Posts tagged as:

Dickie Scruggs

November 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 12, 2009

  • Judge cites Oregon elder abuse act in barring animal rights activists from harassing elderly furrier [Zick, Prawfsblawg]
  • After fraud accusations against Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein, politicos race to return his many donations [NYT, AmLaw Daily,
    DBR and more, Ashby Jones/WSJ Law Blog and more (Ponzi investments could exceed $1 billion, per FBI)]
  • Ontario court ruling may invite U.S. class action lawyers to take on more projects in Canada [Kevin LaCroix]
  • “Mississippi Cardiologist Won’t Go to Prison for Online Dating” [Balko, Freeland]
  • Manuscript in the mail: “Kings of Tort”, Alan Lange/Tom Dawson book on Dickie Scruggs and Paul Minor scandals, which now has its own website and will go on sale Dec. 2;
  • A “cultural institution destroyed” in Louisiana: more on proposed FDA ban on raw oysters [NYT, earlier]
  • Update on Google Books settlement [Sag, ConcurOp]
  • Mark Steyn on the Zack Christie case and other annals of knives-in-schools zero-tolerance [NRO, Steyn Online via Skenazy]

{ 1 comment }

One is co-written by Alan Lange of YallPolitics blogging fame. [Freeland] More: Joe Palazzolo, “Scruggs Prosecutor Writes Tell-All Book”, Main Justice.

A major development in the still-developing Scruggs judicial influence scandals. Coverage: Patsy Brumfield/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tom Freeland and more, guestblogger S. Todd Brown (Buffalo lawprof) at Point of Law.

{ 2 comments }

July 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 23, 2009

  • San Jose man says PlayStation online game network is public forum and sues Sony pro se for kicking him off it [Popehat] More: Ambrogi, Legal Blog Watch.
  • “Teacher lets kids climb hill, cops come calling” [Santa Barbara, Calif.; Free Range Kids]
  • Tip for journalists covering trials: stalk the rest rooms [Genova]
  • Lake Erie villages turn off street lights in summer to avoid attracting mayflies, town now sued over driver-jogger collision [Columbus Dispatch]
  • Some lawyers anticipate “astronomical” municipal liability from West Portal train collision in San Francisco [SF Weekly]
  • Radical notion: before filing lawsuit charging consumer fraud, maybe plaintiff should notify merchant and ask to have problem fixed [New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Watch]
  • No jurisdiction: Eleventh Circuit overturns contempt finding against Scruggs in Rigsby case [Freeland]
  • Successful trial lawyer campaign against arbitration is throwing credit card business into turmoil [ABA Journal, Wood @ Point of Law, Ambrogi/Legal Blog Watch (conflict of interests at one large arbitration supplier)]

February 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2009

  • Golfer’s ball bounces off yardage marker and hits him in eye, and he sues; not the Florida case we blogged last month, this one took place in New Hampshire [Manchester Union-Leader]
  • Who needs democracy, much easier just to let the Litigation Lobby run things: elected Illinois lawmakers keep enacting limits on med-mal awards, but trial-lawyer-friendly Illinois Supreme Court keeps striking them down, third round pending at the moment [Peoria Journal-Star, Alton Telegraph, Illinois Times, Reality Medicine (ISMS)]
  • “A sword-wielding, parent-killing psychopath can be such a help around the house.” [we have funny commenters]
  • Brooklyn lawyer Steven Rondos, charged with particularly horrendous looting of incapacitated clients’ estates [earlier], said to have served the New York State Bar Association “as vice president of its guardianship committee” [NYPost]
  • Updated annals of public employee tenure: Connecticut state lawyer who assumed bogus identity to write letter that got her boss fired drew a $1000 fine as well as a reprimand — and then got a raise [Jon Lender/Hartford Courant and more, earlier here and here]
  • Judge Bobby DeLaughter indicted and arraigned as new chapter of Dickie Scruggs judicial-corruption story gets under way in Mississippi; Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson, central figures in Scruggs I, each draw 2-year sentences [NMC/Folo and more, more, YallPolitics, more, earlier on Balducci, DeLaughter]
  • Disney “Tower of Terror” ride not therapeutic for all patrons: British woman sues saying she suffered heart attack and stroke after riding it several times [AP]
  • Convicted of torching his farm, Manitoba man sues his insurance company for not making good on policy [five years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 4 comments }

