Monday, December 28, 2009


I trust that everyone of us enjoyed a meaningful Christmas in 2009 and, upon reflection and taking stock of our lives, are looking forward to a happy (and prosperous) New Year. Christmas should always be a time of faith, family, and love, and I hope that your Christmas found all of these elements in place.

I received several interesting and valued gifts for Christmas, but two books that I received stand out: Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”; and “Kings of Tort”, by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson. Since none of our three children or six grandchildren were with us on Christmas Day, and because Beverly had a touch nausea (probably because of too much pre-Christmas travel, cooking, present-wrapping and anticipation of after-Christmas visits), I spent much of the day reading “Kings of Tort” – a very detailed account of recent events which exposed sordid tales of judicial bribery and corruption, and political intrigue within the Mississippi judicial system, and which were covered extensively by the national media outlets. As stated on the book’s back cover, “Kings of Tort”…”features the story of Dickie Scruggs, who was largely credited with bringing down Big Tobacco in the early 1990s. From his ascent to a net worth of nearly a billion dollars to his seemingly unfathomable downfall stemming from his role in improperly influencing two local judges to influence cases involving fee disputes with other lawyers, the book documents how those in Scruggs’s own trusted circle of tort barons turned on him and cooperated with federal authorities. It also shows the political influence he wielded with judges, attorneys general, and even his own brother-in-law, former U.S. Senator Trent Lott.”

When I first heard that “Kings of Tort” was to be published, my initial thought was that the book would simply be bringing up old, painful news that most Mississippians would like to leave in the past, particularly since it dealt with public officials and public figures (and their families) that had been friends and colleagues of many of us. However, after reading the first gripping pages which recounted the actual FBI-wired conversations between attorney Tim Balducci and Dickie Scruggs; and the conversations between Balducci and Dickie’s two young associates (Zach Scruggs and Sidney Backstrum); as well as the account of how the attempted bribery of Judge Henry Lackey actually took place, I knew that “Kings of Tort” was an important work

Lange, who operates one of the largest political websites in the southeast, and Dawson, a 36-year veteran federal prosecutor who served as lead counsel in the investigation and prosecution of the Scruggs cases, have presented us with an important work because their book chronicles several serious attempts to corrupt the judicial system of one of America’s fifty states, and all of these attempts (some of which were successful) were full scale attacks on the rule of law – the glue that holds together our ability to function as a nation.

I strongly recommend “Kings of Tort” as a “must read” for all Americans who are interested in maintaining the rule of law in our great country and do not subscribe to the theory that “the ends justify the means” when attempting to bring about social change or accomplish some otherwise noble goal.

I will have more to say about “Kings of Tort” and Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” in the coming weeks. All of us are interested in the great issues that confront us each day on the news from Washington – the health care debate, for example. There will be time enough to discuss those issues in the days ahead, but in my opinion we can learn much from an analysis of our recent history as seen through these two important books.

Happy New Year, everybody.

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