30 November 2007

The Prosecution of a Trial Lawyer

Dickie Scruggs, a very well-known and well-connected trial attorney, is in trouble.

The government announced Wednesday that Scruggs has been indicted for conspiracy to bribe. He and associates allegedly offered a judge $50,000 in return for rulings in their favor in a lawsuit against insurance companies that failed to pay out on Hurricane Katrina.

Of course, this shouldn't be allowed to discredit the underlying lawsuit. The insurers might (for all I know) have been acting in bad faith and in violation of their contracts, yet Scruggs might have been unwilling to trust his case to its merits.

At any rate, what makes this a big national story is that it's Dickie Scruggs. He is the brother-in-law of Republican honcho Trent Lott. He's quite well connected on the other side of the political aisle, as well, even without the benefit of blood or clergy.

In fact, the Hillary Clnton campaign announced yesterday that it has cancelled a fund raising event that it had scheduled for December 15 in Oxford, Mississippi. The event had been planned to take place in ... the home of Dickie Scruggs. Oops.

A rather terse statement attributed to campaign spokesman Blake Zeff says, "In light of new developments we have canceled the event."

Trent Lott isn't running for President. Hillary Clnton is. The Republicans, and the insurance companies, will no doubt make sure we hear a lot about this case in weeks and perhaps months to come ... unless Hillary's campaign tanks, in which case we'll hear somewhat less.

Personally, I think there's a lot to admire about the sort of class-action tort lawyers who are now so often demonized, and I regret the possibility that Scruggs may have acted in a way to amplify that demonization.

But maybe we're all just circling the drain, as George Carlin says, and the only rational response is to view it in detached fashion, as a spectacle.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.