A dun? Surely not with Duggins

When PACER popped up with Scruggs v Zuckerman Spaeder, there didn’t seem to be a lot of news value in the story – particularly given all the other things we’re working on.

That certainly wasn’t the case, however, when the firm withdrew as counsel for the Rigsby sisters with a cheap shot at Scruggs heard round the world – if mention in Fortune is any indicator – one that, no doubt, embarrassed the Rigsby sisters.

This motion to withdraw is the result of the inability of the Rigsbys and others to pay Zuckerman Spaeder LLP’s fees and expenses going forward, or to adequately satisfy existing fee and expense obligations.

Given the remaining balance is $1.7 million plus change, whatever had been paid prior to that should have been more than enough to buy better manners – not to mention better results.

Speaking of results, how is it that Scruggs ended up getting the dun for the bill when between Judge Coleman and Judge Senter the liability of all members of the joint venture seems abundantly clear?

No real news value like I said but definitely worth a mention.

28 thoughts on “A dun? Surely not with Duggins”

  1. Zuckerman/Spader and lawyers like Keker are for the super rich. I’ll bet that bill was only for two or three months.

  2. I read in one of the other blogs that the bills through something like October or November were paid and the person expressed that this amount was only for just a few months. I also remember one of the judges saying that all the members of the SKG/KLG share and share alike in responsibility at least as far as knowledge/responsibility of liability in the Sisters being involved in the cases and working as “sham” consultants as the judge put it. That being said, I would think that the same reasoning would apply to this situation. My question is if there is no written indemnity agreement to fall back on between Scruggs and the Sisters, is that going to be any defense that Scruggs and the other members can use in their case? Is there a possibility that this fee bill could end up being the ultimate responsibility of the Sisters, since I would venture to guess they actually signed on the dotted line for the representation contract. I still have a sinking feeling that Dickie is going to pull a Dickie with the Sisters just like he did with numerous co-counsel in the past and hang them out to dry. i;m probably tainted to him by now, but his past history with people he worked with isn’t all that good.

  3. Dickie has a long history of stiffing the people he works with.

    Any lawyer that takes work from him and doesn’t get paid up front is a fool.

    And anyone who doesn’t take that as a reflection of the (lack of) character of the man isn’t paying attention.

  4. I was just looking to see what Michael R. Smith ? PHV
    ZUCKERMAN SPAEDER, LLP and William W. Taylor ? PHV, III ZUCKERMAN SPAEDER, LLP did for all of that money. They were admitted as attorneys for the Rigsbys as movants in McIntosh v. State Farm. These two guys were 2 of 6 attorneys for the Rigsbys and from searching the docket all I could find that they did was sign on as attorney and then sign off. Other than that, I have no idea what they did especially being from Washington D.C.

    Lenora Miles Rigby ZUCKERMAN SPAEDER LLP however did do quite a bit of work in Renfroe v. Rigsby regarding Motion for Protective Order. Zuckerman Spaeder were four of nine attorneys in Renfroe v. Rigsby but they just signed in and out as well.

    Beau, I guess there is a possibility that this fee bill could end up being the ultimate responsibility of the Sisters, but they can’t get blood out of a turnip. IOW, they would be barking up the wrong tree, don’t you think?

  5. Interesting news item that you all seem to have missed: Judge Lackey, the judge you people like to slime, has been named Judge of the Year. It would appear that your collective opinion of him is a minority view.

    Judge Lackey Honored By Mississippi Bar
    By ALYSSA SCHNUGG
    The Oxford Eagle
    Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, of Calhoun City, describes himself as a

  6. No question, judge Lackey is due a “Green Peanut” from Greenlee. I think it’s funny when those guys say “well I hated to do it but…” yea right. They were fighting back the smiles, they landed the big one.

  7. Yeppers, duesouth. He was right at first when he recused himself. He had had ex parte communications with both sides. He was wrong to put himself back on the case and then ask his “friend,” Balducci for money. No one from the Scruggs side even blinked when he recused himself. He wasn’t worth that much to them. Lackey set them up big time and he knows it.

  8. BS, I agree with the blood out of a turnip idea on the Sisters, and everyone else associated with SKG/KLG have much deeper pockets then they do. I would venture to guess that is why Scruggs is involved in this to begin with, as he has the deep pockets. If there is no written indemnity agreement, or anything else in writing to show there was an agreement between Dickie and/or SKG/KLG with the lawfirm or the Sisters, I can see this getting messy for the Sisters. The attorneys at SKG/KLG may say to the Zuckerman firm that if they want the $, go to their clients to get it. I don’t see then coming to the aid of Scruggs or the Sisters based on what has happened in the past and this latest round of salvos.

  9. You may be correct. In which case they aren’t going to get their money. The sisters don’t have $1.7 million to give them. But I think there was an agreement with SKG, but now that Scruggs Law Firm is out of SKG, SLF says they don’t owe the money billed to SKG. I don’t know about KLG but they had an agreement with SKG.