Mississippi break

by Walter Olson on February 10, 2009

Dickie Scruggs pleads guilty in a second Mississippi judicial-corruption case, and prosecutors say more indictments will be unveiled shortly. [NE Miss. Daily Journal, Alan Lange/YallPolitics, NMC/Folo]

Ed Peters, the former Hinds County (Jackson) prosecutor who’s been a central figure in the still up-in-the-air Peters-DeLaughter branch of the Scruggs scandals, has turned in his law license (via) amid much Mississippi speculation that he is cooperating with prosecutors and that other developments are imminent. NMC at Folo tries to sort things out. And, just in time to be helpful, Alan Lange of YallPolitics has an article summarizing the scandal as it’s developed thus far.

Daily Roundup 2008-12-29

by SSFC on December 29, 2008

Soon, baby soon.  Walter Olson’s new year’s resolution is to return to blogging at Overlawyered.

  • International adoption is always a risky business, fraught with uncertainty: now aspriring parents, burned by changes in Guatemalan law, are suing adoption agencies alleging civil RICO liability;
  • Some tasks can’t be delegated.  New Jersey attorney sanctioned for sending paralegal to domestic court, where she appeared as “counsel” and advocated on behalf of the client;
  • Some tasks can’t be delegated, part II: Las Vegas personal injury lawyer Glen “The Heavy Hitter” Lerner complains that he can’t understand rules prohibiting Nevada lawyers from allowing attorneys not licensed in Nevada to sign up Nevada clients, prepare demands, negotiate claims, and serve as the clients’ sole contact within the firm.  The Nevada Supreme Court disciplines Lerner anyway, figuring that after multiple past reprimands Lerner could take a hint;
  • Some tasks shouldn’t be delegated:  Arkansas authorities investigating attorney Terry Lynn Smith, who “invested” a client’s substantial personal injury settlement, then admitted that “all of her money was gone.”
  • And then some tasks should definitely be delegated: Top Obama aides are “lawyering up” in response to the Blagojevich probe;
  • The fall of Dickie Scruggs has been named as the top story of the year in Mississippi, by the Associated Press;
  • God told me to beat you up.  Texas church claims first amendment immunity from tort liability arising from an exorcism gone horribly awry (via WSJ Law Blog);
  • Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul believes that the recessed economy is a blessing in disguise.  Meanwhile, Paul continues to accept the franking privilege and his salary from taxpayers.

What are you resolving to accomplish in the new year?

{ 2 comments }

July 31 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 31, 2008

  • Raft-flip mishap at Riviera Beach, Fla. water park: family’s collective weight far exceeded posted limit on warning signs, they’re mulling suit [Palm Beach Post]
  • New Rigsby/Katrina depositions include sensational new allegations of Scruggs misconduct as well as touches of pathos [Point of Law]
  • “Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet” [The Onion]
  • So much coverage of Hasbro vs. Scrabulous but so little solid reportage by which readers might judge strength of copyright infringement claims [Obbie]
  • City of Seattle spokesman says police actions in shootout with gunman might have “saved countless other lives”, which hasn’t saved city from being sued by injured bystander [Seattle Times]
  • First the vaccine-autism scare, now this? “Mercury militia” crows after FDA agrees to move forward with statement on possible risks of dental amalgam, but maybe there’s not a whole lot for them to chew on [Harriet Hall, Science-Based Medicine]
  • Of lurid allegations in paralegal Angela Robinson’s suit against Texas plaintiff potentate Richard Laminack, the most printable are the ones about chiseling fen-phen clients and not paying overtime [American Lawyer; Laminack response]
  • U.K. attorney suing former bosses for £19 million: that wasn’t me at the interview, that was my alternative personality [Times Online]
  • Allegation: Foxwoods croupier thought he could mutter lewd comments in Spanish about Anglo female patrons, but guess what, one was entirely fluent [NY Post]
  • “Richard Branson claims to own all uses of ‘Virgin’” [three years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 10 comments }

