“That’s the Biggest Bunch of Bull I’ve Ever Heard”

This post title is a quote from today’s Sun Herald given by Mike Moore in response to an allegation made by Judge Henry Lackey that parrots an often repeated State Farm PR talking point regarding Jim Hood being pressured by Mike Moore on behalf of Dickie Scruggs to drop his criminal investigation of State Farm. I’m unsure how Judge Lackey would know such things but perhaps it does illuminate how the man thinks and operates.  My blog partner Nowdy has covered Judge Lackey’s sometimes confusing testimony here and here for those interested. Here is today’s story:

Attorney General Jim Hood denies his predecessor delivered a warning that a wealthy lawyer would fund an opponent in last year’s election if Hood didn’t cooperate in Hurricane Katrina litigation. 

The allegation was made by Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, who is at the center of a judicial bribery scandal that toppled some of the most powerful attorneys in Mississippi.

Lackey was testifying Tuesday in a civil lawsuit when he claimed former Attorney General Mike Moore approached Hood on behalf of tort lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs. Scruggs allegedly wanted Hood to drop his criminal investigation of State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. over the insurer’s handling of homeowners’ claims.

“No, Mike Moore never approached me with such a message,” Hood said Tuesday in a statement. “Judge Lackey was right to turn the case over to the federal government, which has the wiretap authority that the state lacks.”

Scruggs pleaded guilty March 14 to conspiring to bribe Lackey in an unrelated case. Lackey testified he never informed Hood’s office about the bribery attempt because he was told Hood had been approached by Moore on Scruggs’ behalf. Instead, Lackey went to the FBI.

Moore said Wednesday there’s no truth to Lackey’s claim.

“That’s the biggest bunch of bull I’ve ever heard,” Moore said.

Moore, as attorney general in the 1990s, hand-picked Scruggs to lead the legal assault on tobacco companies that resulted in multibillion-dollar payouts.

This is not the first time allegations have surfaced that Scruggs sent messengers to tell Hood how to handle cases against State Farm.

An FBI report made public in February said Scruggs paid $500,000 to two men now entangled in the bribery investigation – New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci and former state Auditor Steve Patterson – to persuade Hood not to file criminal charges against State Farm.

Scruggs, who was suing State Farm on behalf of storm victims, was afraid the insurer “was not going to settle the civil cases” if the attorney general’s office filed criminal charges, according to the FBI report based on Balducci’s statements.

25 thoughts on ““That’s the Biggest Bunch of Bull I’ve Ever Heard””

  1. Judge sounds like he is hunting up some work for when he retires. Most of State Farms lawyers are from North MIssissippi. Those jackals err I mean lawyers would screw their own parents for a buck.

  2. Welcome to slabbed Gonesouth. Would you be open to the possibility your remarks are a wee bit harsh? State Farm is entitled to legal representation and it’s worth noting they also employ some very fine attorneys from the coast as well.

    That said I still wonder what possessed Judge Lackey to throw that gratitious and non salient elbow the other day.


  3. GoneSouth you sound like one of BelleSouth’s Hood Apologists…. Why do you have to get into personally attacking any group? Just because several people have now come forward to shed light on the justice abusing machine that was Scruggs, Inc? Do you mean to infer that Judge Lackey would perjure himself to get possible work later with State Farm? You want to believe the likes of Scruggs, Backstrom, Jr, Moore, Et al over a man that didnt have a horse in the race? You come across as someone not interested in facts as much as defending “your guys.” That’s the way it looks from up here anyway. I for one am happy to see that SOME PART of Mississippi is trying to shed it’s good ole boy version of justice. Heck, read some of Dickie’s own words about how he gets his verdicts decided outside of the courtroom and you will see perfectly why a lot of the rest of the states still view the south’s issues with law and the 20th century.

  4. Sop, maybe Judge Lackey has a hearing problem – that’s one reason folks, particularly older folks, blurt out inappropriate remarks. I found this comment on the Insurance law blog:

    “Judge Lackey had trouble hearing Mayo and often responded to questions with commentary well beyond the scope of the question. Several times, Cal Mayo appeared to be bordering on frustration with his witness.”