  10. Beau about Scruggs past co-councel getting the short end of the stick, betta look at the number of multi-millionaires he has made with tobacco/asbestos. Seems like the golden tit has dried up. SKG/KLG is made up mostly of those guys right?

  11. Just remember, folks: knowledgable observers (the MIss Bar Asso) thinks what Lackey did is worthy of positive recognition. (Might they be better informed than you?) Is HE ambivalent about it? Of course he is. He would have much preferred that when, AT THE DIRECTION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, he hinted about money, Balducci had said “gee Judge, you misunderstood me. I would never go in for that sort of thing.” But no: Balducci said no such thing. Instead, he and his gang of crooks rose to the bait, and responded with cash as if they had done it many times before.

    But you still think Lackey is the problem.

  12. Go back and read the transcripts, claimsguy. Balducci told Lackey he did not want him to do anything he was uncomfortable with. Remember Lackey asked for the money. Yes, I do think Lackey was the problem. He should have recused himself immediately and submitted Balducci to the bar. Remember it took him 7 months to get to bribery and that was because he asked for it. All Scruggs wanted was arbitration which is what Jones wanted in the first place. We have made our selves clear here, claimsguy, what’s your point?

  13. The Bar is a “knowledgable observer” for sure, claimsguy – it appears they’re still “observing” the complaint the Scruggs firm filed on this matter (re: referenced by Zach in the November recorded conversation)

    btw, I note the all caps and wonder if you think that point was lost. It hasn’t been but a lot of people wonder what motivated Lackey to handle the situation the way he did and let it reach the point of law enforcement involvement – in that regard, the question is why you don’t think Lackey’s conduct is part of the problem.

  14. Claimsguy, I’m not a lawyer, do not know anyone on the Bar and can’t pass judgment on the Mississippi Bar. Tim Balducci bribed a judge, not Dick Scruggs. Why doesnt that fluffy article you posted mention Tim Balducci one time, but highlights “Dickie” Scruggs. Thats what I have a problem with. Lackey wasn’t content with catching someone tring to bribe him, he wanted front page, not section B. Boy he is on the map now with that award and everything. Mr I need fourty to get me over a hump. That is not a hint. Just my opinion.

  15. Not a lawyer either, duesouth, but one would think the Bar would be concerned about recognizing Lackey for “exceeding the call of his judicial office” when it’s been claimed that includes violation of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 1, 2 and 3.

  16. Lackey, at the direction of law enforcement, puts Balducci and the boys in a position where all they had to do is say “no”. They faced a very clear decision: let the case resolve on the merits, or bribe the judge.

    They bribed the judge, and acted like doing so was standard operating procedure.

    I cannot, for the life of me, see how Lackey is the problem here. The problem here is that the other judges that Scruggs bribed did NOT do this. If they had, this would have been nipped in the bud, and the Mississippi civil justice system might not have the abysmal reputation it currently enjoys.

    And suggesting that Lackey’s tossing it to the ethics people is good enough is incredibly naive. That process is all about lawyers covering up for lawyers. It would have accomplished nothing.

    But perhaps that has been your preferred outcome all along.

    It’s funny, really: when it is the Rigsby’s, you exalt and worship “whistleblowers”, no matter what other sins they might have committed. And you obviously have no problem with “confidential informants” in general, since your love for Scruggs the “confidential informant” continues unabated. But Lackey gets no slack at all.

    I struggle to see a consistent, principled position there. Lackey is the only one that actually uncovered a crime (and a heinous one, at that) and he is the one you dislike. It makes me think that you liked the corrupt status quo.

  17. No he hasn’t Nowdy but he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night..

    Pigs love mud. Lackey took out his own protege to get at Scruggs. Balducci gets witness protection and the boys get time in the pen. Nobody likes a rat.

    sop

  18. “Nobody likes a rat”.

    Then explain your love for the Rigsbys.

    I respectfully suggest that your positions there are, shall we say, inconsistent.

    And no, I have never lived in the South. I grew up in a very rural environment, but not in the South. Is bribing judges, and the tolerance for it you all demonstrate, a Southern trait? Are you really saying that?

  19. Not saying that at all, claimsguy, and have no tolerance at all for bribing judges.

    None whatsoever – or for abuse/betrayal of trust, for that matter; and that’s why I have so little regard for Judge Lackey. His reaction to Balducci’s “overture” is totally inconsistent in terms of behavioral science and even more so in the family-like culture here.

    Apparently, it also was atypical from standpoint of some in the legal community – example: “Why was the Jones matter hung up for so long in front of Judge Lackey? It’s my understanding that Scruggs initially did not want arbitration, but then changed his position and would agree to arbitration. That should have ended the matter, shouldn’t it? I mean, that’s the kind of positive ex parte (or earwigging) that happens frequently

  20. So when someone tries to bribe a judge, the judge should just say “no” and leave it at that?

    Think about that systematically. If you are inclined to try to bribe a judge, a system in which the attempt is never met with negative consequences beyond “no” is perfect for you. When you make the overture, you can either get a yes or a no, but never a sanction. As a matter of game theory, the winners are those that makes lots of bribe offers. When they get “yes”, they win the case. When they get “no”, they lose nothing. That is NOT the way to structure a justice system, unless you want to design bribery into it.