July 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 20, 2008

  • Judge Henry Lackey, who went to feds to report bribe attempt by Dickie Scruggs associate, gets award and standing ovations at Mississippi bar convention, says he was just doing a judge’s job [NMC/Folo]
  • Related: should Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat have used official university stationery for his letter pleading leniency for chum/ benefactor Scruggs? [Daily Mississippian and editorial via YallPolitics, continuing coverage at Folo; earlier]
  • Stephen Dubner: if lawyer/subscriber can sue Raleigh News & Observer over perceived decline in its quality, who’s next? [NYT/Freakonomics blog, earlier]
  • Maneuvering over retrial of Kentucky fen-phen defendants Gallion and Cunningham [Lexington Herald-Leader]
  • A Fieger sideshow: though acquitted in recent campaign laundering prosecution, controversial lawyer fared less well in lawsuit against Michigan AG Michael Cox; Sixth Circuit tossed that suit and upheld order that Fieger fork over attorney fees to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman over subjecting the justice to unfounded vilification [ABA Journal; fixed typo on Circuit]
  • Citing long history of frivolous litigation, federal judge in central Texas fines disbarred lawyer Charles Edward Lincoln and his client and bans Lincoln from bringing any more federal suits [SE Texas Record]
  • Faced with $18 million legal-malpractice jury verdict, Indiana labor law firm stays in business by agreeing to make token payment, then gang up on its liability insurer for the rest [Indianapolis Business Journal, Ketzenberger/Indy Star via ABA Journal]

{ 6 comments }

ILR comments. The judge-bribing attorney had requested a 30-month sentence (in conjunction with the now-standard set of hundreds of letters listing his supposed good deeds); his plea agreement provided for a five-year maximum sentence, which he got. He’ll still have the jet and millions of dollars when he gets out, even after paying the $250,000 fine imposed at the sentencing. David Rossmiller and Folo will undoubtably continue their excellent coverage, or check our previous Dickie Scruggs coverage.

{ 2 comments }

“Wow. Judge Acker found Scruggs and the Rigsby sisters jointly and severally liable for civil contempt and a fine of $65,000 in the Renfroe v. Rigsby case, relating to failure to promptly return the stolen State Farm claims files to Renfroe’s counsel.” Maybe stealing documents isn’t such a good strategy after all? And that’s aside from what the judge said about Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood — which starts with the epithet quoted in the post title, and just gets more stinging from there. (David Rossmiller, Jun. 5; Anita Lee, “Judge fines Scruggs, Rigsby sisters”, Biloxi Sun-Herald, Jun. 6; order, opinion PDF). More: U.S. Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine (Hood’s response).

“At its worst, the system is close to legalized extortion. … It would be nice if the class-action lawyers reformed themselves, but if not, someone should file a lawsuit.” But op-ed columnist David Ignatius regards Melvyn Weiss and Dickie Scruggs as “good guys” gone wrong and says what occasioned their downfall “was a system in which the money just got too big”. This suggests their practices were more honest and aboveboard at an earlier stage in their careers when the stakes were smaller, but Ignatius does not offer evidence for this view, and I wonder whether he has any (“Reining In the Kings of Tort”, Washington Post, Jun. 5).

Relatedly, the New Yorker published a big article last month on the Scruggs scandal by correspondent Peter Boyer. (“The Bribe”, May 19, abstract; PDF at WSJ law blog). David Rossmiller, unsurpassed chronicler of that scandal, does an excellent job explaining why the article is, not wrong, exactly, but disappointing (May 27).

{ 1 comment }

Hard-hitting column by Stuart Taylor, Jr. on the destructiveness of the current legal actions

seeking more than $400 billion from companies that did business in South Africa during apartheid, [which] score high on what I call Taylor’s Index of Completely Worthless Lawsuit Indicators:

• The lawsuits will do victims of wrongdoing little or no good.

• They will penalize no human being who has done anything wrong.

• They will deter more conduct that is beneficial than harmful.

• The legal costs and any damages will come at the expense of the general public.

• The lawsuits therefore serve no purpose at all but to enrich lawyers and provide ideological power trips for some judges as well as lawyers.

