Scruggs Nation, March 31: the Scruggs is gone, long live the Scruggs?

‘Esquire’ magazine

Holy Cow! What can the reasoning be behind this latest move by Dickie Scruggs, as reported by Anita Lee of the Sun Herald?

Attorneys for Dickie Scruggs are asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss a Mississippi Bar complaint that calls for his disbarment as the result of his guilty plea on one charge of conspiring to bribe a north Mississippi judge.

Scruggs’ attorneys argue that the formal complaint is premature because U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. has not yet accepted his plea. Scruggs is represented before the Supreme Court by Michael Martz, the Mississippi Bar’s former general counsel.

It is a small item at the bottom of this story, which is about the Mississippi Supreme Court formally suspending Judge Bobby DeLaughter, at the request of the state bar, pending investigation of his judicial conduct in a case where attorney Joey Langston has pleaded guilty to trying to influence him with suggestions of an appointment to the federal bench via then-Sen. Trent Lott. 

Premature? Scruggs pleaded guilty to a felony involving the subversion of the legal process. Why in the name of sweet potatoes should anyone wait for anything else? I mean, what is Scruggs worried about, becoming ineligible for his dental insurance through the county bar medical plan?  At least some others voluntarily surrendered their licenses — true, it was as part of a cooperation deal with the feds, but I’m trying to find something positive to say about these guys! Is Scruggs burning the midnight oil down there at the Scruggs Law Firm, working the phones, issuing legal advice and acting the generalissimo under the end?  Maybe getting in a few last licks on that False Claims Act case?  This is getting kind of weird, it’s kind of like a guy who doesn’t want to turn in his key to the office when he’s got caught heisting dough from the safe — or like two insurance company adjusters who steal documents from the company and picture some scenario where they are going to continue working there. 

Whether Biggers has accepted the plea or not, Scruggs admitted to participating in a conspiracy to bribe a judge.  If the state bar can’t make a move at that point, what good is a state bar, why not just have lawyer discipline enforced by Dickie’s Hallelujah Chorus (now seeking guest conductor, Maestro Jim Hood on leave of absence).

UPDATE: Just got a copy of Scruggs’ motion to dismiss the bar complaint.  Here it is.

‘The invincible man’

That’s the title of this very long, very good story by Anita Lee in Sunday’s Sun Herald. This is excellent, I hope we see more stories like this.  This story has an exquisite comparison between the fates of attorney Paul Minor, who was sentenced last year in a judicial bribery scandal, with Scruggs cooperating with prosecutors but not being charged — many think because of his connections to Trent Lott. 

The story begins with: 

Dickie Scruggs blinked back tears as he rushed from the federal courthouse in downtown Jackson.

He had just testified against a fellow attorney who was like a brother, Paul Minor.

It also mentions these details:

From the time charges were filed, Minor’s defense cried "selective prosecution." Scruggs’ brother-in-law is U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, who recommended Southern District U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton for his job.

Mississippi’s chief law enforcement officer at the time, Mike Moore, was a close friend who steered lucrative tobacco litigation to Scruggs in the 1990s. Moore’s office also helped with the judicial bribery investigation.

Moore delivered Scruggs to the back door of the federal courthouse when he testified before the federal grand jury that indicted Minor two months later. Moore, whose black BMW SUV the media spotted, said he just happened to be on his way to work and had talked with Lampton about ensuring Scruggs reached the courthouse early.

Lampton questioned Scruggs, as a cooperating witness, before the grand jury.

Moore later claimed that he was not involved in aspects of the investigation that included Scruggs and Lampton removed himself from the case, acknowledging a conflict where Scruggs was concerned. The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section took the lead at two trials, although assistant U.S. attorneys from Lampton’s office also represented the government.

The story points out some disparate treatment of the roles of Scruggs and Minor:

The jury did not consider an $80,000 loan Scruggs guaranteed for Diaz in 2000, or how Scruggs paid off the loan through a third party. During this time, appeals were pending before the Supreme Court in legal-fee disputes between Scruggs and other attorneys.