    That’s pretty consistent with age-related hearing loss. So either he doesn’t hear well or he had an agenda – not good either way. If it was an agenda, Gonesouth’s suggestion about “hunting up work” is one option.

    I tend to go with some hearing loss as it would account for his confusion about what Balducci was saying, too – “Balducci did not tell me ‘I will give you this of counsel position if you do this for me.’ He did not say that but that was my perception.

  5. My bad Sop. I guess jackals err I mean lawyers are the same whether they are hillbillys from NOrth Mississippi or sharks from the coast. This has got nothing to do with Jim Hood State Farm boy. The old geezer is having a hard time keeping his story straight. Repeating a rumor as fact in sworn testimony is called hearsay. This guy is actually a judge? Gimme a break.

  6. Thanks for the clarification Nowdy. I can relate to the hearing impairment. I’m still relatively young and said some contextually strange things because I didn’t properly hear the conversation due to my hearing loss.

  7. The mention of difficulty hearing, Sop, came from someone who was there just to record so it’s certainly credible – and it would apply more to certain speaking tones than others if it’s an age-related loss and, GoneSouth, also account for “having a hard time keeping the story straight”.

    Mass-a-mess, if you read the various accounts of “who said what to whom” in the newspapers today along with the related comments, you’ll see everyone “stepping lightly” around the Judge. That’s expected – particularly from lawyers, even those who don’t have the family ties to and/or a personal relationship with Lackey

    If nothing else, we certainly have a good example of what might have happened had the word gotten out that he thought Balducci might have been offering him a bribe – regardless of how well he does or does not hear – and another mess.

  8. It sounds like a lot of people were having trouble hearing. NMC, I think said so, too. But I think Alyssa Schnugg is hearing things. She reported in the Oxford Eagle that Lackey said that Stallings said that Hood had told him that Scruggs had sent Moore to put pressure on him. Now, that is something, no one else heard, if I am correct!

  9. Also, from reading the article posted above, I don’t think that An FBI report made public in February said Scruggs paid $500,000 to two men now entangled in the bribery investigation — it said that Balducci said that Scruggs said he’d pay him and Langston $500,000 da da da, then he said Scruggs paid $100,000 and wanted to pay the rest in montly installments. Balducci was concerned he wasn’t going to get the money, maybe because he knew he hadn’t convinced Hood, and that Hood had decided on his own not to go ahead with criminal charges. Maybe they did go out and chat and said they tried to pressure him when they actually didn’t because they knew Hood would blast them away.

  10. Belle my priorities have been elsewhere the past few days so I’m late to the party but the more I read and ponder all the allegations flying about I’m confused so it would not surprise me if Judge Lackey was confused too.

    What we know (I think) is Balducci told the FBI Scruggs promsied to pay him and Steve Patterson to go talk with Jim Hood. Correct me if I’m wrong because you were there but State Farm’s attorney’s had that information when they questioned Jim Hood in Natchez and that was before it was made public. We also have news accounts that State Farm also wanted the criminal proceedings dropped before they’d sign on to the first SKG settlement.

    Now, and I gathering out of the blue, Judge Lackey drags Mike Moore’s name into this as the guy who approached Jim Hood.

    This reminds me of the old Abbott and Costello comedy routine, Who’s on First, except that the joke is on people who lost their houses to Katrina and now appear to be directly under a pissing contest involving a bunch of yahoos from Jackson and Oxford intent on extending their proverbial 10 minutes of fame. Frankly this entire affair is taking on a Eau de Landfill quality that is sickening to contemplate.


  11. Belle, the only witness reported to have trouble hearing was Judge Lackey. I can imagine some observers did given the number suggested in the various reports and the fact that some were going in and out.

    We’ll have to get a transcript to know exactly what Lackey said but whatever it was is doing what Sop suggested – creating a situation that’s taking on a “Eau de Landfill” quality.

