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.
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.