American Isuzu Motors v. Ntsebeza, recently allowed to go forward, is being led by (among others) class-actioneer and frequent Overlawyered mentionee Michael Hausfeld.

The apartheid lawsuit is one of dozens seeking to pervert the Alien Tort Statute to mulct companies for ordinary commercial conduct in countries accused of human-rights violations. Caterpillar, for example, was sued for selling bulldozers that Israel used to destroy suspected Palestinian terrorists’ homes. (The case was dismissed.) “The American bar is actively soliciting alien plaintiffs” to try out novel theories, State Department legal adviser John Bellinger noted in a recent speech. Because so many federal judges have smiled on such suits, Bellinger added, foreign governments increasingly regard the U.S. judiciary “as something of a rogue actor.”

With added commentary on the Kivalina climate-change class action, Rhode Island lead paint, shareholder litigation, and Lerach, Weiss, and Scruggs. (National Journal, May 17, will rotate off page so catch it now).

{ 1 comment }

April 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 17, 2008

  • “I did not know what kind of monster we were dealing with”: dramatic testimony from Judge Lackey on Scruggs corruption [Folo; and repercussions too]
  • New at Point of Law: Pork-barreling Albany lawmakers shell out for just what NY needs, three more law schools; Sarbanes-Oxley unconstitutional? Ted goes after JAMA on Vioxx; sadly, appeals court overturns Santa Clara opinion that nailed ethical problems with govt.-paid contingency fee; legal aid lawyers, to subprime borrowers’ rescue? and much more;
  • Cadbury claim: we own the color purple as it relates to chocolate [Coleman]
  • A world gone mad: Innocence Project directors include… Janet Reno? [Bernstein @ Volokh]
  • Not unrelatedly: Can a California prosecutor be held liable for wrongful murder conviction of man freed after 24 years? [Van de Kamp versus Goldstein, L.A. Times via Greenfield]
  • With all his lawyer chums from Milberg-witness days, you’d think Ben Stein could have saved the makers of his creationist movie from stumbling into textbook IP infringements [Myers, again, WSJ law blog]
  • Groggy from dental anesthesia, plus a half a glass to drink: then came the three felony DUI counts [Phoenix New Times, Balko via Reynolds]
  • Shell says boaters had years of notice that mandated ethanol in fuel was incompatible with fiberglass marine gas tanks, which hasn’t stopped the filing of a class action [L.A. Times via ABA Journal]
  • Terrorism asymmetry: “They say ‘Allahu Akbar!’ we say ‘Imagine the liability!’” [McCarthy/Lopez, NRO]
  • Deborah Jeane Palfrey convicted [WaPo; earlier]
  • David Neiwert truly born yesterday if he thinks Kevin Phillips is noteworthy for his record of being right [Firedoglake; some correctives]

{ 1 comment }

April 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2008

  • Plenty of reaction to our Tuesday post questioning the NYT school-bullying story, including reader comments and discussion at other blogs; one lawprof passes along a response by the Wolfe family to the Northwest Arkansas Times’s reporting [updated post]
  • Geoffrey Fieger, of jury-swaying fame, says holding his forthcoming criminal trial in Detroit would be unfair because juries there hate his guts [Detroit News]
  • Another Borat suit down as Judge Preska says movie may be vulgar but has social value, and thus falls into “newsworthiness” exception to NY law barring commercial use of persons’ images [ABA Journal]
  • Employer found mostly responsible for accident that occurred after its functionaries overrode a safety device, but a heavy-equipment dealer also named as defendant will have to pay more than 90 percent of resulting $14.6 million award [Bloomington, Ill. Pantagraph]
  • New Mexico Human Rights Commission fines photographer $6600 for refusing a job photographing same-sex commitment ceremony [Volokh, Bader]
  • “Virginia reaches settlement with families of VA Tech shooting victims” [Jurist]
  • Roger Parloff on downfall of Dickie Scruggs [Fortune]
  • Judge in Spain fined heavily and disbarred for letting innocent man spend more than a year in jail [AP/IHT, Guardian]
  • Hard to know whether all those emergency airplane groundings actually improved safety, they might even have impaired it [Murray/NRO "Corner", WSJ edit]
  • “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value” — tracking down the context of that now-celebrated quote from a Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator [Volokh]
  • Who was it that said that lawyers “need to be held accountable for frivolous lawsuits that help drive up the cost of malpractice insurance”? Hint: initials are J.E. [three years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 7 comments }

