Is the Scruggs scandal a legacy of the policies of Mike Moore, Jim Hood?

[NOTE: I originally added this as an update to the Scruggs Nation post of today, but then thought this story deserves its own post so it doesn’t get lost in a post many folks have already read.]

The sun never sets on the Scruggs Nation.  Just when I thought my blog work for the week was done, I came across this absolutely outstanding piece in by Steve Korris in the Southeast Texas Record. Check out this excerpt: 

Ten years after the Supreme Court of Mississippi turned the Attorney General’s office into a mint cranking out easy money for lucky lawyers, the luckiest one of all has dragged the whole state down in disgrace.

Dickie Scruggs of Oxford arranged a $40,000 bribe for Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, according to an indictment from a federal grand jury.

Lackey reported the bribe to authorities and cooperated in an eight month investigation.

Scruggs apparently panicked when a lawyer who had defended him in a lawsuit sued him and set out to prove that he routinely cheated lawyers who worked with him.

The story goes into extensive details about the legal culture created when then-Mississippi AG Mike Moore started the practice of hiring lawyers as special assistant attorneys general — continued under current AG Jim Hood — to prosecute what was in essence private litigation.

The scandal stunned the state but it would not have surprised the late Kirk Fordice, former governor of Mississippi.

Fordice tried to keep Moore from hiring private lawyers to sue private companies, but in 1997 the Supreme Court ruled in Moore’s favor.

The Court held that the Attorney General could seek to recover Medicaid funds from cigarette makers and other defendants, even if the governor had not asked him to do so.

Andy Taggart of Jackson, Fordice’s chief of staff from 1992 to 1994, said Fordice felt that state agencies should initiate litigation.

"His belief was that as chief executive of the state he was the representative of the state as client and the Attorney General was the lawyer for the client," Taggart said.

He said, "He believed that it was inappropriate for the Attorney General to seek to set policy by litigation."

Fordice and Moore strongly disagreed about putting the strength of the people behind privately run civil litigation, he said.

"The wheels that were set in motion by this state driven private litigation can result in all manner of mischief even when people’s motives are good," Taggart said.

And this e-mail exchange between Steve Funderburg and Scruggs is a must-read:

Jones claims that on March 2, at a meeting of the Scruggs Katrina Group, Barrett offered him six percent, about $1,500,000.

Jones claims he turned it down and asked again for arbitration.

His associate, Steve Funderburg, vented in a March 4 e-mail to Scruggs.

"I have looked in the mirror all weekend and tried to figure out how I could be so stupid," he wrote. "John and I DEFENDED you in fee dispute litigation for God’s sake."

He wrote, "We DEFENDED you when people said you were greedy, or were a back stabber, or a liar, or anything else."

He wrote, "You have developed a good routine. It worked. But go to your grave knowing that you have shaken my belief in everything I hold dear."

He wrote, "I did not believe that people like you really existed. I am ashamed and will always be ashamed of having defended you and protected you."

Scruggs wrote back, "I respect and am grateful for the devoted efforts you and Johnny made in your representation of me and those in privity in the Wilson/Luckey matters."

Scruggs added that the group had become leery of working with them because they might seize upon a pretext to sue.

A great story, one of the best that has been done so far on the current Scruggs controversy.  Read it all.  

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Is the Scruggs scandal a legacy of the policies of Mike Moore, Jim Hood?

  1. anonymous

    Wow, that’s ironic – a Texan linking arms with Kirk Fordice to accuse Mike Moore of corruption.

  2. Great story David. Thanks for sharing this. It is definitely worth the read.

  3. Danielle Black

    My husband and I have enjoyed your updates and comments on everything. My husband is a State Farm agent in Hattiesburg,MS 60 miles from the Gulf Coast. He started a few days before Katrina hit.Because of his experience as an adjuster for state farm, he was able to handle things fine. All of these law suits have hurt his business more than the ones that have an established business already. The reason being is because State Farm won’t allow them to write new fire business in MS.The reason State Farm has decided that is because of political reasons.We have great faith that the truth will come out with Scruggs, Hood and all that are involved. Hopefully, it will all be solved soon. Thanks for all the dedication you have put into all of this.-Danielle Black

  4. Death

    Scruggs is not the Katrina litigation. He is hated and despised by all lawyers I know who respresnt Katrina Insurance Victims for trying to sell everyone down the river in his BS class deal. The Problem with Snake Farm is that you lost the publics trust and you know why.
    Don’t worry your indistments are coming too. Grand Jury meeting now

  5. M.Williams

    The answer to the question in the blog is yes. When the Legislature of Mississippi was lobbied for private attorney use by the Attorney General’s office, Scruggs was effectively known as the main supporter of the effort, and was in fact the essential benefactor of the new law that created the framework for Mississippi Ex Rel vs. Tobacco, et al.
    Both Mike Moore, who claims not to have benefitted from the Medicaid Lawsuits, the so-called “Global Settlement”, makes a point of reducing his fortune to zero, and I don’t believe him. It’s unlikely that the perpetual motion of dropping out of politics was a thoughtless move anymore than saying Trent Lott gave up his Senate seat to spend time with his family. Moore’s presenting us with a Trojan Horse, and it waits at the door.
    I believe this horse will open doors and will eventually show what was gained for Moore who was constantly reminding the public of his “clean hands”. Questions will be raised. What firm did Moore work as partner following his decision not to run in public elections, and what person(s) were the “gift horses” for Mississippi, et al, who were tobacco “arbitrators”. Why was Moore so personally involved and engaged in the multi-state division of “profits” to in-State Mississippi and South Carolina lawyers?
    Moore got nothing? I’m not stupid.
    The continuity of the law that was promoted and supported by Moore and effectively lobbied by Scruggs is the law that has created the dynamic kenetic dimension of the Hood administration.
    There’s no difference in Moore’s law and Hood’s continuation of the same law and Scruggs has been riding in that cat-bird seat since 1994. And so has Mike Moore.
    Is Moore still claiming “I was on the wrong side in that…?” We’re all stupid.