  12. Nowdy, you’re right about Lackey seeming to have a hearing problem and he was the one being asked and answered. In both accounts of the blogging Lackey said he went to USAG first then he said he went to Howorth and then to Stallings and then to the USAG, So, we don’t know what he did first, but if he did go to USAG first, the USAG told him not talk about it and then he went and talked about it.

    Also, I don’t remember any of the other bloggers reporting Lackey said anything about Balducci and Langston like another reporter said he did when he brought up Moore and Scruggs trying to influence Hood. It’s all a mess as far as I can tell.

  13. LAM (that’s Lord-a-mighty, Belle – may not be “proper” blogging language but it’s the first thing that comes to my mind).

    Folks take every word attributed to Scruggs as the gospel truth except when he said he didn’t bribe Judge Lackey. I don’t know Scruggs, don’t even think I’ve ever so much as even seen him but I know I’ve never seen a bigger mess.

  14. Maybe Lackey has a hearing problem, but the wiretaps and tape recorders the Feds used to bag Scruggs and his gang seemed to work just fine, didn’t they?

    Why do you people hate Lackey? Because he wouldn’t go along with Scruggs’ scam? Is an honest judge THAT unusual in Mississippi?

  15. Gosh, claimsguy, I believe the transcripts and evidence show it took Judge Lackey demanding money to bag anyone – but that’s beside the point and I certainly don’t “hate” Judge Lackey,

    I just think that when you’re not sure what you heard was a bribe, you should go to miracle-ear and not the FBI.

  16. In the current hang Dickie Scruggs environment it’s easy to label people who see a larger story as Judge Lackey haters or Dickie Scruggs apologists. That doesn’t do the facts here justice though Mr Claimsguy.

    For better or worse Judge Lackey is a part of this and to the extent his recent testimony revealed things were not quite the cut and dried package they were made out raises other questions. I found the context of his Mike Moore remark but that explanation also raises additional questions.

    I don’t hate Judge Lackey. Then again I don’t hate Dickie Scruggs. I generally try not to hate anyone – it is such a negative emotion.


  17. If the Feds didn’t have the goods on Scruggs and his mob, why did they plead guilty? They had (literally) the best lawyers money could buy, and the resources to put on the very best defense, but they looked at the case and caved.

    And the lesson you all draw from this is that Lackey is the bad guy.

    Until I hear you, Bellesouth, Cowboy, and all the rest of you say unequivocally that Scruggs was a crook and deserves to go to jail, I will continue to think you are apologists for him and his “magic jurisdiction/bribe witnesses/bribe judges” style of jurisprudence and that you really just wish he hadn’t gotten caught.

  18. Mr Claimsguy if the “you” you referred to is me then you have not read this blog closely as I have repeatedly stated that Mr Scruggs guilty plea speaks for itself.

    Then again this thread isn’t about that despite your best efforts to change the subject. Judge Lackey’s testimony revealed a political angle to this entire sad affair many people long suspected was present in the bashing of Jim Hood despite absolutely no evidence he was involved in this mess at all.

    The Judge said he didn’t go to Hood because he thought Hood was too close to Scruggs and he repeated a rumor that Mike Moore went to Jim Hood on Scruggs behalf as proof he was right. His source has since clearly stated he told Judge Lackey they were not as close as Lackey thought because Scruggs had threatened to run a candidate against Jim Hood if he didn’t settle with State Farm. And of course all that ignores the simple fact that Mr Hood could not have properly investigated the case even if he had wanted to as he lacks authority to wiretap, which was the crucial investigative tool used by the Feds to roll up Scruggs and Company. Surely a circuit court judge that tries criminal cases knew that.

    I know such complexities generally don’t make the popular press but there is a larger story here. I’m sorry if these legitimate questions about the inconsistencies in Judge Lackey’s testimony are too painful for you to consider but these questions are valid.


  19. “I have repeatedly stated that Mr Scruggs guilty plea speaks for itself.”

