The Scruggs defense just got its official slogan, if it is on the ball enough to know a gem when they see it, from this Q&A in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog with actor Colm Feore, who played Scruggs in a movie.
Back in November, Scruggs was indicted for allegedly bribing a judge in Mississippi, and it’s turned into quite a mess. In fact, we call it The Mess in Mississippi. The case might go to trial in March. Have you heard about any of this?
I had not heard about this case. But on the face of it, it seems way too dumb for Dickie. My experience of Mr. Scruggs is of a very generous, smart, and kindly southern gentleman. You must always keep in mind that Dickie’s success has likely made him as many enemies as friends. It sounds like rubbish to me.
There you have it: "Too Dumb For Dickie." Perfect number of words and syllables for all of the following:
a bumper sticker (suggested promotion: "salt" demand by covertly putting bumper stickers on thousands of cars, making it appear everyone else owns one of these must-have cool items)
a T-shirt (suggested art: Scruggs in a pose like Rodin’s The Thinker)
a propaganda flyer distributed in the streets and left under windshield wipers (gives gritty "street" feel to defense of Scruggs, makes it seem like the people are rising up, speaking truth to power, ready to back The Scruggs — also distracts from uncomfortable fact that Scruggs has moved for change of venue for trial because he apparently fears being judged by his own)
a fridge magnet (suggested promotion: give bags of magnets to kids, tell them to affix magnets to parked vehicles, offer payment of Too Dumb For Dickie T-shirt and bumper sticker)
a banner in a protest march (see third item: if not enough people are interested in authentic protest march, bring in underemployed actors for fake protest, have everyone wear Scruggs masks to keep them from being identified, immediately get them out of state before media interviews them and finds they all speak with New York accents)
a public access cable show (suggestion: hire really good looking actors and actresses to pretend to be ordinary Mississippi teens and young adults and their parents who are concerned about things like justice and how famous, rich lawyers are unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system)
a sky-writing message from an airplane (suggestion: file motion with court to allow currently grounded-by-court-order Air Scruggs to be outfitted with sky-writing equipment, make up silly argument about how it is unconstitutional for a man not to be allowed to use his own property in his defense)
a forehead tattoo (suggested promotion: set up mobile tattoo parlor in a panel truck near college campus, provide "bottomless" cup of beer from kegs in truck to anyone who gets tattoo)
a production by a puppet theater (kids will pester parents to buy items like T-shirts, magnets and bumper stickers, will demand to be allowed to get forehead tattoo, pressure parents to vote to acquit if picked for Scruggs jury)
a hip-hop song ("Yo, it’s too dumb for Dickie/ That bribe was just a quickie/ You talkin’ ’bout The Scruggs/ My man don’t run with thugs/ My man ain’t implicated/ It ain’t sophisticated" — offer free internet download together with 50-percent-off coupon for purchase of T-shirt, fridge magnet and forehead tattoo)
an episode of "My Name Is Earl" (substantial product placement fee may be necessary — be prepared with legal research that establishes product placement fee cannot be used as evidence of related prior bad acts)
an art project for a third-grade classroom (furnish free supplies including American flag stick-ons, red, white and blue crayons, stickers that say "Justice May Be Blind But She Ain’t Dumb, And Neither Is Dickie," include numerous finished posters by professional artists that kids can sign their names to — display posters in prominent public location, have public vote and offer prize to winning entry "That best captures the injustice of the false allegations and charges" — make sure prize is not exact amount of $40,000, arrange for prize to go to non-existent kid, Justice Foreall, for "Tears for Dickie" entry actually made by Dickie Scruggs, produce fake video where actor pretending to be journalist pretends to interview kid actor who pretends to be Justice Foreall, who donates cash prize to the newly-endowed Too Dumb For Dickie Scholarship at Ole Miss Law School)
a more or less continuous courtroom interjection ("Objection, Your Honor — Too Dumb For Dickie")
a celebrity cause-of-the-day (convince celebrity friends and non-friend celebrities who are merely looking for some controversy and publicity to stage "Scruggs-a-thon," whereby they produce videos to be distributed to local TV stations in which they pretend to lock themselves in jail cells and vow to remain there until Scruggs is freed — make sure in each video the celebrity ends the piece by thrusting his or her upraised fist through the bars and shouting, "It’s too dumb for Dickie: Free Scruggs!" — try if at all possible to limit participation only to celebrities who are not well known to be dumb themselves).
