In Too many connections for lawsuit against Scruggs et al, a post to her blog published by the Daily Journal, Patsy Brumfield touches on a subject that has needed discussion since the indictment of Scruggs et al back in 2007:
Have you ever expressed your awe for how things just get “connected” in Mississippi?
Like, you find out your Mama is the governor’s second cousin or your former hometown baby-sitter is living down the street? Or you run into the mayor of Lucedale as you ride the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument? (That really happened to me.)
You know what I’m talking about.
Some know what Patsy’s talking about because they recall the motion filed by Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom for a change of venue:
Prominent members of the Northern Mississippi legal community, knowing full well the risks of prejudicing a venire in small-town Mississippi, have nonetheless piled on in condemnatory public statements about Scruggs. Clarksdale attorney Charlie Merkel told one reporter about the indictment: “I’m not surprised, because [Scruggs is] willing to use any means to an end. And it irks the hell out of me when Scruggs skates on the edge and makes the profession look bad.” Elsewhere, Merkel called Scruggs’s alleged acts “despicable.” Grady Tollison, who represented Johnny Jones in the fee-dispute before Judge Lackey, alleged that Scruggs has “had a consistent pattern of violating his fiduciary duties to partners in these legal ventures.” Another lawyer for Jones, Roy Percy went even further, declaring of Defendants in their hometown Oxford Eagle: “They should be ashamed to the deepest core. My clients are ashamed they were once associated with them…
Patsy did not have the local bar “connections” in mind when she wrote about the connections that appeared to force the Fifth Circuit to go to Texas to get a judge for the latest installment of legal cases against former Oxford mega-lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and co-horts:
…Anyway, Fifth Circuiter Edith Jones (of Texas) took the case out of Mississippi entirely, perhaps, because she just didn’t want to put up with more “connections” like those she found in the Northern District, headquartered in Oxford.
However, according to a related story also published in the Daily Journal, Jones did not take the case out of Mississippi:
Wilson’s attorney, Charles Merkel, said the case will not physically move to Texas, but Hittner will come to Mississippi when necessary.
Note the quote is not from either the Firth Circuit or the Northern District Federal Court but Wilson’s attorney – the same Charles Merkel cited in the Scruggs, Scruggs, Backstrom motion for a change of venue.
The change of venue motion made another point of interest given the partisan history of the appointing Judge, Edith Jones.
Local media also have added partisan political intrigue to their coverage of the Scruggs case. .. One prominent Mississippi commentator, Sid Salter of the Clarion-Ledger, stated that “if you’re a Republican in Mississippi, the reaction [to Scruggs’s indictment] is that Santa Claus came early this year. . . . Democrats count on him for campaign donations; Republicans hate him, especially those who think trial lawyers are bad for business.”
Judge Jones, a 1985 Reagan appointee to the Fifth Circuit, served as General Counsel for the Republican Party of Texas from 1982-83.
Jones appointed another former Houston attorney and fellow Reagan appointee David Hittner (Senior Judge, Southern District Texas FDC) after virtually all of the judges in Mississippi’s Northern District have presided or excused themselves because of conflicts surrounding the cases.
The actions affected by Jones’ decision are:
– The Wilson v. Scruggs lawsuit demanding millions of dollars from Scruggs and others, who Wilson says did not pay him what he was owed for participation in national asbestos litigation. He also wants payment for the money he says was his but was bankrolled into other lucrative fees-yielding cases.
– A forfeit of $425,000 by Peters as what’s left of the $1 million former Booneville attorney Joey Langston paid him for helping influence now-former Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter with the original Hinds County lawsuit, Wilson v. Scruggs.
Wilson, like Alwyn Luckey who successfully sued Scruggs in the Northern District Mississippi FDC several years ago, has long-standing ties to the state and national Republican Party.
Did Brumfield consider that when she wrote:
You can imagine Judge Jones’ eyes rolling when she considered all the relationships.
No wonder she didn’t waste her time on trying to find a South Mississippi fit.
She just decided to stick with her own home-folks.
Keep readin’ … patsy
We promise we will, nowdy
16 thoughts on “Patsy Brumfield scratches the surface in Too many connections for lawsuit against Scruggs et al…”
Dick Scruggs political contributing had less to do with idealogy than control which would lead more distant observes (such as the Legal Schnauzer wingnut for example) to conclude he was in cohoots with the GOP which is not the case.
The problem with pushing candidates without the strength of character to be their own man is that it is as easy to lose control or never gain it – for instance a frequent target of our ire, Magistrate Robert “Porky” Walker sits on the bench because Scruggs helped push him. I’m told reliably that Scruggs even employed Porky’s son for a time before the firm imploded in the judicial bribery scandal. The results of having a GOB that was also in cahoots with the insurers has been disasterous for the people down here.
Texas is no different. Just different players—
Speaking of sons, Judge Hittner’s son worked for George Bush. Is it cause for concern? In the context of Judge Jones’ history with the Republican party, yes. Why? Because Wilson, like Luckey, also has a history with the Republican party, including both have wives that have held various “official’ positions.
As to courthouse politics, I see nothing on the docket to indicate any benefit to Scruggs received from the Southern District Court. However, the connections that are subject of this post – and Patsy’s for that matter – are in the northern District court.
