Fifteen years after the $246 billion tobacco settlement, an ingenuous National Public Radio retrospective wonders where all the money went, if not to smoking-reduction programs and Medicaid. Absent from the piece, as indications where some of the money went, are phrases like “lawyers’ pockets” or “political contributions,” or names like “Dickie Scruggs.” Speaking of the latter, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the disbarred Mississippi attorney’s appeal of his corruption conviction. AP, reporting this development, calls Scruggs “the architect of the multibillion dollar tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s.”
Following through on a deal announced a year ago, former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, representing the state under an arrangement with current Attorney General Jim Hood, has now sued BP over damages from the giant Transocean Gulf oil spill. [WaPo, YallPolitics, Sid Salter/Jackson Clarion Ledger] The two figures have long been entwined with each other — and both with now-disgraced Gulf Coast attorney Dickie Scruggs — in litigations that leverage the power of the state to the advantage of private lawyers, including the Great Tobacco Robbery of the late 1990s and Katrina claims.
The cozy dealings between the state of Mississippi and well-connected private lawyers — especially the way the state comes to hire those lawyers on contingency fee to pursue high-ticket suits against outside defendants — have long furnished grist for this site. Now, opening a new chapter, Mississippi AG Jim Hood has hired former AG Michael Moore, like Hood a longtime Overlawyered favorite, to sue BP over the effects of the Transocean oil spill on the state. [AP, YallPolitics] Per YallPolitics, “Interestingly, there is no specific financial arrangement. Moore and Hood contractually agree to work it out later and have fees paid directly by BP to the as yet to be named legal team led by Moore.” When Moore hired later-disgraced Dickie Scruggs to represent Mississippi what was to develop into the most profitable litigation in history — the multistate tobacco caper — the financial details were likewise shrouded in secrecy, and it was later claimed that there was no written agreement.
David Rossmiller, whose blog provided some of the most penetrating analysis of the Dickie Scruggs judicial corruption scandal of 2007-08, has now penned a review of one of the books to emerge from the scandal, “Kings of Tort” by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson. Rossmiller, an Oregon lawyer, also has some kind words for my book The Rule of Lawyers, published a few years earlier, which lays out the background for the scandal by showing how once-obscure plaintiff’s lawyers in states like Mississippi, working with courts known for “home cooking” and in alliance with local political figures, had begun redistributing billions of dollars in big-ticket litigation from tobacco and asbestos on down. [Mississippi College Law Review PDF via Insurance Coverage Blog; related here and here]
“The Fall of the House of Zeus,” by veteran newspaper reporter Curtis Wilkie, is reviewed at Lemuria Books and the Wall Street Journal. An earlier book on the same subject was “Kings of Tort”, by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson. We covered the Scruggs scandal extensively in 2007-2008.
If Attorney General Jim Hood wanted to avoid the impression that he was thick with the Scruggs crowd, he probably shouldn’t have had them vet his response to the Wall Street Journal before he sent it off. [David Rossmiller, earlier]