In one of those cases, Diaz joined a unanimous opinion in Scruggs’ favor. Rendered in December 2001, the decision sent the dispute back to Jackson County, where Scruggs wanted it. Even so, attorney Merkel of Clarksdale prevailed in the lower court.

At Minor’s 2007 trial, a second jury convicted him and the two lower court judges. Minor is serving 11 years in federal prison.

Seven years more than Scruggs will get, one could note. And apropos of the story’s beginning, near the end, it marks this moment in time:

Scruggs testified March 13, 2007, in the Minor case. On or about March 15, 2007, federal investigators learned, Scruggs and other attorneys started what became a conspiracy to bribe Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey in North Mississippi.

So he left the courthouse in tears, but he’s tough, he got over it fast! He went back to the office and immediately began working on a recipe for Sweet Potato Succotash (this is a link to one such recipe, but note that in this dish, the corn is not on the ground).  Or excuse me, plans for Operation Earwig, if you prefer.  The story concludes with this observation by a former state Supreme Court justice, whom I believe, like Scruggs and Lott, was also from Pascagoula. 

One who stood by Minor was Chuck McRae, a former Supreme Court justice from Pascagoula who frequently attended both of Minor’s trials. McRae, a maverick who has his own history with the Judicial Performance Commission, remained in Jackson to practice law after he left the bench. He never liked Scruggs.

"He always had the mindset of ‘I’m going to beat you, crush you, but I also want to know in advance that I’m going to do it,’" McRae said

The way McRae sees it, Minor got more time for influence peddling than Scruggs could receive for an outright bribe. Scruggs pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"There is a lot of irony. And he would have gotten away with it but for that attitude that he was Teflon with Trent. He lost that Teflon," said McRae, referring to Lott’s resignation two days before Scruggs was indicted.

"The irony is that he never thought he could be touched and he got touched." 

True enough.  Why would he think otherwise?  Here’s a guy who bragged openly about "magic jurisdictions" where the outcome was rigged, and about using the legal system as a form of media/political/public relations insurrectionist coup, and as far as many were concerned, Superman came up short in comparison.  He goes around with a Magic Jurisdiction Show and no one questions how the same card keeps turning up on top of the deck every single time.  What a coincidence, amazing! The question now is, how many other times did he get away with the same or similar conduct?  Another question: why did he get away with it?  And a third: if he did get away with other similar conduct, who looked the other way or just didn’t give a rip, and should they be held accountable now?

Oh, and I almost forgot the last question: if there is more, how many others were involved, and what were their names? Inquiring minds want to know.

Mississippi bound

Going to be flying down to Starkville Tuesday to speak at the Mississippi State Insurance Day on Wednesday at 3 p.m.  So I’ll do my best to blog, but don’t expect a lot from me this week. 

Hope to see all of you there who can make it, after I give my talk, I’ll be there for questions as long as people are there wanting to ask. 

UPDATE: I forgot to add this earlier — like a lot of other blogs, I have a spam filter that weeds out comments from robot blogs that have fake comments that are really just attempts to hawk some product, sometimes its insurance, sometimes its Viagra, a lot of it is porn.  The filter is usually pretty discerning, but occasionally real comments get filtered out, and because I don’t check the junk very often, I sometimes don’t see these to rescue them until days after they were sent.  Sometimes I don’t check the junk for quite a long time, and so I might never see the comments — they get purged automatically after a while.  A few frequent commenters and others not so frequent, for a reason I don’t quite know, have some comments filtered out, and some that show up in the regular comment box for me to approve and publish.  If your comment is not unsubstantiated personal gossip, some sick attack with no intellectual merit,  or some stream of guff and spewage that seems designed only to see how many words I will read before I hit the delete button, and you don’t see it published, this may be what happened to it.  I apologize for that, but there is only so much I can do with the filter or it won’t serve its purpose — you wouldn’t believe how many robot spammers there are out there. 

