Mississippi Attorney Wants Hurricane Katrina Litigator Sanctioned

April 25, 2008

An attorney wants sanctions against Mississippi tort lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs over alleged misconduct in a legal battle over millions of dollars in attorneys fees.

Investigators have been looking into allegations that Scruggs improperly influenced Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter while DeLaughter presided over a case in which attorney Bob Wilson sued Scruggs over legal fees from asbestos litigation.

“We’re asking the court to sanction the misconduct that occurred in the case,” said Vicki Slater, an attorney for Jackson lawyer Bob Wilson.

Wilson and Scruggs worked together in multimillion dollar asbestos cases, but soon ended up in court over how to split the attorneys fees. After authorities indicted Scruggs and several associates in another case, witnesses claimed that Scruggs tried to improperly influence DeLaughter too.

DeLaughter has denied the allegation.

DeLaughter ruled in 2006 that Scruggs didn’t owe Wilson more than a belated $1.5 million payment – a ruling that went contrary to the findings of a special master appointed to weigh the evidence before trial.

Witnesses have testified that Scruggs used DeLaughter’s friend and former boss, former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, to persuade the judge to rule in his favor. Scruggs allegedly offered DeLaughter a chance to be recommended for a federal judgeship by former Sen. Trent Lott, Scruggs’ brother-in-law.

DeLaughter first came under scrutiny in January when attorney Joey Langston, of Booneville, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with Scruggs to influence DeLaughter. Later, New Albany lawyer Tim Balducci, who pleaded guilty in a separate federal judicial bribery investigation, testified that DeLaughter took a bribe in the form of consideration for the federal judgeship.

“Mr. Balducci testified that the favorable outcome for the Scruggs defendants was due to the corruption and bribery scheme of the Scruggs defendants and their co-conspirators,” Slater wrote.

The allegations in the DeLaughter case were made public after Scruggs, his son, and three others were indicted on charges related to a conspiracy to bribe a Lafayette County circuit court judge over fees from Hurricane Katrina litigation. They have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,

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