Scruggs: the movie – Wow! northern MS just-us justice up on the big screen!

NEMS360 reports, “Longtime Hollywood insider Sam Haskell….has bought the television and film rights to Curtis Wilkie’s book, “The Fall of the House of Zeus”.

The project, said Haskell publicist Nathan Wells, “has the potential to spur a TV-film industry along in Mississippi, which has been one of Haskell’s goals since returning to Mississippi full time.”

“But for both Wilkie and Haskell, the book and the prospective movie also mean a chance to tell parts of the story that most press accounts could not…The story “has to be about redemption,” he added. “We all make mistakes; this was in the public eye in a way that created a perfect storm for misunderstanding.”

Redemption. Mistakes. Perfect storm for misunderstanding – ohdeargod, those words didn’t sit well with north Mississippi’s black- cloud just-us justice crowd.  Late afternoon, however, Zach Scruggs rained on their parade – and redemption, mistakes, misunderstanding took on a different meaning.

“You know Lackey much better than I, but I don’t believe he was taken aback one whit. If anything, I think he expected Balducci’s Of Counsel “assurances.” Look at the other judges and officers who signed on before Lackey … he didn’t want to be excluded.”

However, the really different meaning to Judge Lackey’s role comes when it’s viewed in light of the Government’s lack of jurisdiction to make a federal case out of the state judges’ position – meaning the Government had no “color of official right” to lend to Lackey.  It was this “color” that made a bribe of what otherwise have been Lackey’s extortion of money from Scruggs.  Without jurisdiction, the government was not just without “color” to lend Lackey, it was also without the authority to obtain a wire tap order and Judge Biggers without the authority to issue same –  and, folks, this “really different meaning” is going to make a great movie! Continue reading “Scruggs: the movie – Wow! northern MS just-us justice up on the big screen!”

Curtis Wilke: author of “Zeus” – and a man with many friends

The author is a friend of scruggs: No? How does that play out in the book?

Russell asked and I promised to answer.  Truth is that Wilke answers Russell’s first question in a two-page “Author’s Note” at the end of the book acknowledging his friends :

Dick Scruggs is my friend.

So are many other characters with roles on all sides of the political, civil and criminal conflicts in this book.

Wilke is a highly regarded professional journalist whose fidelity to the ethical standard of unbiased reporting, in my opinion, is only questioned by those who want him to tell the story the way they see it.  Russell’s questions are a different matter.  He simply wants to know such things as Wilke counts both Dick Scruggs and John Hailman among those he lists as his friends:

John Hailman, who triggered the investigation against Scruggs, shared an office suit with me…after he retired from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Russell also asked how Wilke’s friendship with Scruggs played out in the book – and that I answer by pointing out the evidence of balance, not bias, in a 30-page, chapter-by-chapter of listing of Wilke’s sources. He interviewed Dick Scruggs but he also interviewed a host of others with a different perspective including Charles Merkel, Grady Tollison, Joey Langston, John Hailman,  U.S.Attorney Jim Greenlee.  Wilke even interviewed Tom Dawson, the federal prosecutor who later co-authored “the other book”, Kings of Tort.

In the end, the book played out just like the story – and, at last, some of Oxford’s dirty little secrets are out.

Absolutely amazing – What you can learn reading Wilkie’s “Fall of the House of Zeus”

In an interview with Tupelo journalist Patsy Brumfield appearing on Sunday’s, “Zeus” author Curtis Wilke said,

“There were any number of subplots in the book that could be developed into bigger stories. I chose to concentrate on the Johnny Jones suit and the approach to Judge Lackey in order to keep a strong focus on one case. So Scruggs II, as the prosecutors called it, the case that sent Bobby DeLaughter to prison, does not get a full treatment in “Zeus.”

Wilke’s snapshot of Scruggs II, however, is more than sufficient for readers to see the big picture of the case and the influence it had on the outcome of Scruggs I.  A pretty picture it is not but it confirmed what had previously been rumored:  the legal team  representing Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom held a “mini-mock trial…to evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case” – an exercise described on pages 293-294 as producing “unhappy results”:

“the defense…[of the charges related to the bribery of Judge Lackey]…had been overwhelmed  by the introduction of the second case….[the alleged bribery of Judge DeLaughter]…and the suggestion that Scruggs had a history of bribing judges.” (pg. 294)

Allegations of the bribery of Judge DeLaughter first surfaced in the Grand Jury testimony of Tim Balducci:

“Balducci’s information not only imperiled Langston and Peters, it exposed Scruggs to a second charge of bribing a judge.  This opened the door for the government to use the 404(b) provision to show that Scruggs had a predilection for criminal behavior.” (page 264)

However, during a hearing on the Scruggs motion to dismisss Scruggs I charges against Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom, attorney John Keker had a brief opportunity to cross-examine Balducci and “pounced on inconsistencies”: Continue reading “Absolutely amazing – What you can learn reading Wilkie’s “Fall of the House of Zeus””

On the outside looking in at

The release of Curtis Wilke’s book on the “rise and ruin” of Dick Scruggs, “The Fall of the House of Zeus”, has reopened discussion of a subject I addressed in a June 5, 2008 post,  On the outside looking in at “the perspective of honest lawyers”.