On the topic of comments in general, the overwhelming majority of commenters are responsible, and I certainly don’t mind opposing points of view and in fact I encourage them, but the type of thing I’m not a big fan of is some long stream of personal abuse about how I’m a hypocrite, corrupt, insane, a dictator, tyrant, stuff like that.  It’s my blog, not an outlet for someone to hone their version of Oceania’s Two-Minute Hate. Most of that snarky guff, I read about four words and poof it’s gone. 





Filed under Industry Developments

15 Responses to Scruggs Nation, March 31: the Scruggs is gone, long live the Scruggs?

  1. nmc

    Given that Judge Biggers said these words in the plea transcript:
    Court: Since you acknowledge that you are in fact guilty as charged in Count 1; you know what your right is to a trial, you know what the maximum possible punishment is; and then the Court’s finding you’re also voluntarily pleading guilty; the Court will accept your guilty plea and enter a judgment of guilty on your plea.
    This and the motion (if the paper accurately described it) caused me to quote Chico Marx: “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

  2. David Rossmiller

    I guess this means we’re going to be waiting a while longer for the apology.

  3. hazel75

    Michael Martz (Dickie’s attorney) ought to be ashamed of himself — I realize that many of us lawyers will argue any position as long as we’re paid enough to do so but as former general counsel for the State Bar of Mississippi he ought to be ashamed. I am disgusted with him. It’s like arguing a pedophile shouldn’t be restricted from being around children because his plea has not been formally entered. I’ve gotta go get something to wash this horrible taste out of my mouth.

  4. Nomiss

    I think Scruggs’ ego will not let him go quietly.

  5. Scruggs Nation Detox

    In the Milberg Weiss situation, one of the defendants attempted this very same tack- it was rejected:

  6. Oxford Prof

    The K

  7. brewski

    how can anyone disagree with fact that ALL JUDGES with any link to moore or scruggs put up for consideration by lott should resign or be investigated starting with u.s. district judge lois guirola who is mentioned in the FBI recorded conversations. they should start by unsealing his insurance settlement with nationwide and then comparing the amount to his neighbors. i here he received 100%.just wonder how his position and the threat of indictment through his attorney’s mouth piece general flood insurance helped a select few.

  8. Delta Boy

    I believe the Martz reprensenting Scruugs is a Jr. to the Bar’s Atty.

  9. hazel75

    The Sun Herald states that it’s the MS Bar’s former general counsel. Of course, this could be inaccurate as there are two Michael Martz’s in MS — I don’t know how to find out which it is that’s representing Dickie.

  10. catty

    Not a lawyer here but can’t help but think that Dickie’s need to “stay a lawyer” for awhile has to have something to do with money. Could it be he stands to lose a huge bundle if disbarred at this point? Does anybody know who all got money from the Tobacco settlement….And as per Anita Lee’s story…Scruggs told J. Diaz if Paul Minor did not comply(pay up loan)he would stop payments to Paul…Is Dickie the continued source for payments and if so, how many people today are beholding to him for their next cash outlay? He may be holding the anvil over dozens of folks. It boggles the mind.


    David, welcome to Mississippi. John McCain and Bob Dole were here today. McCain’s grandfather and great grandfather are North Mississippi natives. The TV station showed McCain and Trent Lott having a private conversation. Is it Pardon Time yet?
    On the other hand, don’t make any jokes at Miss State about their favorite son, John Grisham. And don’t even ask about the daffodils on campus.

