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Dickie Scruggs

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.”

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2013

  • “Robo-litigation”: ethical issues of the mass-foreclosure mess [Dustin Zachs, SSRN, via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Roger Parloff on Chevron counterclaims against Patton Boggs [Fortune] “Judge Grudgingly Lets Donziger’s Lawyers Out Of Chevron Case” [Daniel Fisher; Reuters]
  • Should Australia dilute or abolish the “cab rank” rule? [John Flood via LEF]
  • “Ethical Limits on Civil Litigation Advocacy: A Historical Perspective” [Carol Andrews (Alabama), SSRN; Legal Ethics Forum]
  • “When Is a Demand Letter (Arguably) Extortion?” [John Steele, more, ABA Journal (Martin Singer demand letter threatening to expose target's sexual indiscretions]
  • Fifth Circuit denies Dickie Scruggs’s latest appeal [YallPolitics]
  • When crowdfunding meets litigation finance, watch out world [Richard Painter]
  • “Judge Orders Prenda Law Group Beamed Out Into Space” [Lowering the Bar, TechDirt]

April 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 17, 2013

  • “The Consortium has hired Arnold & Porter, and they can threaten whomever they want, the facts be damned.” [Popehat]
  • Former Social Security administrators: NPR’s just imagining things, pay no attention to that report on the growth of the disability program [NADR.org, earlier] Ronald Reagan got rolled on the SSDI disability program, and we’re all paying the price [Avik Roy]
  • Katrina qui tam: “Jury returns verdict for the Rigsby sisters against State Farm” [Freeland, earlier]
  • Probate dispute had become cause celebre in Connecticut: “Judge Rules In Favor Of Caretaker In Smoron Farm Case” [Hartford Courant]
  • Judge’s text message complains of “‘docket from hell,’ filled with tatted-up… gap tooth skank hoes” [Above the Law]
  • “FTC Clarifies Obligations of Product Reviewers, But Does Not Ease Concerns” [DMLP]
  • “Trump Dismisses ‘Spawn of Orangutan’ Lawsuit” [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • If you’re one of those who occasionally send me links from the Alex Jones site InfoWars, now you know why I never use ‘em [Dave Weigel]

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May 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 29, 2012

  • Congress again debates bad idea of race-based government for native Hawaiians [Ramesh Ponnuru, Ilya Shapiro/Cato; earlier here, etc.]
  • “I could have been killed for blogging.” [Patterico, Scott Greenfield] Latest blogger “swatting” (bogus police call) hits RedState’s Erick Erickson [same] Incivility is a hazard for bloggers, but fear for families’ physical safety shouldn’t be [Jonathan Adler, Amy Alkon] Dear authorities in Montgomery County, Md. and elsewhere: you should know it’s not every day Radley Balko calls for tougher law enforcement. Earlier here and here.
  • More dying from guns than from car crashes? Eugene Volokh skewers some misleading arguments from the Detroit Free Press;
  • Mississippi: Judge dismisses Dickie Scruggs’s motion to vacate bribery conviction [AP; Tom Freeland and more]
  • Washington Times kindly cites coverage in this space on Maryland “structuring” prosecutions [editorial]. Maryland delayed foreclosures and is now paying the price in slower housing recovery [Hayley Peterson, Examiner]
  • Andrew Pincus defends arbitration and SCOTUS decision in Concepcion [NYTimes "DealBook"; NLJ] Effort in Florida to ease use of arbitration in med-mal disputes [Miami Herald]
  • Michigan Supreme Court judge Diane Hathaway, elected via 2008′s most unfair attack ad, is now in a spot of ethical bother [Ted Frank]

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April 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 16, 2012

  • Although I’m known as a foe of everything John Edwards stands for, I hope he beats this campaign finance rap [Atlantic Wire]
  • Michael Bloomberg launches demagogic new campaign against Stand Your Ground laws, calling to mind the recent critique of the NYC mayor’s paternalist dark side by Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic;
  • Jerry Brown frees grandmother dubiously jailed in shaken-baby death [Slate, earlier]
  • As Scruggs (Dickey not Earl) still pursues vindication, Alan Lange looks back on Mississippi scandals [YallPolitics]
  • Deservedly favorable profile of Fifth Circuit judge Jerry Smith [NOLA]
  • In which I tell off Bill Donohue’s Catholic League for its double insult last week to gays and to adoptive parents [IGF]
  • “The Ninth Circuit was, believe it or not, correct” [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus, Cato, on administrative law case arising from NLRB rules change on drug rep overtime]

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October 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 12, 2011

  • After President Obama’s Orlando photo-op with construction workers came the high-ticket fundraiser at the home of med-mal titan John Morgan [Orlando Sentinel]
  • “Lawyer Sues Facebook, Says Tracking Cookie Violates Wiretap Laws” [ABA Journal]
  • The bone-marrow bounty that could save a life — and the law that gets in the way [Virginia Postrel]
  • New coalition to repeal New York’s unfair Scaffold Law;
  • “How the FDA Could Cost You Your Life” [Scott Gottlieb on medical device lags, WSJ]
  • Mississippi: new release of sealed Scruggs-scandal documents [YallPolitics, Freeland]
  • What I learned (about false accusation) at Dartmouth [Gonzalo Lira]

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October 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 6, 2011

September 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 12, 2011

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July 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2011

