Good stuff here from Paulo Prada and Ashby Jones. Here’s an excerpt:
Several people familiar with the situation say that associates of Mr. Scruggs told investigators that Mr. Scruggs relayed Judge Delaughter’s interest in the federal judgeship to then-Sen. Lott. In early 2006, Mr. Lott called the judge and discussed his interest in the federal bench, those people say. Seven months later, in August 2006, Judge Delaughter delivered a ruling widely considered favorable to Mr. Scruggs.
A month after that, President Bush nominated a Gulfport, Miss., lawyer named Halil "Sul" Ozerden to the vacant seat on the federal bench Mr. Delaughter had allegedly been interested in. People familiar with the process said Mr. Lott and Mississippi’s other U.S. senator, Thad Cochran, approved of the appointment. The full Senate confirmed Mr. Ozerden in April 2007.
A person familiar with Mr. Lott’s activities at the time confirmed he called Judge Delaughter, but said the call wasn’t made specifically at the behest of Mr. Scruggs. Mr. Lott routinely called "dozens of people" across Mississippi as a matter of Senate business, the person said.
Some questions about Lott’s knowledge or lack thereof (no pun intended, in this instance, at least). Was Bobby DeLaughter really someone who plausibly could have been nominated by George W. Bush? In other words, was he a reliably conservative Republican who is relatively young and could be expected to spend decades on the bench? What was his age and record relative to the eventual real nominee and others contacted by Lott? (It is not unheard of for distinguished lawyers and judges who are not of a president’s party to be interviewed for the federal bench, but they are seldom selected unless as part of some political deal).
Some more questions. We know Lott knew Scruggs, because Scruggs is his brother-in-law (Lott and Scruggs are married to sisters). How much did Lott know about the Wilson case before Judge DeLaughter, the one with the allegedly suspect rulings that came after Lott’s expressed interest in DeLaughter for the federal bench? Was he aware Scruggs had a case before DeLaughter? Did he personally know Bobs Wilson, Scruggs’ former partner who was suing over attorney fees? If so, in what classification would we place his phone call: (a) no problem, just one of those things, (b) stupid but no problem, just Lott being Lott, (c) somewhat of a problem or (d) Lotts of problems?
Also, what’s the right way to spell DeLaughter’s name? His bio from Hinds County spells it with a capital L.
That ruling mentioned in the Wall Street Journal story? The one in August 2006? I’ve got the transcript posted on this blog. Check it out for yourself in this post.
UPDATE: Scruggs’ defense lawyers say they will call Lott and DeLaughter as witnesses.