Laws Against Judicial Bribery and Jim Hood Redux

Some people like money, some people like power. People that like power go into politics. Me, I like money and money rents power so I get the best of both worlds. -Quote from a highly successful coast businessman to young Sop many years ago.

Early on the “Jim Hood is a crook campaign” struck me as a partisan political affair because no evidence has been produced against Mr Hood except guilt by association. One thing I’ve learned is that politicians of all stripes taking campaign ca$h from less than reputable characters is hardly new. It’s equally clear the goals of the parties to such transaction are manifestly differing; a politician lives to be re elected and ca$h is the mothers milk of that endeavor.  Donors expect their contributions to result in access though not necessarily for help in committing a crime certainly to further their interests.  While I’ll grant when the scandal hits the fan such arrangement do not look good it is also equally true that such arrangements do not imply a conspiracy between the parties in furtherance of criminal activities. In fact the more likely implication is simply the politician needed money and was willing to take it from whomever was willing to contribute.

This brings us back to the recent Hang Jim Hood shill manifested in cyberspace in comments to news stories and on certain blogs. I’ll grant Mr Hood was his own worst enemy from a public relations standpoint but I felt the campaign to discredit Mr Hood also had to have roots in politics because the arguments put forth that Mr Hood was derelict in his duties ignored two main facts.

  1. The fact Judge Lackey went to the Feds instead of Mr Hood that was trumpeted as proof positive the Judge must have felt Mr Hood was part and parcel to bribery scheme ignores the fact the main weapon used by Federal investigators was the wiretap, an investigative tool unavailable to Mr Hood. The disingenuous partisan politics revealed themselves when state House Republicans were initially able to block giving the Attorney general that authority.  According to Natalie Chandler at the Clarion Ledger, “A House bill that would have granted Hood wiretapping abilities died in committee earlier this session. Republicans said they feared it would give overreaching authority to him.” This is classic heads I win tails you lose politics. We blame you for not catching criminals that could only be caught using tools like wiretaps but we will not give you the authority to use such tools either.
  2. As mentioned in the first post in this series, the anti Hood forces never bothered to stop shilling long enough to check if there was a law on the books against bribing a judge. While the applicability of the existing law to the Scruggs affair is subject to debate the answer is no, there was no such law on the books. Today the Sun Herald tackles the subject with a balanced editorial that assigns some self blame for not critically examining the arguments:

We recently lamented the fact that federal prosecutors, rather than our own state attorney general or district attorneys, seemed to always be pursuing individuals suspected of bribing judges in Mississippi.

According to some legislators, we stand guilty of being ignorant of the law. Or rather, the lack of a law.

Not that ignorance of the law is a valid excuse – for lawbreakers or for lawmakers

The editorial posits that existing law would probably cover Mr Scrugg’s misdeeds and continues:

Over the years, the state has made it a crime to tamper with jurors and witnesses. But not specifically judges. Now, all doubt will be removed when the governor signs into law legislation drawn up by House Judiciary Chairman Ed Blackmon, D-Canton. Blackmon’s bill makes bribing a judge a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than five years but not more than 20 years, and a fine three times the amount of the bribe, but in no case less than $25,000.

The fact that the absence of the specific word, “judge,” in the current law might be interpreted to mean that judicial bribery is not illegal in Mississippi stunned some legislators.

Frankly, it flabbergasted us.

This brings us to the people behind the assault on the Attorney General, the state GOP.  Hang Hood High mania did die down, evidently to the chagrin of Jim Herring, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party.  According to Mr Herring federal convictions of Dickie Scruggs and company is still not enough. In coming out from the shadows, Mr Herring revealed the source of the anti Hood talking points and in doing so left himself open for a broadside salvo from Mr Hood as reported by Jerry Mitchell at the Clarion Ledger:

Hood said in a statement, “The federal government is handling these cases. The district attorneys of the state of Mississippi are, in essence, independent prosecutors, and my office has made available to them every resource we possess should they decide to pursue state charges.

“But given the Republican Party’s sudden pronouncement in this matter, the question must be asked: Has this entire sad and disappointing chapter in Mississippi history dissolved into ruinous partisan politics? For the sake of our citizens, I hope not.”

The irony is some of the same commenters lamenting the politicization of the US Department of Justice and it’s alleged effect on Don Siegelman have no problem doing that exact thing to Mississippi’s criminal justice system as the logical end result of their arguments against Mr Hood, who had neither the tools or possibly even the law in his arnsenal to clean up our judicial system, which now appears to be wholly owned by special interests such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the Trial Lawyers.

Whether at the State or Federal levels the administration of our system of justice, especially criminal justice where the very freedom of individuals are at stake, must be administered professionally, free from politics and political interference from either side of the political aisle.

We wish a speedy recovery to Nowdy and hope to see you back soon.

sop

4 thoughts on “Laws Against Judicial Bribery and Jim Hood Redux”

  1. A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks.

    Jason Whitmen

  2. I’m looking for some more information on the judge bribery bill that was proposed by Ed Blackmon. Did Barbour ever get to sign it or did it die off?

  3. Here you go.

    Barbour approved the legislation – HB1108 (Blackmon) April 3rd.

    However, the bill introduced by Blackmon was amended on the floor of the House before it passed.

    The amended version passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor.

    Here’s Blackmon’s bill as filed; here’s the amendment; and here’s the version that passed both House and Senate that was signed by the Governor.

    I don’t know why the change was made and don’t recall it being mentioned in news stories although the bill got a lot of attention, particularly once it was in the Senate.

    Any particular reason for asking?

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