Judge questions whether it is proper for Scruggs to be represented by former counsel for co-defendant Patterson, denies motion for Farese to withdraw as counsel for Zach Scruggs

In what has developed into a sort of game show called "Who’s My Attorney?", Judge Biggers has denied permission for attorney Tony Farese to withdraw as counsel for Zach Scruggs — he was going to withdraw and reportedly represent Joey Langston.  Here’s the latest from Judge Biggers, who is described to me by those who know as "a very hard-nose federal judge."

In this order, Judge Biggers also asks why Kenneth Coghlan, who used to represent defendant Steve Patterson and withdrew in favor of substitute counsel Hiram Eastlake, can now represent Dickie Scruggs, as Coghlan has asked permission to do.  Both instances raise conflict issues — what if Patterson testifies against Scruggs and Coghlan has to cross-examine his own former client?  Judge Biggers raised this concern.  The same could be said for the Farese situation, I suppose — what if Langston testifies against Zach Scruggs? In any event, Biggers denied permission for Farese to withdraw at present because the trial date is approaching and Zach Scruggs has no substitute counsel.

In light of the judge’s questions, it appears Coghlan is dropping out.  Here’s the very last entry on the PACER docket for this case, under the judge’s order.

01/09/2008   Attorney update in case as to Richard F. Dickie Scruggs. Attorney Kenneth H. Coghlan terminated. (nsm, USDC)

Is it just me, or is this whole thing starting to resemble a runaway stage coach on fire, careening over rocks and through gullies, wheels flying off and folks jumping out, hoping to land on something softer than a cactus?

   

17 Comments

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17 Responses to Judge questions whether it is proper for Scruggs to be represented by former counsel for co-defendant Patterson, denies motion for Farese to withdraw as counsel for Zach Scruggs

  1. Tim

    Ok, I don’t get it, how do these good attorneys not see the obvious, as Judge Biggers pointed out. I can’t imagine either one not recognizing obvious conflict in their positions. This looks like a chinese fire drill on the defense!!!!

  2. CNSpots

    I know it seems simplistic, but I can’t help wondering if it is all an attempt to delay the impending trial…

  3. Hatfield

    CNSPOTS I agree. Seems like a good way to start a Circus type Trial. Also its a VERY weak attempt in my mind to delay the Trial with motions and Judge rulings. Judge Biggers is smart and seems to be putting a stop to the Circus Train before it leaves the station. Didn’t most of these lawyers go to Ole Miss law School?
    What kind of ethics are they teaching there? Not trying to knock an entire school for the actions of a few handfuls of lawyers but…Has anyone counted how many of these guys attended school there?
    Guys keep up the good work.

  4. iwannaknow

    I am aware of no one with actual knowledge or experience with Tony Fareese who would suggest Tony would do this as a trial tactic. Coughlin is exceptionally bright and is well regarded. Less clear to me what that is about but Judge Biggers did the right thing. Rather than rubber stamp an order or deny, he says give me more facts. Unusual for sure.

  5. Bulldog

    All of them went to Ole Miss

  6. Scoop

    anyone know Coghlan, does he do any criminal defense work? Well, until now. I just don’t know and was wondering. Every listing I can find shows claims Insurance Law as his thing

  7. Tim

    I resent the comment about Ole Miss Law School, from which I graduated. Ethics start from your core values no matter what you are taught in school. Like most professions a few bad apples give all of us a bad name. Most of the time I don’t need to consult the “Rules” my common sense and heart tell me what’s right and wrong even where ethics are involved. Sorry to be so defensive but you struck a nerve on that one with me. Please don’t lump us all together, it hurts those of us that try hard to do the right thing and who also attended Ole Miss Law School.

  8. Observation

    It seems that Backstrom’s counsel is the most stable of the group. That may pay off in the long run.

  9. Anderson

    “Didn’t most of these lawyers go to Ole Miss law School?
    What kind of ethics are they teaching there?”
    Probably not more or less than any other law school. (I’m an Ole Miss 2002 J.D.) But a very large % of the attorneys in Miss. go to Ole Miss, so of course it’s likely that some of those are bad apples.
    Nowadays there seem to be about as many grads from the Baptist law school in Jackson, which is even lower-rated academically than Ole Miss (rightly or wrongly I cannot say), so those grads are at least as likely to stay in-state. Perhaps the Baptists are producing more ethical grads, though permit me to doubt.
    (Being a philosophy undergrad, I sometimes think that an ethics class should be required in law school — from Aristotle on up. But given the nature of the profession, it would likely just give the bad apples more tools with which to rationalize whatever their little hearts desire.)

  10. “A runaway stage coach on fire”

    David Rossmiller helps sort out the incredible multiple instances of lawyer-switching among the Scruggs defendants in recent days, which have led to speculation that the “united defense” posture adopted at first by the indictees may not last much longe…

  11. Around Town

    Coghlan is an accomplished criminal defense attorney. He currently serves as one of two public defenders in Lafayette County, which includes Oxford. If I was in trouble, he or Farese would be my first phone call.

  12. Martin Luther

    I’m an ’02 grad of that law school in Jackson, and I resent your lumping me in with those “Baptists”…/sarcasm off/

  13. Amazing

    That Baptist school in Jackson requires an ethics course.

  14. Wes

    I believe Coghlan was basketball player
    at Ole Miss during his undergrad years,
    playing point guard.

  15. OleMissTrialLawyer

    A person seeking to become a lawyer in Mississippi must take the Mississippi Bar Exam, and in order to do so, that person must hold a degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. The ABA requires that each student of its accredited law schools take and pass a professional responsibility (commonly referred to as “ethics”) course.
    Now, count me as someone who welcomes an intense review of all that we as attorneys do. The law is the foundation of our entire social order; therefore its practitioners must be ever-mindful of the public’s perception of the profession. If those charged in this case are found to be guilty after a fair trial, then I will be pleased that the profession is shed of members who would subvert the public’s confidence in it.

  16. injustice4all

    Please allow me to jump in on this. A wise and very old lawyer in Gulfport on which the street in front on the Courthouse in Gulfport is named once said the the Rules of Professional Responsibilty were the worst thing to ever happen to the practice of law. I was perplexed by this so I ask his son what he meant. He responded by saying the rules seem to imply that if it is not prohibited it is allowed. As his son said to me “Dad would always say if I ask an ethical question if you have to ask dont you really already know the answer.”
    No one teaches ethics boys, the schools teach and you are tested on the MRPR, the rules. You are taught ethics hopefully by your parents…or maybe in this case not.

  17. Anderson

    The “professional responsibility” course was a joke when I took it, and I doubt that’s an unusual experience.