Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Sunday Feeling

"What profitith a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?"

The resolute looking gentleman pictured here is high powered Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs. Scruggs made over 400 million in attorney's fees after brokering a settlement in the litigation involving numerous states against the tobacco industry a while back.

Scruggs just pleaded guilty, along with his law partner, to one count of a Federal indictment for attempting to bribe a Mississippi state court judge $40,000.00 to see things his way in a dispute with other lawyers over-what else?-legal fees. Dickie's son Zach is also in between the Feds' cross hairs as well. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, known locally as the Clarion-Liar, reported yesterday that they were going to defer prosecution of Zach Scruggs in exchange for his giving up his license to practice law. The Clarion-Ledger, easily one of the worst newspapers in the business, reports today that they are going to trial in two weeks. Who knows? To read all about it, hit the link:

I love Mississippi. I do a lot of business down there. Some of my closest and dearest friends, people I talk to or send e-mails to on an almost daily basis, live there. I almost married a girl from down there. But I am glad that I don't have to practice law in state court down there. Mississippi can only be experienced. It cannot be described. But it's state courts are uniformly corrupt. My first thought when Scruggs got indicted back last Fall was not that I was surprised that somebody tried to bribe a judge down there. I was just surprised that he turned it down.

And while I wasn't surprised that somebody had been accused of trying to bribe a state court judge ,I WAS surprised that it was Dickie Scruggs who was accused of offering the bribe. It has been reported that Scruggs may have earned up to 800 million in fees over the tobacco litigation. The litigation he got indicted over concerned some 26 million. Granted, that ain't nothing to sneeze at. But 26 million is chump change for a guy like Scuggs. He didn't have to lift a finger the rest of his life if he didn't want to. Now he is going to prison for nothing in real dollar terms.

What was he thinking?

All white collar criminals do a risk calculation. Dickie Scruggs is a criminal. And a smart man. You would think that if he did the calculation he would have decided he was better off flying his plane around or playing golf rather than exposing himself to criminal liability for a song.

Which makes me wonder if he did no risk calculation because greasing the skids is just the cost of doing business in some places and he just happened to run across the wrong guy. If you read the article you will see where other lawyers in Mississippi, as well as a state court judge, have been prosecuted. God knows, Arkansas has got its share of problems. But you don't hear about that kind of stuff around here.

The events of last week provided us with object lessons in the price of reckless vanity. First, Eliot Spitzer and now this. I know that the Feds have a medical facility in Missouri and a psychiatric unit in North Carolina.

If they have a prison to hold those whose hubris morphed into criminality, Eliot Spitzer and Dickie Scruggs will be there.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully our courts are not so corrupt as to cavalierly condemn without sufficient facts as you do when you pronounce that Mississippi's "state courts are uniformly corrupt" based on one or two examples.

tmfw said...

One of my lawyer friends on the Coast refers to the State judical system as " blatently corrupt."

Been dealing with Mississippi lawyers for years. Virtually none of them that expressed an opinion have reposed any trust in the integrity of the system. It is a gamed system. Shoulders get shrugged.

"Blatently corrupt" and "uniformly corrupt" are in the same zip code.

It is a near thing. Pick one.

F. M. Turner, III said...

As a Mississippi lawyer of over 30 years' standing, who has practiced on both sides of civil cases all over this state, I take serious issue with your uninformed and gratuitous trashing of the entire Mississippi judiciary. The majority of our state court judges are hard-working and honest. I have never suspected corruption of the type shown in this instance in any of the cases that I have handled. To base your opinion on the experience of one, unidentified lawyer whose experience can only be guessed at is to overstate your evidence.