  • Jury rejects Jamie Leigh Jones rape claim against Halliburton/KBR. Next, a round of apologies from naive commentators and some who used the case to advance anti-arbitration talking points? [WSJ; Ted Frank/PoL and more; WSJ Law Blog (plaintiff's lawyers sought shoot-the-moon damages)]
  • Time magazine vs. James Madison on constitutional law (spoiler: Madison wins) [Foster Friess via Ira Stoll]
  • Andrew Trask reviews new Curtis Wilkie book on the Dickie Scruggs scandal;
  • “Right to family life” evolution in human rights law deters UK authorities from deporting various bad actors [Telegraph]
  • Paging Benjamin Barton: How discovery rules enrich the legal profession at the expense of the social good [PoL]
  • USDA heeds politics, not science, on genetic crops [Henry Miller/Gregory Conko, PDF, Cato Institute Regulation]
  • “Legal Questions Raised by Success of Monkey Photographer” [Lowering the Bar]

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June 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 24, 2011

  • “Law Prof Threatens Suit over University’s Plan to Reinstitute Single-Sex Dorms” [ABA Journal, WSJ Law Blog; John Banzhaf vs. Catholic U. in Washington, D.C.]
  • Mississippi: Dickie Scruggs files motion to vacate conviction in Scruggs II (DeLaughter case) [Freeland, YallPolitics] Before defending Paul Minor’s conduct in cash-for-judges scandal, review the evidence [Lange, YallPolitics and more]
  • Woman who filmed cop from own yard charged with obstructing his administration of government [BoingBoing]
  • East St. Louis, Ill. jury awards $95 million in sexual harassment, assault case against Aaron’s rental chain [ABA Journal]
  • Connecticut unions demand investigation of conservative Yankee Institute think tank [Public Sector Inc.]
  • “Court Upends $1.75M Award, Finding Plaintiff Lawyer’s Remarks Prejudicial” [NJLJ]
  • Hold it! San Francisco debates bathroom rights for schoolkids [C.W. Nevius, SF Chronicle]

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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.

August 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 19, 2010

  • Judge bans $1.35 billion sugar beet crop for lack of environmental impact statement [NY Times]
  • Brennan Center, Justice at Stake attracting attention with new report on money in state court judicial races [report in PDF, Kang/ConcurOp]
  • Obama signs “libel tourism” bill into law [Levy, CL&P]
  • “Zach Scruggs claims new evidence clears him” [Patsy Brumfield, NE Mississippi Daily Journal via YallPolitics]
  • Second Circuit panel blasts 1980s abuse-accusation panic in ruling on Friedman case [opinion via NYT and Bernstein/Volokh]
  • Famed Cincinnati lawyer Stanley Chesley may face disciplinary action before Kentucky bar over role in fen-phen scandal [Courier-Journal via Dan Fisher and PoL]
  • Sexual harassment verdict against California casino “amounts to 2/3 of the company’s net worth” [Fox, Jottings]
  • Every White House needs to hire some partisan brawlers. But with “ethics czar” duties? [Matt Welch, Reason]

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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).

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June 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 24, 2010

  • “IP Lawyer Who Spotted Expired Patent on Solo Cup Lid Loses Quest for Trillions in Damages” [ABA Journal, earlier on "false markings" suits here, here, etc.]
  • Like we’re surprised: Linda Greenhouse favors sentimental (“Poor Joshua!”) side in 1989 DeShaney case and hopes Elena Kagan does too [NYT Opinionator, my take a few years back]
  • Why is Le Monde in financial trouble? For one thing, firing a printing plant employee costs €466,000 [Frédéric Filloux, Monday Note via MargRev]
  • “Will these salt peddlers stop at nothing?” Michael Kinsley on NYT sodium-as-next-tobacco coverage [Atlantic Wire]
  • “‘Victim’ Gets $4.17 Coupon, Lawyers Get $10 Million Cash”: Expedia class action settlement [John Frith, California Civil Justice Blog]
  • Scruggs investigation finally over as feds drop probe of political operative P.L. Blake; several figures in Mississippi scandal are up for release soon from prison [Jackson Clarion Ledger]
  • $20 billion Gulf spill fund: “Oil Gushes and Power Rushes” [Sullum, Althouse]
  • “NYC Naked Cowboy to Naked Cowgirl: Stop copying me” [AP]

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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]

November 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 16, 2009

  • German law firm demands that Wikipedia remove true information about now-paroled murderers [EFF] More: Eugene Volokh.
  • “Class Actions: Some Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Fed Up, Too?” [California Civil Justice]
  • Drop that Irish coffee and back away: “F.D.A. Says It May Ban Alcoholic Drinks With Caffeine” [NYT]
  • Profile of L.A. tort lawyers Walter Lack and Thomas Girardi, now in hot water following Nicaraguan banana-pesticide scandal [The Recorder; my earlier outing on "Erin Brockovich" case]
  • Federalist Society panel on federalism and preemption [BLT]
  • Confidence in the courts? PriceWaterhouseCoopers would rather face Satyam securities fraud lawsuits in India than in U.S. [Hartley]
  • Allegation: Scruggs continuing to wheel and deal behind bars [Freeland]
  • Not much that will be new to longtime readers here: “Ten ridiculous lawsuits against Big Business” [Biz Insider] P.S.: Legal Blog Watch had more lists back in June.

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