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Friday, January 18, 2008

Judge Told Good Ruling Would Get Him to Federal Bench (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Prosecutors: Judge Was Told That Ruling for Star Litigator Could Be Ticket to the Federal Bench
New York Lawyer - January 18, 2008
By Michael Kunzelman - The Associated Press

A Mississippi judge who ruled in favor of Richard "Dickie" Scruggs in a dispute over legal fees was told by a friend that siding with the prominent lawyer could mean consideration for the federal bench, prosecutors allege in court papers unsealed this week.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter has denied accepting any bribes and defended his ruling in favor of Scruggs in the dispute with other lawyers over fees from asbestos litigation.

However, during a closed-door proceeding in federal court last week, a prosecutor said Scruggs dispatched intermediaries to tell DeLaughter that "if he ruled in his favor he would pass his name along for consideration regarding the federal judgeship."

Former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, a friend of the judge, later "passed the information along" to DeLaughter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Dawson told a U.S. district judge in Oxford, Miss., according to a transcript.

"The government would further show that, in fact, DeLaughter's name was submitted for consideration for a federal judgeship, and DeLaughter was so notified," Dawson added.

Scruggs is a brother-in-law of former Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., whose duties included recommending nominees for federal judgeships.

Dawson was outlining charges against attorney Joseph Langston, who pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to conspiring with Scruggs and others to illegally influence DeLaughter. Scruggs and DeLaughter aren't charged with wrongdoing in the case.

Scruggs has pleaded not guilty to trying to bribe another Mississippi judge in a separate dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys' fees. John Keker, an attorney for Scruggs, has denied that his client tried to influence DeLaughter.

Court papers unsealed Monday accuse Langston, Peters and former state Auditor Steven Patterson of splitting $3 million that Scruggs saved "as a result of rulings in favor of Scruggs by Judge DeLaughter resulting in a settlement of the case."

In December 2005, Scruggs hired Langston and attorney Timothy Balducci to represent him in the asbestos-fees case, which was assigned to DeLaughter. Langston later hired Peters and paid him $1 million.

In at least one instance, according to Dawson, DeLaughter e-mailed to Peters a rough draft of a planned opinion.

"And Langston and Balducci and Patterson would be able to see it before any (final version) was filed," Dawson added.

Balducci and Patterson have pleaded guilty to trying to bribe Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey and are cooperating with investigators in their case against Scruggs.

Hiram Eastland Jr., a lawyer for Patterson, wouldn't comment on the prosecutors allegations, but said his client is "fully cooperating" with investigators.

Peters didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Lott spoke to DeLaughter and other potential candidates about a vacancy in the federal court system, but the senator supported Halil "Sul" Ozerden, who was sworn in as a federal judge in Mississippi in August, according to Lott's former chief of staff, Brett Boyles.

DeLaughter did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Thursday. But in an interview last week with The Associated Press, DeLaughter challenged anyone who doubted his judicial integrity to read his ruling in the case.

"I have not taken any bribes of any sort. Have not issued any rulings in exchange for money or anything else," DeLaughter said. "If one were to go back and look at my very lengthy and detailed ruling, I think it would be very evident ... they are on a solid legal basis and would stand any scrutiny."

DeLaughter, a former assistant district attorney, prosecuted Byron De La Beckwith in the early 1990s for the 1963 murder of NAACP field secretary Medger Evers.

Scruggs became a multimillionaire by suing asbestos and tobacco companies in the early 1990s. He set his sights on insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina, suing on behalf of homeowners. His case against tobacco companies was portrayed in the 1999 movie "The Insider."


Anonymous said...

And the truth shall set you free. (Read: Identify the problem, and then you can fix it!) JUDICIAL CORRUPTION IS A NATIONAL EPIDEMIC!!

Anonymous said...

Judicial corruption may be national on some level, but nowhere is it as prolific as it is in NY STATE! We have perfected it and embedded it in the entire lives of all the NY TAXPAYERS. These states have a sprinle here and there! It will only worsen throughout the country, if we do not eliminate the NY STATE judicial system in its present form!

Anonymous said...

we too have our share of corrupt lawyers and Judges in Florida. At a party I heard a Judge say that cases get settled before the trial starts. When I asked him to explain it since I didn't understand he said that everyone gets together before a court hearing or trial and they work it all out and everyone goes away happy. At the time I still didn't understand, but now I do. How can we survive as a country with all the corruption?

Anonymous said...

As an ex-court clerk (30 yrs) of the NY STATE OFFICE OF COURT ADMINISTRATION,cases do get settled outside of the courtroom. Sometimes phone calls are made to the homes of judges (to avoid any trace of a fix) but many are made in the judges chambers, while the door is shut and it appears that the officers of the court are JUST HAVING A PRIVATE AND FRIENDLY CONVERSATION. Ex-parte communications, as they are called, are very common and both judges and lawyers trick themselves into believing that the quick disposition, much in favor of the defense atty, is for the benefit of the court's obligation to time constraints! In other words...we are doing so to benefit the taxpayer, so we don't have to schedule abundant trials.Paying for all the overtime and large salaries of the court employees that must remain, saves tax dollars and also remember, that judges don't make money from they don't want to work it!
Most court proceedings are scheduled around and for the benefit of the judge...not the caseload and its relevance to the constitution. The court many times believes that you are guilty until proven innocent...isn't that right JUDGE JAN PLUMADORE? So from extensive first hand knowledge comes the real workings of the NY COURT SYSTEM! I do hope now, any outsiders have a complete understanding of the general workings of our precious NY JUDICIAL SYSTEM!

Anonymous said...

the dream of "all" attorneys is to be a Judge, if you can afford to buy a Judgeship. Then if that goal can be attained all well and good, however the ultimate bliss, "the treasury of everlasting joy" is a Federal Judgeship. Remember children that this is for life, how sweet it is!

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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