Scruggs legal and marketing teams — get busy: remember, every good career comeback has a slogan. Also, one of those dumb little clip art things that perfectly sums up the slogan is needed, include it with all materials: here’s my suggestion.
Did you like that line in the Q&A about how Scruggs’ success has made him as many enemies as friends, and that’s the reason for all this unpleasantness? That is so true! I mean, I was just watching a public access show on cable about how famous, rich white guys can’t catch a break from the criminal justice system. I don’t mind telling you, I was shocked. It really made me think, especially after I found a flyer on my car windshield, and my kids started bugging me about wanting to get art lessons — it seems like every kid in America wants to be a famous artist like that kid in Mississippi, Justice Foreall.
This all sounds familiar, where have I heard it before? Oh, right, the WSJ Law Blog’s interview with novelist John Grisham right after the Scruggs indictment. Grisham said he couldn’t believe Scruggs would be involved in such an unsophisticated bribery plot.
What do you make of the indictment of Dickie Scruggs?
My initial reaction was one of surprise. I know Dickie Scruggs. This doesn’t sound like the Dickie Scruggs that I know. I was really shocked by the news. When you know Dickie and how successful he has been you could not believe he would be involved in such a boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated. I don’t believe it. I hope it’s all proven to be wrong.
Now, let’s turn to a related, vital question. Which kind of people will be best inclined to support Scruggs on the jury at his trial? My research into this — which admittedly consists, so far, only of reading these two posts on the WSJ Law Blog — strongly suggests that one group that can be expected to be very skeptical of these charges is famous, rich friends of Dickie Scruggs.
Another related question: who can be expected to be the least sympathetic? My research into this — which admittedly consists, so far, only of reading Scruggs’ motion for a change of venue — is that people who live near Scruggs and know the most about him would be the worst. My research also indicates that venues where Scruggs could expect a fair trial include any county where the jury pool consists largely of famous, rich friends of his.
Finally, speaking of Grisham, he has a new book out, as you may know. I may be one of the few people in this country who has never read a John Grishman book — no particular reason, I just never got around to it. I’ve seen some movies made from his books, and I enjoyed those, and I once drove cross-country while listening to a books-on-tape of his "A Painted House" — what a wonderful story that was, it made the miles fly by. But I’ve never read one of his books. Maybe I’ll have to pick up the new one in light of what I heard about it from a friend of mine, coverage lawyer Randy Maniloff.
Here’s what Randy said — (he gave me permission to use this, I don’t want people to think I cut from e-mails and out folks on the blog without talking it over with them):
When the Scruggs story broke, this is what John Grishman had to say about it . . . .
"When you know Dickie and how successful he has been you could not believe he would be involved in such a boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated. I don’t believe it. I hope it’s all proven to be wrong."
Cut to two months later and Grisham releases his latest novel, "The Appeal." The inside dust jacket describes the book like this:
"In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst cancer cluster in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.
"Who are the nine? How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided? The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough. With judicial elections looming, he decides to purchase himself a sea on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.
"The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will have readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again."
Who knew that what Grisham was doing was setting the stage for his impending sale of a sophisticated bribery scheme?
Me again: sounds like a real page turner, true enough — kind of a Manchurian Candidate type of deal, made in the USA — let’s call it the Mashulavillian Candidate. This is timely, too, because it really hits the nail on the head: one of the greatest problems in Mississippi today? Judges who don’t know they are being bribed! What we need more of are judges who are at least smart enough to know if they are being bribed — you know, a judge that when you tell him you are going to drop off a bushel of sweet potatoes doesn’t invite you over for supper.