    No, I have to insist that Lackey did the right thing. When he got the overture, he turned it over to law enforcement. That is the way you discourage the conduct. Your way is to wink at it.

    That may be what you think Southern culture requires, but my expectation for lawyers and judges is more stringent, and mine has no regional bias. I think bribery is universally wrong, and I think that winking at it is similarly wrong. If in fact this IS a regional cultural thing, and if in fact this IS that common, then Mississippi’s reputation is even more deserved than I thought.

    On this, we will have to agree to disagree.

  21. I must decline your kind offer to agree to disagree as it gives the wrong impression of my opinion.

    We don’t disagree, claimsguy, on the heart of the matter. We both think “bribery is universally wrong” and have “stringent” “expectation for lawyers and “more stringent” for judges.

    Where we differ – perhaps – is in what we expect of them personally and not just by virtue of their title. I say “perhaps” because you haven’t communicated your expectations of general conduct.

    Back when judges actually wore wigs, their status in a community was similar to that of a religious leader.

    In a sense, that’s still the case. They certainly are highly regarded members of the communities here.

    If Judge Lackey is all that’s he’s touted to be, would you not have expected him to deal directly with Balducci – not to ignore or “wink” as you say; but, in a very straight forward manner address his concerns with Balducci directly?

    It’s odd for one of his position to “consult” with others (and Lackey’s list of “others” was not short) and not take Balducci to task personally – and, equally odd, that none suggested he do so or report Balducci to the Bar.

    So, my bottom line is that we agree in large part, just not on the conduct of Judge Lackey – Maybe we’ll learn more in time as I don’t believe history will treat him well and there’s definitely more to this story.

  22. You miss the point. Attempted bribery is, by definition, a matter for law enforcement. Lackey did exactly what he was supposed to do: take the matter to them for handling. You propose that he take the law enforcement function into his own hands in a way that (as I explained earlier) is designed to see that such behavior is never discouraged or rooted out.

    Again, your way puts Balducci in a no lose situation: make the offer, and get either a “yes” or some flavor of “no”, but no other consequences. That mindset is how corruption becomes entrenched. As it apparently has.

  23. How come it took him 7 months to “nail” Balducci? It didn’t become a bribe until the Judge asked for money.

  24. Not missed the point, claimsguy, Lackey himself was uncertain and has stated that publicly. The only way to determine if bribery was attempted, or so it was said, was to ask for money.

    Here’s a short related post from another blog

    It is interesting and perhaps telling that the bribe was proposed by a Mississippi judge. A judge who was earwigged by a close friend. A judge who then took his friend into his confidence and then, when the friend was hitting rock bottom financially and emotionally, proposed that his friend pay him a bribe – $40,000. Obliging, the friend, and then caught accepting the judge’s proposed bribe of himself, proceeded to entrap his friends into the bribe in order to lighten the load he and his mentor judge had put on his life. There is much more to this sad tale than the shortcomings of Richard Scruggs, Sidney Backstrom and Zachary Scruggs.

  25. A few thoughts, before I leave you to mourn Dickie’s downfall in private:

    1> How is the 7 months relevant? Whether it took a day or a year, “yes” is “yes” and “no” is “no”. Some investigations take a long time. So what?

    2> Lackey’s uncertainty demonstrates that he understood the gravity of what he was doing, and it most certainly showed his understanding of how the appeasers in the crowd would view his behavior. He understood, as I did not until now, that the moral climate of Mississippi favored the bribers and disfavored those that would take action against them. You think his uncertainty reflects what, exactly? That he took the wrong course? I think it shows that he was thoughtful. (And I gather that the Mississippi Bar Association agrees with me on that point.)

    3> Your blogger friend uses a magic word: entrapment. Entrapment is a defense. Had Dickie’s team of world-class defense lawyers (the best money could buy) thought this was a REAL case of entrapment, I suspect they might have done something about that. Yet they looked at the evidence, assessed their chances, and plead guilty. That ought to tell you something about whether this was REALLY entrapment.

    4> Finally, as I keep reminding you, Lackey presented Balducci and the rest with the opportunity to say “no”. That one word ends it all. Blaming Lackey because Balducci and Scruggs and the others said “yes” is simply absurd.

    I once read that in any ethical delimma, the thing you least want to do is probably the right thing to do. That probably applied here. Lackey must have known that this was going to be a painful exercise. No doubt he was hoping and praying that Balducci and the others would react appropriately, and say “Judge, you misunderstood me. I was not intending to offer you some sort of quid pro quo, and if I gave you that impression, I apologise. You just rule on this case as you think best and we will live with it.” But they didn’t say that and what happened thereafter is on them, not on the guy who did the hard, right thing.

    To the extent that you don’t get that, the shortcoming is yours.

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