    Exactly. Saying “it speaks for itself” saves you the painful but necessary step of publicly ackowleging what it means: that the Scruggs litigation machine was a fraud.

    So long as you can’t say the words aloud, you are and will be in denial.

    This whole “what did Lackey say” thread is like focusing on the color of the Titanic’s captain’s shoes and ignoring his actions. Your actions in attacking Lackey while studiously avoiding ackowleging the underlying truth of the situation (that Lackey blew the whistle on the biggest civil-justice fraudster in recent history) speak loudly about your continuing state of denial.

    Instead, you continue to want to nit-pick Lackey as if HE is the problem here. Here isn’t the problem. He was a big part of the solution. You clearly don’t get that, and it leads me back to the conclusion that you are still in mourning for Dickie. And that you are studiously resisting the thought of REALLY getting to the bottom of the whole mess: what did Hood know and do? What did Moore know and do? How did the State of Miss let its criminal justice system become part of Scrugg’s profit-making ventures? What did PL Blake do for his $50M? Whose pockets did that money end up in? Those questions you are uninterested in. But Lackey you are fascinated by.

  20. My statement means nothing of the sort Mr Claimsguy. A guilty plea means the person making it is a self admitted felon. Pretty simple really.

    Judge Lackey is a central figure in this entire affair. He tells the WallStreet Journal one thing in December but when his hand went on the good book in open court his story changed a bit. That is worth discussing and is the topic of this thread.

    Blogs are free and you are welcome to start one of your own if you wish to talk about what Dickie Scruggs did. Bob and weave all you want sir, but Judge Lackey has some explaining to do; about is attacks on Jim Hood and Mike Moore for one, which coincidentaly do benefit insurance interests.

    Now I ask you, as a sitting circuit court judge surely Judge Lackey knew Jim Hood lacked the legal authority to wiretap. Why do you think Judge Lackey felt the need to repeat a rumor to justify his actions instead of saying the obvious?

    Exactly who is in denial?


  21. Why did Lackey seal the case at the request of Tollison even though he said he had not spoken to Tollison and had never sealed a case like that before? Why did he recuse himself and then lie about it and then get back on the case? There were filings that Tollison was putting out there so State Farm could use them against Hood and Scruggs in Natchez which is where this Scruggs-was-going-to-fund-someone-else’s-candidacy first came out in SF v. Hood! Lackey said in court that he wished Balducci would have said oh, no, you’ve misunderstood me but Balducci clearly said that he did NOT want to put the judge is a position he didn’t want to be in. I have heard Lackey is a good judge but I am wondering how old is this man?

  22. Supposedly 73 – or was at the time he did the interview after the indictment of Scruggs and the others last fall.

    His testimony about the seal was surprising – particularly given his age and the fact that he’s been a judge for some time.

    Although he said he’d never sealed a complaint, it doesn’t appear he gave it much thought at all the way I read it – Tollison had an order written when he made the request and that’s what Lackey signed.

    I’ve heard the same good things about him and almost nothing to the contrary – “confused” is one of the words Mike Moore used…

  23. Just found this thread by link and doing some catch up on it. I got the inpression that this was about Lackey not being honest about Moore/Hood issues in his testimony as per Moore, etc. Didn’t it come out that maybe he was basically correct what his testimony was about after Stallings was contacted, and maybe Moore wasn’t being totally honest, or maybe the reporter that 1st went with Moore’s version was mixed up, or both? Seems like I read that the reporter has made a correction to the story, and I read somewhere else that stallings basically backed up what Lackey said. Maybe I’m missing something here.

  24. I think Lackey faithfully repeated the rumor he was told by Lon Stallings. The nuance is that Lackey said it was the reason he did not go to Jim Hood. Per Stallings he said he repeated it as an example of why Hood wasn’t as close to Dickie Scruggs as Lackey assumed.

    The bottom line Beau is that Jim Hood did not have wiretap authority per the Mississippi Code and could not have properly investigated this even if Lackey had gone to him.

    Welcome to slabbed.


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