Disbar Dickie Scruggs?

by Walter Olson on April 2, 2008

Not so fast, he says — the Mississippi Bar didn’t file a “certified copy” of his guilty plea. (Patsy R. Brumfield, “Dickie Scruggs files to dismiss attempt to have him disbarred”, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Apr. 1).

David Rossmiller has ten unanswered questions about loose ends in the Scruggs scandal (Mar. 24) which elicit responses in turn (and more unanswered questions) from NMC and Lotus at Folo (plus an NMC update). These latter bloggers, by the way, have shed their anonymity and stand revealed as Oxford, Miss. lawyer Tom Freeland (NMC) and retired lawyer Jan Goodrich, now of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (Lotus), now also joined by Jane Tucker.

Is it okay for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) to take Scruggs’s money? “It depends on what the felony is…” Chancellor Robert Khayat is quoted as saying (Folo/NMC, Apr. 1; more). Gulfport M.D. Bill Hemeter, in a letter to the editor printed in the Biloxi Sun-Herald (Mar. 19), is claiming prescience: “I sent Chancellor Khayat the book ‘The Rule of Lawyers’ by Walter Olson several years ago, with a warning not to take money from plaintiff attorneys.” Earlier, when Scruggs pled guilty, another university official was heard from:

“My initial reaction is one of sadness,” said Samuel Davis, dean of the University of Mississippi Law School, Scruggs’ alma mater. “I’ve known and been friends with Dick and Diane Scruggs almost 50 years now going back to our days in Pascagoula, and I feel a great sense of compassion for him and his family. And that’s just a very personal reaction. I haven’t really thought about the implications for the legal community or the legal profession.

Davis, who also directs the Ole Miss Law Center, said not everybody who pleads guilty is guilty and that Scruggs might have had other reasons for the move. If that were the case, Davis said, the reasons likely were good ones.

(emphasis added by an understandably astonished Lotus @ Folo; many, many comments follow).

And from Sid Salter of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger (Mar. 19): “In spite of their insistence that there were no ethical lapses in their behavior on the tobacco suit, [former attorney general Michael] Moore and Scruggs still owe the taxpayers of Mississippi an accounting of the lawyers’ fees and expenses that accrued from that litigation.”

{ 1 comment }

Our weekend post questioning defense attorney John Keker’s assertions of the innocence of client Dickie Scruggs (“prosecutors have concocted a ‘manufactured crime’ in which his client had no part”) drew a couple of comments from readers who saw Keker’s statements as no more than the zealous advocacy we should expect of a defense attorney. They’ve also been discussing the issue over at the WSJ law blog, where they quote defense attorney Benjamin Brafman’s rapidly disproved boast that his client Mel Weiss “will be fully exonerated,” as well as Monroe Freedman, the Hofstra legal ethicist and regular antipode of views expressed on this site, who

says that generally speaking, he doesn’t see problems with a lawyer making aggressive statements to the press in defense of his client. “We don’t know what the client told the lawyer when the lawyer made the statements,” he says. “We don’t know what Scruggs told his lawyer. We don’t know if Scruggs said I did it, but I want to fight it or something else entirely.”

George Sharswood’s Essay on Professional Responsibility, the standard American text on legal ethics before the modern period, contains the following assertion (pp. 99-100 of Google Books digitized version):

…no counsel can with propriety and good conscience express to court or jury his belief in the justice of his client’s cause, contrary to the fact. Indeed, the occasions are very rare in which he ought to throw the weight of his own private opinion into the scales in favor of the side he has espoused. If that opinion has been formed on a statement of facts not in evidence, it ought not to be heard — it would be illegal and improper in the tribunal to allow any force whatever to it; if on the evidence only, it is enough to show from that the legal and moral grounds on which such opinion rests.

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }