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.”
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.
During the long series of scandals that brought down former tort potentate Richard (“Dickie”) Scruggs, of tobacco-asbestos-Katrina-mass tort fame, no blogger achieved the status of “must” reading more consistently than David Rossmiller of Insurance Coverage Blog. Now Alan Lange of Mississippi site YallPolitics (and co-author of Kings of Tort, a book on the scandal) has posted a massive document dump of emails between the Scruggs camp and its public relations agency, as made public in later litigation (see also). It shows the principals:
* boasting of their success in manipulating major media outlets to inflict bad publicity on the targets of Scruggs’s suits;
* plotting ways of striking back against critics — in particular, Rossmiller — with tactics including going after him with legal process, as well as creating fake commenters and whole blogs to sow doubt about his reporting;
* wondering who they might pay to secure “Whistleblower of the Year” awards, or something similar, for their clients;
* apparently oblivious, just days before the fact, as to how the ceiling was going to cave in on them because of Judge Henry Lackey’s willingness to go to law enforcement to report a bribe attempt from the Scruggs camp.
The whole set of documents, along with Rossmiller’s summary and reaction, really must be seen to be believed. It will easily provide hours of eye-opening reading, both for those who followed the Scruggs affair in particular, and for everyone interested in how ambitious lawyers manipulate press coverage to their advantage — and how they can seek to use the law against their blogger critics. (& welcome readers from Forbes.com and Victoria Pynchon’s “On the Docket” column there).
Kings of Tort, the new book on Mississippi’s Dickie Scruggs and Paul Minor scandals by Alan Lange (YallPolitics) and Tom Dawson, is now out. Its website links to reviews and other angles of interest.
P.S. A blog reaction from Tom Freeland.
Bringing to a close another chapter in the Scruggs scandals. [WSJ Law Blog]