  12. M.Williams

    Staying at the bar. I like to think the bar is out West, and in one of those towns in the 1880’s with Tom Horn coming in for a whiskey, a few bedragled Indian Scouts, a knot-headed feeble-minded trader with hard tack and bottles of whiskey and beer.
    I, too, wonder why Scruggs would go to the Supremes and ask for time to lawyer post pleading, and put the word out that, if you think hard, the point of the plea agreement is to face up to the wrong you did, and to let the community know that you’re going to be hitching up your horse to the hitchig post never to ride all around the town shooting up the windows of businesses and running off widows and kids.
    Now, at the risk of seeing a very concentrated view of the vision of holding on to a license – as a pilot, as a barge driver, as a doctor, as a person who did something bad that wasn’t suppose to happen – it’s as if you know the bar so good it matters little what you did – you’re special.
    When that pilot in Brasil clipped the wing of a new plane carrying 300 passengers a few months back, he landed his jet at a airforce base in Brasil, but after three days, his license to fly a plane was yanked. He gave everybody the finger a year later when he returned, but most of the bodies of the dead hit the Amazon so hard that nobody was in a whole big mass, and where it was, nobody got to see it because it was impossible to get to. But the pilot went back to New York, gave everybody in Brasil the finger, and he’s flying today.
    In Kentucky, two pilots got into an early morning plane, and picked the wrong run-way, and got about 250 feet and ran into a bunch of houses. One pilot lived, but his license was yanked – probably because he forgot that he killed 90 people, not that he was a bad pilot.
    When Nixon was nabbed, he got in a hellicoptor, gave us a big V, and went to California. Usually, once in a while, a doctor cuts off the wrong leg, then the other leg has to go too. It’s a time to loose the license at the hospital.
    When a plastic surgeon in Miami killed his patient by forgetting to tell her not to eat, so she choked to death, he lost his license.
    When a patrol officer shot a suspect on the Mexican border, it’s really weird how the officer, chasing down a dope dealer, gets whacked, tossed into a jail, and loses his license.
    When a train derails, and the engineer is still alive, his license is yanked. When an evangelical gets caught in New Orleans with a hankerchief and a whore in an alley, there’s a license that gets yanked.
    And then, when a guy sells too many Jesus condo’s, he gets his license yanked. I guess it’s all about the res (that’s legal for thing). So Dickie’s res is that he spent years known as Teflon, and that was how he was called, and he let his best pal take the heat, and he wept because he knew Trent Lott wasn’t about to let money-bags go to the slammer.
    Is this the way we hand it out in the land of the Dixie Mafia? Half the Supremes made it to the Court by money and bags of it to boot, so why should a guy who pleads get beaten up on so soon after he goes down? It’s like the animal shelter. They give a dog three days to find a home, then they toss it in the gas box. Three days.
    And there’s a license – dog just lost it running for his food bowl. I think clearly, if you are called Teflon, you need time to get ready for the bars. Strange how everything in the picture is about the res, and the res is the bar, all res, all bar.
    So you have to get Sonny to get the money in the right boxes in El Caribe. And Mike has some maps. And Don has some maps. And Motley, when he comes up for air for a new liver transplant, has a slip in Finland – with some maps. I tell you this. It’s not easy to roll on a good friend – so you have to pass on the power to the new order. And get the orders flowing for the pasta, the weights, the stuff, the res….Tell you this.
    I know him. I never saw him happy. And that’s his res – maybe it’s like have the buttons stripped from the kakai coat…But what is this all about? It’s about a man without an sense of guilt. And time isn’t good enough. There will be more, and the sum of a man’s life in the light, pleading for his right to do more harm is like a man who can do no wrong…but always will.

  13. Nomiss

    Oxford prof, it appears that D. Scruggs is still at denial.

  14. Great post, David, thanks. The Scruggs and Milberg Weiss fiascoes splash major mud on those of us who play by the rules. I don’t think the public distinguishes between plaintiffs’ and defense lawyers, but instead labels all of us as greedy, corrupt and evil, including the judiciary. Seems like the best bet for those of us who are committed to a clean and honest system is to shine a light. But that has to be done across all segments of the bar, or we run the risk of looking like partisan hacks.

  15. tsetse

    Micheal Martz? Jr., Sr.? Take a look at the Certificate of Service on Scruggs’ Motion To Dismiss the Bar’s Petition. Have you ever seen anyone write his resume in on the Service certificate?!? – “former general counsel of the Bar” — (a) who cares; (b) how presumptuous; (c) what difference does it make who you are?
    Oh, and that rule Scruggs’ cited in his Motion — didn’t it say something about anyone who “tendered” his guilty plea? hellooo?
    wonder if old man scruggs’screens the lawyers he hires to make sure they’re as arrogant and grandiose as he is?