15 March 2008

Scruggs' Legal Career Kaput

Personally, I expected Dickie Scruggs, the well-connected Mississippi trial lawyer who seems to have inspired Grisham novels, to fight.

In November, when the government announced his indictment for conspiracy to bribe, I figured there'd be a defiant "not guilty," and a trial in which he'd declare himself the victim of a frame.

Since then, CourtTV has changed its name and begun shifting its focus away from such spectacles, so perhaps it is fitting that their mill won't have any Scruggsian grist. This week, Scruggs pleaded guilty.

I don't know how the sentencing will go, but a plea to a felony charge ensures he'll lose his license to practice law at the very least. Five years in prison and a fine of up to a quarter of a million dollars are also among the possibilities.

As I noted in my November entry on this subject, his downfall began with Hurricane Katrina, and with a lawsuit against insurers alleged to have acted in bad faith in refusing to make their payout in that situation. Unfortunately, when I wrote about this subject last I made an error, which I here wish to correct.

I wrote, "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."

That was wrong. The connection between the storm and the bribe wasn't so tight as that. The insurers had already settled, and the remaining dispute was over fees. Another plaintiffs' attorney, John Griffin Jones, claimed that Scruggs had cheated him out of his share of the lawyers-fees portion of the settlement pie.

This fact makes the case seem even more tawdry than otherwise. If Scruggs had tried to bribe a judge because he wanted to stick it to the insurance companies -- that would have been as grave a wrong under the law -- but one could perhaps mitigate that as "excessive zeal surrounding a just cause" or something. But to bribe a judge in a dispute with a colleague who had been working on the same side as one's self in that cause?


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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.