Scruggs Nation, Day 18

Not much time for blogging today, but numerous readers have been sending me links to two good stories in today’s papers, one by Anita Lee in the Sun Herald on P.L. Blake, another by Jerry Mitchell in the Clarion-Ledger on prosecutors’ investigation into a prior Scruggs fee dispute in Hinds County.  In case you haven’t seen them, I’m passing them along.  I’ll have more to say tomorrow.   

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9 Responses to Scruggs Nation, Day 18

  1. mslawman

    I don’t think I would use the term “good” in reference to Mr. Mitchell’s article. It doesn’t once significantly discuss the feds probing the case (the title of the article) within the article neither does it address the technical issues of the case that are very suspect – it does, however, misconstrue Mr. Funderburg’s email to Mr. Scruggs. Gotta love those hard-nosed journalists at thee Clarion-Ledger!

  2. Ironic

    As details emerge, its clear that the legal ride over the next few months will be fun.
    Every time PL Blake or Scruggs talks about their relationship, I get more confused. It was political, it was not political. It was income, it was a loan. I clipped newspaper articles for $50 million. Scruggs, hire me! The Rigbsy sisters are going to be in Scruggs office asking for a raise. Comical. Thanks to Anita for the new details. We need a reporter to start working full-time on the $50 million dollar man story. I would love to learn more about how the powerful peddle their influence and then play so dumb. Oh, the bribing a bank official was just a misunderstanding. Spare me the spin Mr. Blake. Reporters, get busy!
    I like the quote in the Hinds Case where the judge says, I know I wasn’t bribed. What a mindset? This judge may need basic PR school. Reminds me of Nixon’s I am not a crook statement. Another case, Hinds, to watch. Seems fishy to me.
    Consider Mr. Moore’s recent open letter to MS.
    http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071213/NEWS/71213033
    Consider what Mr. Moore said and did NOT say. Mr. Moore, perhaps working to protect his legacy amid a spike in Katrina turmoil, mentioned tabacco at least five times. What he did NOT mention even a single time was the important work he is CURRENTLY doing to fight the big bad business criminals on Katrina cases. What? Mr. Moore could have easily said that he’s busy fighting once again for the average MS citizen who has been wronged. Yet, no mention. Why Mr. Moore? Perhaps Mr. Moore is distancing and protecting himself from the Katrina mess. Or, maybe, just maybe, he’s protecting his legacy just in case the Katrina mess ensnares him.
    Lastly, what a mess at Nutt and McAlister’s. I can state with certainty that every major Fortune 100 company that Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Nutt attack have educational programs for employees about sexual harrassment and creating a safe working environment. More importantly, those company programs are enforced. If any part of Marcia Brown’s story is true, these firms should be ashamed, and their clients should question who is representing them.
    Ironic

  3. Justus

    Ironic, I agree that the ride over the next few months will indeed be very interesting. In thinking about that, I wonder if it may come to point in the next few months where the Scruggs and SKG clients come to a conclusion that maybe they should look at whether their lawyers actions have reduced the value of their cases. If that happens, those Scruggs and SKG clients might turn on those lawyers. And really, I’m not sure that anyone could blame them if they did.
    In that vein, I’ve been wondering about the State Farm/Renfroe documents that Scruggs had to return. If I understand the importance of the State Farm/Renfroe documents and Judge Acker’s order correctly:
    1. According to Scruggs and/or Jim Hood, those State Farm/Renfroe documents that the Rigsby sisters gave to Scruggs provide “proof and evidence” that State Farm was engaged in some allegedly nefarious scheme to wrongfully deny insurance coverage to Katrina victims. Oh, and yes, those are the same Rigsby sisters that have EACH been getting paid $150,000 per year by Scruggs or the SKG.
    2. Because those documents were allegedly very valuable “smoking gun” documents, Scruggs and the SKG planned to use those documents on behalf of their clients to obtain very large settlements or jury verdict(s) for those SKG clients whose property was the subject of the State Farm/Renfroe documents.
    3. Renfroe sued to get the documents back, alleging that the Rigsby sisters violated or breached some confidentiality provisions or an employment contract in conjunction with Scruggs’ efforts or interference, or something to that effect anyway, and that the State Farm/Renfroe “smoking gun” documents were wrongfully appropriated by the Rigsby sisters and/or Scruggs’ clan.
    4. Judge Acker, after considering the matter, apparently determined that there was some wrongdoing somewhere and he “ordered” Scruggs and his clan to turn over those State Farm/Renfroe documents to the Renfroe lawyers, and Judge Acker even “prohibited the mere use” of the information contained in those alleged “smoking gun” documents.
    Now, admittedly I’m no brain surgeon, but if I’ve got it right above, it seems “logical” to me that if I were one or more of those SKG clients whose insurance property claim and lawsuit was the subject of those State Farm/Renfroe “smoking gun” documents, then NOW I’m probably not going to get as large of a settlement or verdict. Since Scruggs was ordered to return those “smoking gun” documents and ordered not to use the information in those “smoking gun” documents, then that EVIDENCE has lost its value, and so have the cases concerning the insurer’s liability to pay on the properties that are the subject of those documents.
    That long-winded expose leads to the “bottom line” question. Could it be possible that the lawyers did something that might be considered an “ERROR OR OMISSION” with regard to the acquisition or handling of those State Farm/Renfroe “smoking gun” documents that resulted in their exclusion and loss as evidence in those cases, thereby decreasing the value of those claims? And, if so, what do those clients do? Yep, it might get very interesting in the next few months.

