Monday, January 4, 2010

"Kings Of Tort" - Part II

The “sordid tale of judicial bribery and political intrigue” as related to us in “Kings of Tort” proves once again that fact is stranger than fiction and more gripping than any John Grisham novel. Throughout this notable book are many notable quotes which are worth remembering, for example:

1. “[W]hat I call the ‘magic jurisdiction…[is] where the judiciary is elected with verdict money….It’s almost impossible to get a fair trial if you’re a defendant in some of these places. The plaintiff lawyer walks in there and writes a number on the blackboard, and the first juror meets the last one coming out the door with that amount of money….The cases are not won in the courtroom. They’re won on the backroads long before the case goes to trial.”

- Excerpt from speech by Dickie Scruggs entitled “Asbestos for Lunch” – 2002.

Note: Federal Prosecutor Tom Dawson commented that this could be the first time in American Criminal Jurisprudence that a defendant confessed to his crime five years before he committed it.

2. “Mr. Minor has the money, and judges have to run for election.”

- Statement by Mississippi Gulf Coast Chancery Judge J. M. Randall after his resignation from the bench, upon being asked why he did not take appropriate action against Attorney Paul Minor’s heated ex parte communications with him (while a case were pending where Mr. Minor was attorney for one side and outside the presence of the opposing lawyers).

3. “You could file briefs on a napkin right now and get it granted.”

- E-Mail from Zach Scruggs on May 29, 2006, in regard to the Wilson v. Scruggs litigation after Ed Peters had been hired to influence Judge DeLaughter.

4. “Boys, don’t mind the mule, just load the wagon.”

- Judge Henry Lackey – 2007 (after prosecutors became concerned what toll would be taken on the older man when he became an undercover witness during the efforts of Tim Balducci to corruptly influence him).

5. “If you cooperate, you may get to see your children graduate from high school as a free man.”

- Prosecutor Tom Dawson to Tim Balducci – 2007

6. “When you know Dickie and how successful he has been, you could not believe he would be involved in such a boneheaded bribery scam that is not in the least bit sophisticated. I don’t believe it. I hope it’s all proven wrong.

- John Grisham

7. “Zach is innocent of the charges pressed against him, and we look forward to his exoneration.”

- Former Attorney General Mike Moore in a statement to the press just days before his client, Zach Scruggs, pleaded guilty to a felony.

8. “…as one person who wrote a letter said, he thought sending you to prison would be a waste of the taxpayer’s money. To alleviate any concerns for that person, the taxpayers won’t have to pay for your incarceration; you’ll pay for it yourself.”

- Judge Neal Biggers to Dickie Scruggs at sentencing – June 27, 2008

9. “Money is like seawater…the more you drink the thirstier you become.”

- Roman proverb

10. “DeLaughter was ruined not by greed, but by ambition and the inability to say no to Ed Peters, his mentor, another professional infected with the Scruggs evil.”

- The authors of “Kings of Tort”

11. “Every society gets the criminals it deserves.”

French criminologist Alexander Lacassagne

One of the most obvious questions in regard to the events described in “Kings of Tort” is why persons worth millions of dollars would take the risks as described in this book? I will leave it to the authors to have the final word about Dickie Scruggs:

“Regardless of his motivation, the damage he and his cohorts caused to the judicial system, their profession, and the rule of law is palpable. While scholars debate which founding concept of our country is the most important – individual freedom, free market capitalism, private property rights, or the ability to make contracts and engage in commerce – the glue that holds all of these principles together is the rule of law. What the system guarantees is not justice, but a chance at justice. When the citizenry loses confidence that the legal system will provide a venue for a fair and even-handed airing of their grievances, cynicism abounds and ordered society is in peril.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I remember you arguing a case for us before the Miss. Supreme court in 1990. During the arguments one of the Judges on the panel asked you if we were the victims of "Home Cooking". Later, during the federal trial I was informed, and you were present, that Judge Lee "would not make them move out of our drive way no matter what the law said".(see page 88 of Kings of Tort)It seems to me that such corruption is far more common in the Mississippi Judical system than just those wealthy persons you identify in your review.

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