11th Circuit overturns Scruggs contempt citation!

Renfroe’s suggestion of mootness by virtue of Scruggs’ satisfaction of the June 5, 2008, contempt judgment is unavailing… The satisfaction of a joint and several liability does not moot the appeal of the debtor satisfying the judgment. See United States v. Balint, 201 F.3d 928 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Corley v. Rosewood Care Center, Inc., 142 F.3d 1041, 1058 (7th Cir. 1998)) (“Payment of the sanction does not moot the appeal because the appellate court can fashion effective relief to the appellant by ordering that the sum paid in satisfaction of the sanction be returned”)…

That interesting piece of information comes from a footnote in the 11th Circuit ruling vacating Judge Acker’s Order.

The Sun Herald has the story and the 11th Circuit’s ruling.  Way to go, Anita Lee!

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a federal judge who cited then-attorney Dickie Scruggs for contempt of court…Acker held both Scruggs and the adjusters, sisters Cori and Kerri Rigsby, in contempt of court when the records were not returned to the Rigsbys employer, independent adjusting firm E.A. Renfroe. Acker levied a $65,000 fine to compensate Renfroe’s attorney’s fees in pursuing the records.

Scruggs paid the fine into a holding account and appealed Acker’s decision.

Renfroe, which supplied adjusters to State Farm after Katrina, had sued the Rigsbys in the company’s home state of Alabama for breach of contract. The appellate court held that Scruggs was not a party to the Renfroe vs. Rigsby lawsuit and, therefore, could not be held in contempt. The appellate judges also removed Acker from any further proceedings in the case.

The 11th Circuit ruling has Acker eating his own words:

…Based upon our review of the district court’s two contempt orders in this case, we conclude Continue reading “11th Circuit overturns Scruggs contempt citation!”

duck, duck, goose – Balducci taps Delaughter

Balducci, who was questioned as part of the unrelated Eaton v. Frisby lawsuit, is expected to testify against DeLaughter, who goes on trial Aug. 17 in U.S. District Court in Oxford on corruption charges. DeLaughter has insisted he is innocent, following the law in his rulings.

The sweet potato king is back in the news – exactly how seems to be the question:

Contacted for comment about the deposition, DeLaughter’s attorney, Thomas Durkin of Chicago, remarked, “I find it very curious how a sealed document ended up in the hands of the press, and it’s more proof to me that money is the root of all evil. People will do a lot of things and say a lot of things to protect their money. Someone is obviously attempting to poison the jury venire.”

Even more curious than a sealed document ending up in the hands of the press is the difference between the babbling Balducci in the recorded conversations of Scruggs I and the standard-English speaking witness he became as a witness.

And, then, there’s the matter of the Motion to Dismiss the Indictment for Government Misconduct Occurring Before the Grand Jury. Continue reading “duck, duck, goose – Balducci taps Delaughter”

of loose lips and sinking ships – and Balducci’s “extraordinary cooperation”

Talented reporter Alyssa Schnugg has often compensated for the delayed reporting of the afternoon publishing schedule of the Oxford Eagle with a more complete story than the morning papers.  Unfortunately, her story of the sentencing of Tim Balducci stops short of an explanation for Balducci’s “immediate cooperation” and fails to question what “wrong” he is attempting to “right”.

Timothy Balducci and Steven Patterson both appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Neal B. Biggers this morning at the Federal Courthouse in Oxford.

Both men pleaded guilty a year ago to a charge of conspiring with Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, his son and attorney Zach Scruggs and his law partner Sidney Backstrom to bribe Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 for a favorable ruling in a lawsuit against the elder Scruggs involving legal fees in Hurricane Katrina related litigation.

During Balducci’s sentencing hearing, U.S. Assistant Attorney Bob Norman told the judge that his department had never seen such “complete cooperation” from another defendant…“His cooperation was immediate,” Norman said. “He’s doing the best he knows how to do to right the wrong he has done.”

What Paul Harvey would introduce as ” the rest of the story” comes from the unlikely source of Rossmiller’s Blog in addition to other transcripts of recorded conversations and court proceedings in USA v Scruggs. Continue reading “of loose lips and sinking ships – and Balducci’s “extraordinary cooperation””

Judge Acker starts the motion meter running in Renfroe v Rigsby (the Alabama case)

Looks as if Judge Acker was ready and waiting for formal notice of the failed attempt to mediate a resolution of Renfroe v Rigsby, the Alabama case.

Today he issued an Order notifying the parties he was starting the meter running on motions that had not been ruled on prior to mediation.

The mediator having reported to the court that mediation was unsuccessful, all motions as yet unruled on are again under submission.

No further briefing will be allowed unless a party wishes to supplement an earlier brief with a decision that was entered by the deciding court after March 1, 2008.

I checked the docket and, best I can tell, the remaining motions are cross motions for Summary Judgment.  In other words, both the Renfroes and Rigsbys have pending motions for dismissal.

Acker narrowly defined any supplemental motions that he will consider.  I certainly expect there will be one or more filed and will continue to check the docket and keep you up to date.

By the way, while I was checking, I looked at the 11th Circuit and found no indication there had been a ruling on the Appeal filed by Dick Scruggs.

