Laws Against Judicial bribery, Justice and Jim Hood

Here’s an “aha moment” to start the week.  HB1108 – a bill making judicial bribery illegal in the State – according to the Sun Herald is on it’s way to the Governor.

As he stood at the podium Thursday to present a House bill making bribing a judge a felony, Senate Judiciary Chairman Joey Fillingane wasn’t sure what the current law said.

After Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, asked the question, Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said he thought it was a misdemeanor to bribe a judge and decided to look it up.

But he found there were no state laws against judicial bribery.

Thinking back to the right wing based non stop Jim Hood bashing in the aftermath of the Judicial Bribery scandal revelations, it should come as no surprise that the often repeated calls for a state prosecution never asked a basic but very important question. Is bribing a judge against the law in Mississippi? Evidently it was not.

Of course the quasi legal and political argument remains that Jim Hood could charge Scruggs and company with something. After all, the level of blood thirsty shouting at sites like Y’all Politics and Sid Salter’s blog surely indicates such dual federal state prosecutions must be the norm in such circumstances? Actually it is rarity as Bobby Harrison at the Daily Journal pointed  out a week or so back. What is undeniable is that politics was at play in Judicial Bribery where it manifested itself most shamelessly and dishonestly in the fever pitched attacks against Jim Hood.

Now Hood, a Democrat, is caught in a web of controversy caused by the judicial bribery allegations waged against trial attorneys Dickie Scruggs of Oxford, Joey Langston of Booneville and others – all of whom have donated significant sums of money to Hood’s campaigns.

Hood, despite a lot of speculation and innuendo, has not been charged with a crime. There has been no credible evidence that he has violated any laws. If that evidence does not surface, a lot of very vocal bloggers and others probably will have to be put on suicide watch because they are all so hopeful that he will be brought down as part of the Scruggs investigation.

And if Hood did break the law, he should pay the price as should anyone else.

While there is thus far no credible evidence of law-breaking, Hood does suffer from a rather severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. Many media outlets of all stripes have urged Hood to launch a state investigation to coincide with the federal judicial bribery probe.

Hood gave a lot of reasons for not doing so, but the explanation that drew the most attention was his proclamation that prosecuting Langston in particular would be like prosecuting relatives. Media outlets jumped on Hood for his apparent refusal to do his job.

Never mind that Hood quietly sent out letters to local district attorneys saying the resources of his office would be available should they want to prosecute in connection with the judicial bribery probe.

What Hood did not make clear in his public comments is that the federal officials are far more equipped with manpower and favorable laws to pursue the investigation. And if the state tried to get involved at this point, more than likely the feds would politely say stay out of our way.

Bobby Harrison continues.

On occasion, people are tried in both federal and state courts for the same crime, though not often.

But where was the hue and cry when WorldCom Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ebbers was tried for securities fraud in federal court? Where was the outcry from members of the media to also try the Mississippi resident and Mississippi-based company in state court?

No doubt, the WorldCom failure had a far greater impact on Mississippians, who literally lost millions of dollars and in some cases their life savings because of the fraud.

Yet, I don’t remember the public outcry to bring state charges on top of the federal charges.

The rest is now history as Ben Creekmore has passed on bringing state charges. Aside from satisfying the bloodlust of a vocal few, grinding Dickie Scruggs into the dirt serves no purpose in furtherance of the cause of justice. Politicizing the judicial system, especially in the executive branch can lead to some terrible outcomes as Don Siegelman will no doubt attest. However for better or worse, politics entered the Judicial Bribery equation, possibly from it’s very beginnings. Thankfully for the cause of justice, Federal and State prosecutors have thus far risen above the angry political shouting and cries for blood.

(sop contributed to this entry)

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