  4. Jim

    Anyone know the whereabouts of P.L. Blake? Someone told me he was living in the Birmingham area and had been for several years??

  5. Justus

    IS THIS A BURIED BODY?
    Okay, since it’s a little slow today, I’ll add a little something.
    It has been alleged that Scruggs has a “pattern of conduct” of stiffing or shortchanging his partners/employees (i.e. Luckey and Wilson). But, now there appears to ALSO be an investigation into another possible “pattern of conduct” concerning the allegations of judge bribing. So, unless I’m misreading the news, there appear to be “TWO PATTERNS” of Scruggs that are under investigation now: (1)stiffing partners/employees on legal fees; and (2) bribing judges.
    Shortchanging legal fees owed to partners/employees is the same wrong that Scruggs is alleged to be trying to perpetrate on Jones in the lawsuit filed by Jones that underlies the attempted scheme to bribe Judge Lackey. Therefore, in the Jones case, we find allegations of both of those patterns: (1) stiffing Jones on legal fees; and (2) bribing Judge Lackey.
    However, it appears that THIS IS NOT THE FIRST CASE involving Scruggs in which there were allegations or questions involving bribery of, or improper attempts to influence, judges. Apparently, certain aspects of an earlier case involving Scruggs touched on allegations or suggestions that somehow involved the MISSISSIPPI SUPREME COURT in one degree or another.
    The following link should get you to a post from July 24, 2005 that discusses the Luckey case, and the implication, suggestion or allegation of potential improper judicial influence involving Scruggs; however, I can’t tell if that occurred in the Luckey case:
    http://www.overlawyered.com/2005/07/mississippi_lawyer_squabble.html
    What is important is a 2005 quote from that “Overlawyered.com” site above regarding Scruggs and the Mississippi Supreme Court. There it was stated:
    “This appears to be the culmination of the fight that resulted in subpoenas to the Mississippi Supreme Court over Scruggs’s alleged influence there; at the time, Scruggs pooh-poohed the allegations, arguing that the dispute was only worth a few thousand dollars, and therefore not something worth risking improper influence over.”
    Again, the “Overlawyered.com” site provided additional information on the subject on April 30, 2005, as follows:
    April 30, 2005
    Update: Miss. judge’s wife may cooperate with prosecutors
    Jennifer Diaz, ex-wife of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and may become “a witness against him and others charged in a federal corruption probe”. “In 2000, Jennifer Diaz received a loan for campaign funds that was guaranteed by prominent trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs in the amount of $80,000,” but did not report the amount as income when Scruggs forgave the debt. Scruggs was not charged in the investigation, which led to indictments of the Diazes, prominent trial lawyer Paul Minor, and two former judges; trial on the charges “is set to begin May 9 in Jackson”. (Jerry Mitchell and Julie Goodman, “Judge’s ex-wife might be prosecution witness, officials say”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Apr. 26). See Feb. 22, 2004 and links from there.
    Posted by Walter Olson at April 30, 2005 12:04 AM
    Is this one of the BURIED BODIES of which Balducci spoke? Boy, does this sound like “deja vu all over again”, or what?
    Also, for a little more information on the trail of fee disputes that Scruggs has left in his wake, take a look at these other cases: (1) Scruggs v. Merkel & Cocke, 910 So.2d 1093; (2) Daynard v. Ness Motley, Scruggs et al, 290 F.3d 42; and (3) Jowett v. Scruggs, 901 So.2d 638. And that’s just some, not even all, of the disputes – just the ones that you can find internet information about.
    I wonder if one of the cases before the Mississippi Supreme Court that was under investigation was the case involving Scruggs against Merkel for the $4,500, about which Merkel said that Scruggs practiced his scorched earth policy? Hmmmm.
    Somebody please remind me again why Justice Diaz was indicted, but Scruggs wasn’t? Could this be a “Buried Body”? Hmmm! Again, Hmmmm!
    Justus