Here’s the link to bellesouth’s post on Acker’s last order before mediation began.

Fool me once, shame on you!

From the hearing on motion to disqualify the dumbass judge in December 2007 after he’s “told Renfroe to move for Civil Sanctions”:

First, Judge Acker:

Now, whatever I said, and I can’t remember the quote, that triggered or generated the request by Renfroe to hold both Scruggs and the Rigsbys in civil contempt in the form of sanctions, monetary sanctions. Quite frankly, when I put that down, I wasn’t thinking about Scruggs. I was thinking about the Rigsbys.

I’m not saying that they misread me or that they were wrong in seeing that opportunity or the possibility in what I said to seek civil sanctions against Scruggs also. And they did. And that’s why we’re here..

Then, it’s Keker, representing Scruggs:

The only way you get jurisdiction over non-parties is if they aid and abet a contempt. And here there wasn’t any contempt to aid and abet you so found. Therefore, no jurisdiction; send us home. The 11th said not yet; let the district court decide this.

The next thing is that you suggest to them that they take another look at whether or not the Rigsbys are in contempt. What we think is that that’s a very shrewd, tactical move by an excellent first class prosecutor to shore up the jurisdiction in his case. And by prosecutors, I’m referring to you. Continue reading “Fool me once, shame on you!”

On the wisdom of Biggers and sentencing of Scruggs

One could say that Judge Neil Biggers and I grew up together in a southern sort of way – a generation apart and never knowing one another. Yet, because I knew some of his “people” and rather suspect he knew some of mine, he’s been a public presence for as long as I remember.  In a sense, he’ll will remain one for generations to come because he settled Mississippi’s landmark higher education desegregation case.

I came to “know” him rather well then though only through the eyes of those actually involved in the negotiations. Publicly they spoke of his perspicacity; but, privately – well let’s just say he showed a bit of LBJ.

Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad. Continue reading “On the wisdom of Biggers and sentencing of Scruggs”

Lackey and Balducci- the Laurel and Hardy of judicial bribery

As I read the Objections to the presentencing investigative report on Sid Backstrom filed by attorney Frank Trapp, two thoughts came to mind almost simultaneously.

One, that Lackey and Balducci were the Laurel and Hardy of judicial bribery – the this is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into leaders of what never was meant to be; and, the other

Frank Trapp writes like the honorable man he’s reported to be and honors all with his candor – his client, the co-defendants, and the Court – while objecting to the report.

To avoid misunderstanding, these objections are solely to place the conduct in what counsel believes is a fair and accurate statement of the facts and law. It is not to avoid or diminish acceptance of responsibility by Mr. Backstrom. To be clear, whether in the first instant a lawyer offers money or a judge asks for money, the payment of money by a lawyer to a judge is illegal—that is not disputed.

His “fair and accurate statement of the facts” also provides the most coherent account to date of what took place – and what didn’t. You’ll want to read every word. Continue reading “Lackey and Balducci- the Laurel and Hardy of judicial bribery”

Grab your hiking boots – time to wander from Perdigao v Adams & Reese to USA v Scruggs

If you find yourself lost as we wander from NOLA way up to the land of Faulker, worry not – this is not about changing the facts to fit the picture, it’s more of a sight-seeing trip to see if the facts fit the frame.

Among the comments made to the Perdiago update Sop posted today, were several about Perdiago’s allegations about Allstate and Robert Wooley, the former Louisiana insurance Commission who joined Adams & Reese. Take note of section 73 and these two sentences:

Notably absent from Wooley’s list ofpotential clients in his business plan was a “big fish” that was not already a client of the firm. The firm already represented State Farm, the largest homeowners’ insurer in the state. Continue reading “Grab your hiking boots – time to wander from Perdigao v Adams & Reese to USA v Scruggs”

On the outside looking in at “the perspective of honest lawyers”

the honesty of the system in which I work every day is life or death to me. Just as much as my house is. Something that undermines that is just as life-or-death to me as a wind that blows your house away. I can’t live, function, and work in a corrupt legal system…I think there are parts of this you aren’t getting because you don’t understand the perspective of honest lawyers.

Honest and written from the heart – albeit not to me – these comments stand without reference in tribute. USA v Scruggs and the Katrina insurance cases opened a window into the legal system. What those outside sometimes see when looking in has created concern about the integrity of the system as well as the judicial system, and, at times, given rise to questions about the conduct of lawyers relative to these cases.

An honest lawyer is defined by other lawyers as one who follows the rules – and, by extension, a properly functioning judicial system would do likewise. Consequently, once USA v Scruggs was filed, the perspective of honest lawyers was outrage at the idea of another lawyer earwigging or attempting to bribe a judge and insistence the system show no mercy.

In turn, this perspective was reflected in commentary and comments on weblogs, media coverage, calls for reform of the legal and judicial system, and examination of the cases identified with Scruggs – asbestos, tobacco, and Katrina insurance claims are examples that come to mind.

I understand that perspective, I just don’t share it when there is no benefit of doubt or fidelity to innocent Continue reading “On the outside looking in at “the perspective of honest lawyers””