Oxford, without the University, was a very small town until the fairly recent growth of the medical community that fueled other growth.
The relationship between and among various elements of the legal community will, in many cases, go back decades. It was pretty clear throughout the first USA v Scruggs that those relationships mattered and that information was casually going in and out.
Judge Hittner will, of course, be welcomed into the legal community there and likely to the core group of “oldtimers” and it appears he will also be dependent on local court staff.
The end result is connections with connections with connections to Wilson but Scruggs et al as “odd men out” – not exactly “equal justice” IMO and better to have moved the case out instead of moving in a judge.
One “gang of thieves” simply substituted for another gang of thieves, from another State. The more things change, the more they remain the same. SOP and Nowdy owe it to the readers of SLABBED to post the comments about Judge Hittner from “The Robing Room”. I’d also like to know “more” about Magistrate Walker’s son’s employment. And by the way, who will serve as Hittner’s “I-Wanna-Be-a Real-Judge-Someday” Magistrate. I asked the question previously, but received no response.
Ashton, how about posting what you’ve found on the Robing Room in a comment or posting the link. I’m blank on your questions but if Merkel is correct and Judge Hittner will come to the State on an as needed basis, it sounds as if the Magistrate will be local.
How was moving it to Texas suppose to help Scruggs?
This is a great site Ashton. Thanks for the tip—
I’d like to have this Judge if it were me. He sounds like a regular Judge Russell from our Court.
Well I still would like this guy but it seems it is not possible for anyone to get this Judge. Unfortunately he passed recently. He will be missed I am sure. I have a special place in my heart for Judges and know his family feels his loss greatly. I hope God blesses them with comfort in his loss. God Bless.
William Wayne Justice
By Morris Dees Monday, Nov. 02, 2009Print Email Reprints Digg Facebook Twitter MORE
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Judge William Wayne Justice was a hero of mine. He set the pace for so-called activist judges and in the process became the most despised man in Texas. When Wayne was appointed a federal district judge in 1968, the South was not through fighting the Civil War. The most unpopular people were those, like Wayne, who enforced desegregation in schools.
It would have been easier to just go along, as so many other judges did. But Wayne, who died Oct. 13 at 89, didn’t wink at the law. After receiving handwritten letters from prison inmates describing awful conditions and brutal treatment, he appointed a lawyer to handle the case, a decision that led to an overhaul of the state’s prisons. While most people in Texas were glad to use migrant laborers as indentured slaves, Wayne helped their children get an education in the state’s public-school system.
When I found out that Wayne had been selected to receive an award in my name in 2006, I was actually a bit embarrassed. I would have been honored to get an award in his name, and I called him to tell him so. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He really was a saint with a briefcase and a gavel.
Dees is the co-founder and chief counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center
To Nowdy: (1) No, you and SOP should do it.I don’t have the “technical expertise”. (2) Neither you nor I really “know” which leaves us to “speculate” for now. To Steve: It’s not necessarily to “help” anyone. A “new ” Judge was needed, because all of the locals were disqualified or recused (you pick the word you want). “Somebody” must preside over the proceedings, although the “somebody” has a lifetime appointment with “good behavior” and need not be honest, unbiased or without prejudice (ie. “fair and impartial”). God help us all! P.S. I hate ALL Judges, State and Federal, so don’t accuse me of discrimination.
Seems to me the “connections” go so deep here that if the choice was bringing Texas judge in or taking case to Texas, the latter would be a better choice.
The best choice to ensure “equal justice” for both plaintiffs and defendants is an entirely different subject.
I like the judge you discovered and appreciate the link.
Sorry, Nowdy, but we don’t seem to be “communicating”. Hittner shouldn’t be on the Federal Bench, if “The Robing Room” is to be believed. What’s there to “like” about a bully Federal Judge, who thinks his shit doesn’t stink? The “better choice” as you describe it was “rejected” by “someone”, because Hittnet and his Staff will be travelling to Mississippi, courtesy of the American taxpayer. (And by the way, there’s NOTHING in Mississippi that I would “travel” for, except maybe dove-shooting (“palomas”, not “brown-breasted mattress thrashers”). My point is that the entire Federal Bench is FUCKED-UP, Louseyanna, Mississloppy, and TexASS. What’s your point? P.S. I don’t give a fuck about Dicky Scruggs, although I’d like to see Mr. Wilson get what he may be entitled to. (He NEVER should have done “business” with the likes of Scruggs).
Even though he is passed I love my dad very much so of course I disagree with you Ashton.
One reason we’re not communicating is because I’ve yet to find/read the “Robing Room” and have no idea if it should be believed.
Just a thought but maybe Wilson has all he’s “entitled” to and Scruggs shouldn’t have done “business” with Wilson. Whatever – our “state slogan” needs to be “get off the table Mabel, the quarter’s for the beer”.
I hear he was great judge, Steve, and obviously great dad.
Here’s link to the Robing Room…looks like opinion pretty much splits down the middle with overall 5.2 out of 10.
Interesting how many judges come from distant states…not good IMO
To Steve: Gotziggady! I didn’t mean to demean your Dad! I didn’t know him. Please accept my sincere apology.
Ashton you didn’t demean my dad. Your OK by me Ashton. And thanks Nowdy for the shout out about my dad.
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