  6. Roger

    Regarding the $10 million (and eventually $50 million) to Mr. Blake…
    I’m guessing the IRS is keenly interested in whether that was payment or loan.
    Not to mention Scruggs’ partners’ interest in knowing whether the $50 million is off the top (from the partnership) or after the fee split (from Scruggs alone).
    BTW, has anybody else noticed that CNN’s news site has not published a word about the mess in Mississippi? They only have this 8-month old video of Scruggs claiming the insurance companies are looting and mugging (and Trent Lott picking through rubble). http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/law/2006/04/02/callebs.scruggs.vs.insurance.cnn?iref=videosearch

  7. Ironic

    Justus,
    Nice post and good thoughts. It is becoming ever so clear why Scruggs wanted privacy with the Jones dispute. Another public court case with another lawyer enemy that Scruggs created will expose not just the details of the Jones case, but threatened to expose many of the skeletons that are now surfacing.
    When I first thought about bribing MS judges, I thought about local traffic court guys and gals that may be easy targets. Yet, the Diaz case involved a MS SUPREME COURT judge. My oh my, do I need to open my eyes more. Scrugg’s corruption may be higher and more widespread than I imagined.
    Spin, political influence, and bribes can only take one so far until the enemies you created over a couple decades- and the FBI- come calling.
    Judge Lackey deserves a ton of credit for having the courage to break the cycle and potentially expose Scrugg’s routine for what it is.
    The part that makes me sick to my stomach is that the AG was flying cover for Scruggs during these cases. I am sickened when I read that the AG decided not to pursue an issue further or that the AG agreed to a reduced plea deal.
    So sad that Scruggs will probably go to his grave without admitting to a single wrong act, and he will continue to paint himself as the robin hood of MS (the only problem is robin hood did not keep 40% of the take, while stiffing his buddies, and hiding millions on the side).
    Reporters, I implore you to get busy!
    Ironic

  8. MSlawman

    After thinking more about the judge bribing issue, and hearing the rumors for years that the MS Supreme court was an “owned” entity, I wanted to revisit this tidbit in the Clarion Ledger, a quote by Mr. Jones.
    “If you were lining up all of Mississippi’s judges in order on their likelihood to accept bribes, the least likely judges would be Henry Lackey, Tom Lee and Bobby DeLaughter, Jones said. “I would think a lawyer would be high, stoned or insane to even think that had any kind of chance.”
    I think that Mr. Jones, in this statement, proved there is a chance that the other judges on his “least likely to bribe” list, or those on any other, could be called into question by the mere fact that Mr. Scruggs apparently felt no hesitance in going after one of the judges on his list. If Mr. Scruggs was apparently feeling confident about approaching Mr. Lackey, noted by Jones as maybe the least likely candidate for a bribe, then what we might have is an extreme case of hubris derived most likely from prior experiences of shady dealings (bribing, etc.) either with officials at high-level positions, people of supposed strong moral fortitude, or a long, frequent history – or a combination of them all.
    If he had no qualms about going after Lackey (1) why would he worry about approaching the others? and (2) what led him to that point?

  9. anonymous

    oh, get a grip, Ironic, and stop being so selective in your speculations. The potential for corruption exists wherever judges are elected.