I started Wednesday morning noting the FBI raid on Dickie Scruggs’ law office. Late Wednesday evening, news broke of Scruggs’ indictment on charges of bribing a judge in the Scruggs/Lott Katrina-related revenge lawsuit against State Farm insurance–and attempting to conceal the bribery. I updated my initial post, but it’s worth a fresh new one. Are the indictment and Lott’s resignation still just a “coincidence?” Like I said when Lott announced his resignation, it sure doesn’t smell right. And now it smells even worse. The Biloxi Sun-Herald has the lowdown and the full indictment:
A grand jury in North Mississippi has indicted Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, his son, Zach Scruggs, Scruggs Law Firm attorney Sidney A. Backstrom, attorney Timothy Balducci and former State Auditor Steve Patterson for conspiring to bribe a state court judge in North Mississippi over a case that involved funds from a settlement with State Farm insurance companies.
The indictment, filed late Thursday, said Scruggs attempted to influence Circuit Judge Henry L. Lackey in the case by offering him $40,000 for an order that would resolve the lawsuit Jones vs. Scruggs in favor of Dickie Scruggs and the Scruggs Law Firm.
Dickie Scruggs also is accused of attempting to conceal his and the other attorneys’ involvement in the alleged bribery attempt.
Alan at Y’all Politics boils it down and points to a Scruggs/Hillary connection that will likely be severed pretty soon:
The crux of the indictment is that these four conspired to commit and actually committed bribery of a judge to deliver a favorable ruling to them over attorneys fees gleaned from Katrina related litigation. There is tape. There is documentation…
…So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, Dickie Scruggs fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on December 15th featuring BILL CLINTON, will likely be cancelled.
David Rossmiller’s all over it, too, as he has been from the beginning:
I had a chance to read the grand jury’s indictment several times on the bus ride home tonight. This scheme, if what is alleged is true, was incredibly lame and stupid. Supposedly, Scruggs and a small group of colleagues decided to bribe a state court judge in the fee dispute case — not for a final disposition of the case in their favor, but to obtain an order compelling the plaintiff, Johnny Jones, to arbitrate rather than sue in court. That may account for the miserly $50,000 total bribe offered. Under a cold, hard calculus, that may have seemed like a reasonable sum to pay for an order that was just one step along the way.
The judge, Henry L. Lackey, of the Third Circuit Court District in Mississippi, went to federal authorities when he was approached about the bribe, and one can see this case has been most of the year in the making.
It isn’t clear when it became apparent to the judge that he was being offered a bribe — the indictment says he was approached by Balducci in March and that Balducci “made an overture . . . to resolve the . . . lawsuit favorably” to Scruggs. On May 4, Balducci allegedly talked with Lackey by telephone and said the Scruggs Law Firm “had changed their strategy” and would rely on a motion to compel arbitration rather than a summary judgment motion. All other things aside, let’s just stop a moment and note the complete unacceptability of a lawyer having ex parte contact with a judge about the merits or strategy of a case, and how brazen one would have to be to carry out such contact.
That same day, Balducci faxed a proposed order to compel arbitration to Lackey. Then on May 9 — and here the indictment contains a long, long quote, so Lackey was evidently wired — Balducci met with Lackey and allegedly said that “We, uh, like I say, it ain’t but three people in the world that know anything about this . . . and two of them are sitting here and the other one . . . the other one, uh, being Scruggs . . he and I, um, how shall I say, for over the last five or six yers there, there are bodies buried that, that you know, that he and I know where . . . where are, and, and, my, my trust in his, mine in him and his in mine, in me, I am sure are the same.” Bodies buried? Hmmmm. I wonder what else might come out during the prosecution of these fellows.
Walter Olson has a round-up.
Something is definitely rotten in Mississippi, my friends.