As someone who is two-plus years older and still not a lawyer, I remain on the “outside looking in” – although, definitely, both “older and wiser” on “the perspective of honest lawyers” in terms of the anger they feel at Dick Scruggs for tarnishing their profession.  Like all growth, growing “older and wiser” was painful at times.  However, the aches and pains of aging paled to the heartache I felt while gaining wisdom from the anger of  “honest lawyers”.

Simply stated, not all who make the claim are “honest lawyers” but the truly honest are easily identified.  “Honest lawyers” also express anger toward the system of justice that failed in so many ways.  They rage and rail about the “good ole boy network” that closed rank to protect Judge Lackey and remained silent about the government’s conduct.  Honest lawyers seek no advantage and decry a system that viewed Grady Tollison’s contact with Judge Lackey with a closed eye.  Honest lawyers trade on their skill, have no connections to tout, and never ever toot their own horn in public.

Consequently, the belief expressed in my closing statement is one I believe even more today than when I hit “publish”:

To the whatever extent honest lawyers have not been honest people – fair and just in their treatment of all involved in USA v Scruggs and the Katrina insurance cases – they have corrupted the legal system as much, if not more, than those they blame.

My archived post follows: Continue reading “On the outside looking in at”

Tollison was green (with envy), Judge Lackey went whacky – Curtis Wilke’s “Zeus” a Scruggs tell-all

“[Wilke’s]… story is particularly tough on Oxford plaintiffs lawyer Grady Tollison, portrayed as jealous of Scruggs, who horns in on Tollison’s perceived primacy on the Square.And on Lackey, who delights in the federal yoke when he’s doing the FBI’s bidding to snare Scruggs, but turns eccentric and bitter as the story winds down, despite the accolades that come his way for his role.”
Not that “green Grady” and “whacky Lackey” weren’t obvious to those following USA v Scruggs; but, good for Curtis Wilke who lets it out in his Scruggs tell-all,  Fall of the House of Zeus – and good for Daily Journal reporter Pasty Brumfield who gets the word out in her review,  lending credibility to the opinion of Washington (state) attorney Steve Eugster:
“It seems we may have a situation where a trial judge engaged in earwigging with the attorney(s) for the plaintiff in the Jones v. Scruggs case. Evidence of the earwigging is found in the fact of the very unusual ore tenus motion whereby the judge entered an order sealing the file of the case from all the world open to be unsealed in the sole discretion of the attorney who filed the case.” Continue reading “Tollison was green (with envy), Judge Lackey went whacky – Curtis Wilke’s “Zeus” a Scruggs tell-all”

You bet your sweet a$$ “a response is in order” – Judge Biggers orders USA response to Zach Scruggs’ motion to vacate

The court has reviewed the movant’s request to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, and is of the opinion that a response from the government is appropriate.

September 16th Order of Judge Neil Biggers re: Zach Scruggs’ Motion to Vacate

Patsy Brumfield broke the story yesterday:

Almost a month ago, Scruggs’ attorneys said new evidence and legal developments showed he is innocent of the charges that sent him to prison for 14 months and cost him his law license and career… (link added by SLABBED)
Thursday, Biggers gave the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford 30 days to respond.   Biggers has presided over all the proceedings against Zach Scruggs, his father Richard Scruggs and other co-defendants in a scandal that rocked Mississippi’s legal community when it went public in late 2007…

[Zach Scruggs’]… motion tells the court “respectfully” that several of its central rulings in his case “were based on the inaccurate information provided to the court by the government.”

Especially not true, he says, was the government’s story to Biggers that then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston would testify that Zach Scruggs knew about another bribery plot.

A recent sworn statement by Langston, who is in prison because of that scheme, insists Zach Scruggs knew nothing about a plan to bribe a Hinds County judge in another legal-fees lawsuit against Richard Scruggs…

SLABBED notes Judge Biggers set for the date for the government’s response a few days before the release of “The Fall of the House of Zeus”, Curtis Wilke’s much anticipated book on the downfall of Dick Scruggs.