on. I would observe that, under your argument, my former neutrality, as you call it, was insufficient to make you more than an occasional reader.

  3. DeltaNative

    I think you strike a very measured tone, and respectfully disagree with Anonymous.

  4. NWNative

    I have to admit, I read every day (and even though I loved reading your posts on the weekend, my family appreciates you taking that time off for your family). I find your insights witty, intelligent and mostly unbiased. Areas that have a hint of bias, I believe relay your knowledge and understanding and assist me in better grasping the events. So, thank you for your insights and especially for your time, as I am sure there is no one expressly funding your blog, but rather this is a public service you offer those willing to read. You are appreciated.

  5. bellesouth

    Checking in to see if you have decided to let me post. Why would Scruggs give the documents to Hood. Wasn’t there an exception to release the documents to law enforcement. Hood had started a criminal investigation. Couldn’t this action be to preserve evidence that otherwise could have lost the sight of day?

  6. Bellesouth, I will let you post comments but you are on probation. Part of the deal is no overt shilling for Hood, the comments have to add some value. Now, I have addressed this question of yours probably something like, let me count, fortyleventeen times. Read the post earlier today about the Bama prosecution, it says it again. I know you and some others don’t want to believe it, but you have to argue against my evidence with better evidence, not just say it can’t be true.

  7. Anderson

    “Couldn’t this action be to preserve evidence that otherwise could have lost the sight of day?”
    If Scruggs thought that was necessary, B.S., then his proper recourse was to file a motion with the court asking for permission to act outside the scope of its order.
    An order is an order is an order. Obey it or face the consequences.

  8. WOW

    I think it is safe to say that anyone’s tone would change over time. Look at how things started and compare it to the now daily onslaught of revelations.
    Who knew this was going to turn into the sea of corruption it appears to be? Well, actually, a lot of folks in Mississippi likely saw it coming. Magic jurisdictions based on a foundation of “sweet taters” – brutal.
    It is naive and silly to think that the tone of commentary wouldn’t change when the tables have turned so dramatically and it seems like every day more unethical (or worse) conduct unfolds.
    Anon ~ seriously ~ check in a little more often. Also, how or when will tobacco get involved in this mess? Or has it been simply too long to revisit those “settlements”.
    I think I need to change my handle to “Big Tater”.

  9. Tim

    How can you not become somewhat bias faced with the mounting evidence? I know the parties and I was skeptical, but now I am just disappointed and sadden by it all. David has done excellent job — if calling it like it is — is bias, then don’t read it OR present your arguments with the evidence to back it up and convince us otherwise. I for one would love for the Gov’t to be wrong for Dickie, Zach and Sid’s sake. But after reading the Nov. 1 “consensual recording”, my heart sank. Yes, I am now bias, they not only hurt themselves, their families, but an entire profession which I cherish and love. The chips shall now fall where they may. I shall still be sad for their families and our profession.

  10. billsouth

    Mr Rossmiller, you truly are biased, occasionally feverish, but frequently quite witty, always enjoyable and beside, I usually agree with you. One can see your journalism background in your posts. Is this not a blog= your opinion???
    Give me a buzz if you find yourself up Tupelo way.
    By the way I do not do anything stoopid.

  11. Me likes yur opinions and insights….keep ’em up. The greatest laughter (not DeLaughter)of most days comes while reading your blog. Got the picture of Earnest in your thoughts on Gentleman Jim’s testimony. Hate Earnest is now dead….wish the gentleman would resign or at least get a haircut.


    Just now reading Don Barrett’s love letter to the sweet little red-headed girl, Sheila. Frankly, I’m blushing while reading about Don’s mad crush on her, and his desire to keep her away from stinky Jimmy Hood. “This is for your eyes only. . . . I think today is the Day.” “Your eyes are like diamonds, your skin is like rose petals.” Is Barrett related to the late Elizabeth Barrett Browning? His salutation “You are the best I’ve seen in our profession” makes me swoon. “Hugs and Kisses xoxoxoxoxo Donny.”


    I forgot to add the steamy, one leg on the floor scene as the camera fades to the window, “If Hood falters, let’s do the deal . . .” Mercy me, I’m getting the vapors.

  14. Underdog

    Let me assist in explaining Judge Acker’s Order. Say a mother saw an anti-tobacco ad and told her family that everyone, with the exception of the adults, needed to turn over their cigarettes to her toot sweet. The 16-year-old, let’s call her Shruggs, decides instead to give her cigarette stash to her 19-year-old brother, let’s call him Mood. Shruggs knows Mood has his own Kools, but will let her cure her nicotine fix whenever she asks. Looks to me like Shruggs is going to be in trouble with Mom for disobeying her order.

  15. David Rossmiller

    Underdog, that’s a pretty decent analogy. One thing some people forget about Acker’s order is the purpose of it. The Rigsbys were being sued for wrongly taking claims documents and using them in violation of a written confidentiality agreement. Acker decided Renfroe was likely to prevail on the merits — there is no denying what they did, they admitted it many times. The order was to keep the Rigsbys and their agents and those acting in concert, except law enforcement, from further using the documents, and to return them to Renfroe’s attorneys. Someone could say, well, if he gave them to Hood then he wasn’t using them.
    True, and if he kept them in his basement without using them he would also not be using them. If he FedEx’d them to Putin he would also not be using them. But you don’t get to rewrite a judicial order to something you claim is pretty much like it. Particularly when it is not a mistake but the product of calculation and discussions with another, with the focus of the conversation being how do we keep these from Renfroe’s lawyers because we think they will violate the protective order and tell State Farm what’s in these documents.

  16. bellesouth

    Scruggs and the Rigsbys have had attorney/relator relationship from the beginning. The Rigsbys brought a qui tam action

  17. injustice4all

    Ok, make it the Southern Poverty League, Common Cause, or some respectable organzation instead of Scruggs that has the documents. Can a confidentailly order Trump documents indicting a crime is occurring? Does anyone have an authority for this? I know all Defense lawyers believe you can do this. I have just never seen any authority and know some states have tried to outlaw secret settlements in wake of Ford-Firestone fiasco. What say you?

  18. Scruggs scandal update: sweet potatoes by the acre

    Some developments of the past ten days or so: * In major blow to defense, Judge Biggers denies motions to suppress wiretap evidence and evidence of similar bad acts [Rossmiller] * Balducci says he and…