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Friday, March 21, 2008

Judicial Watchdog Howling for Suspension of Judge (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Judicial Watchdog Howling for Suspension of Judge Linked to Dickie Scruggs Case
New York Lawyer - March 20, 2008 - by Michael Kunzelman - The Associated Press

Mississippi's judicial watchdog said its efforts to suspend a state judge while it investigates allegations that powerful plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs tried to illegally influence him are not "a finding of judicial misconduct." The state Commission on Judicial Performance filed a complaint Wednesday against Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter and asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to temporarily suspend him from the bench.

In January, attorney Joseph Langston pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with Scruggs to illegally influence DeLaughter in a dispute with other lawyers over fees from asbestos litigation. Last Friday, Scruggs pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to bribe a different state judge in a separate dispute over attorneys' fees. Scruggs hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with DeLaughter.

DeLaughter has denied any wrongdoing and defended a ruling that favored Scruggs in the asbestos fee dispute. The judge did not immediately return a call to his office Wednesday. 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. DeLaughter was assigned to preside over a case involving a dispute between Scruggs and other lawyers over fees from asbestos cases.

Federal prosecutors claim Scruggs dispatched intermediaries in 2006 to tell DeLaughter that if he ruled in his favor, he would pass along his name for consideration for a federal judgeship. Former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, a friend of DeLaughter's, later passed that information along to DeLaughter, prosecutors said. DeLaughter allegedly e-mailed to Peters a rough draft of a planned opinion in the Scruggs case.

"I have not taken any bribes of any sort. Have not issued any rulings in exchange for money or anything else," DeLaughter told The Associated Press in January. "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."

Scruggs is a brother-in-law of former Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., whose duties included recommending nominees for federal judgeships. Lott's former chief of staff has said the senator spoke to DeLaughter and other potential candidates about a vacancy in the federal court system, but supported Halil "Sul" Ozerden, who was sworn in as a federal judge in Mississippi last year.

However, the commission's complaint says Lott "did in fact submit (DeLaughter's) name for the federal position and so notified (him). (DeLaughter) was also fully aware that Scruggs was the brother-in-law of Senator Lott." DeLaughter violated the state's code of judicial conduct by not notifying the proper authorities of those "improprieties of counsel" and failing to recuse himself from the case, the commission's complaint alleges.

"The purpose of the recommendation is to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary and to assure the public confidence in the administration of justice," said Brant Brantley, the commission's executive director, in a written statement. Brantley declined to elaborate Wednesday on the allegations in the complaint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well at least the judicial ethics 'watchdog' committees are useless all over, not just in New York. It's who you know, and not right.

Blog Archive

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

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2