Scruggs Nation, Day 41

Numerous readers have inquired what the Mississippi State Bar may be doing in relation to the Scruggs allegations.  I inquired of Adam Kilgore, General Counsel of the Mississippi Bar, and he was good enough to respond on the record as follows:

[B]ecause of the work we do in the Office of General Counsel (OGC), I am not at liberty to discuss specific cases until such time as the OGC takes action that is considered public.  This is so because of the disciplinary process we work under as outlined in the Rules of Discipline for the Mississippi Bar (MRD) as set forth by the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

First, we take no disciplinary action in Mississippi against lawyers who are under indictment awaiting trial (at least not action related to the indictment.  If there are other unrelated disciplinary matters involving the lawyer, that process usually goes forward according to our standard practice and procedures).  Thus, if any attorney is active and in good standing, s/he remains so while awaiting trial.

If a lawyer is convicted of a felony as outlined in Rule 6 of the MRD, or pleads guilty to a felony as outlined in Rule 6, MRD, the OGC files a formal complaint against the attorney in accordance with Rule 6, MRD.  The complaint contains a certified copy of the conviction or guilty plea.  Under Rule 6, the certified copy of the conviction or guilty plea is all the evidence that is necessary of the underlying conduct.  The formal complaint the OGC files contains a request that the Mississippi Supreme Court disbar the attorney.  Along with the formal complaint, the OGC also files a motion for immediate suspension pending the appeal of the conviction.  In most cases, the Mississippi Supreme Court grants the motion for suspension fairly quickly.  Once the appeal is decided and if the conviction is not overturned, the OGC then files a motion to disbar the attorney, which the Mississippi Supreme Court takes up at that point.

In the case of a guilty plea, the OGC does not file a motion for immediate suspension but asks for disbarment in the formal complaint since guilty pleas as generally not appealed.  The OGC has filed such a formal complaint under Rule 6, MRD, against Timothy Balducci, one of the attorneys indicted in the Scruggs matter.  Mr. Balducci, you will recall, entered a guilty plea.  The OGC submitted a certified copy of the guilty plea with the formal complaint, asking for disbarment.  That complaint is a matter of public record.  The original is filed in the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office.

Thanks to Mr. Kilgore and the Mississippi Bar for this information.  Because sometimes it’s difficult to copy text to a blog post, depending on what application the text is coming from, I retyped his reply — I type 90-plus words a minute on a good day so it’s no big deal — so if there are mistakes, they are mine and not his.  On the same topic, I see that the Federalist Society of Mississippi is sponsoring a panel discussion of legal ethics January 17 in Jackson. The topic: Is the Mississippi Bar Doing Enough to Combat Corruption and to Protect the Honor and Integrity of the Profession?  Here’s a copy of the flyer for the event — I’m sure it will be a lively event in light of the recent and continuing revelations.  You will recall that one of the people indicted, Steve Patterson, is a non-lawyer, and it is difficult for a bar association to do something about non-attorneys.  You may recall this post I wrote about the dust-up that ensued when the Union County bar wanted the state bar to take a look at whether Patterson was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  Tim Balducci got mad and authored the now infamous "man crush" letter — to me, a pretty good indication that whenever it was that Balducci was "flipped," it wasn’t before this letter was written on August 1, 2007.  Would you care about something like this if you had become the FBI’s sock puppet and were facing, at best, disgrace and disbarment yourself?  

On somewhat different topic, I saw this Legal Newsline story by John O’Brien, about Dickie Scruggs receiving a trial subpoena for the McIntosh v. State Farm case for February 25, the same date his trial for alleged bribery is currently scheduled to begin.   The story has links to the Scruggs trial subpoena, as well as to other trial subpoenas including one issued to Johnny Jones, the attorney who is suing Scruggs for settlement fees in Jones v. Scruggs, the case where Scruggs and others allegedly conspired to bribe Judge Henry Lackey to obtain an order compelling arbitration. 

Scruggs is already contesting Magistrate Judge Walker’s ruling in the McIntosh case that State Farm can depose him on January 15.  I would expect he’s going to fight the trial subpoena even more strongly, probably on grounds that his testimony wouldn’t be relevant to the issues to be tried.  Because he’s no longer an attorney in the case, I don’t think he can file a motion in limine, but the Katrina Litigation Group (formerly the Scruggs Katrina Group) may do so, and may do the same with regard to Jones. Scruggs isn’t going to leave this to the good graces of others, I’m sure, and will seek to file his own motion to quash the subpoena.  Jones, I would think, would do the same, I know I would.  Since State Farm is also asking for documents in the subpoena, I wonder if they might drop the demand for testimony if the documents are given up. 

Incidentally, from what I can see on PACER, it looks like that February 25 date for the McIntosh case won’t change, and I believe it was expected to be a three-week trial even without this Scruggs/Jones stuff.   

I also had a chance to look through the brief E.A. Renfroe filed in McIntosh on Friday in support of State Farm’s motion to disqualify the Katrina Litigation Group from the case on ethics grounds.  Many parts of it seemed strong, some parts seemed a little attenuated or weak, but it sure is fascinating reading no matter what your opinion about the merits. I printed it off from PACER just to take a quick glance through it and got hooked and read the whole thing.  Even though I know a lot of this Katrina stuff cold, it’s still difficult for me to pick my way through boring writing, and this was anything but boring. 

The rapidly approaching trial deadline means there isn’t much time left to deal with the disqualification motion.  I’m not going to hazard a guess as to what will happen, I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to make the decision as to what to do about it.  Following all this Katrina litigation has given me a new appreciation for how tough the job of being a judge can be.



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One Response to Scruggs Nation, Day 41

  1. Mississippi ethics program

    Via Rossmiller: On Thursday, Jan. 17, the Federalist Society is holding a lunchtime panel discussion (PDF) entitled: “Is the Mississippi Bar Doing Enough To Combat Corruption and To Protect the Honor and Integrity of the Profession?” Timing could scarc…