Breaking News! Judge dismisses RICO suit against Dick Scruggs and SMBD

With pleasure I eat ↑ (some of) my my words about Judge Keith Starrett who followed the law despite the fact his resulting Order dismissed the RICO case against Dick Scruggs and SMBD; i.e., Young v Scruggs:

Defendant Richard F. Scruggs was a highly successful trial lawyer who gained international fame from settlements with large tobacco companies. The plaintiffs, who are both attorneys, worked for Scruggs, Millette, Bozeman and Dent, P.A, (“SMBD”) a law firm and predecessor to defendant SMBD. The plaintiffs assert that they dedicated a large part of their legal career to assisting the defendants in obtaining the tobacco settlements.

On July 1, 1999, the plaintiffs entered into written agreements with the defendants which provided for the plaintiffs’ services in the tobacco litigation. The plaintiffs were employees of and not shareholders in the firm. As part of their compensation for services rendered in certain tobacco litigation, SMBD agreed to pay each plaintiff five percent of the net attorney fees the firm received from the tobacco litigation. Their agreement calculated “net fees” after certain deductions from gross proceeds, including fees due to other associated attorneys and “any other obligations by [the] firm in connection with tobacco litigation other than obligations to firm shareholders.” SMBD paid the plaintiffs through regular quarterly payments.

During and after the tobacco litigation, the defendants were involved in attorney fee disputes with Alwyn Luckey and William Roberts Wilson, both of whom claimed damages from fees earned in earlier asbestos litigation through association with the defendants. Luckey and Wilson also both sought a portion of the defendants’ tobacco attorney fees under a constructive trust theory, i.e., they should recover a portion of the defendants’ tobacco attorney fees because (they claimed) Scruggs and SMBD used asbestos fees due them to finance the tobacco litigation…

This court has previously addressed a similar issue in a RICO claim brought by Wilson and Luckey against the defendants and others for recovery of asbestos and tobacco attorney fees. In that case, Wilson and Luckey alleged that defendant Scruggs had committed predicate acts in furtherance of a scheme to deprive them of attorney fees. Wilson v. Scruggs, No. 3:02cv25TSL, slip op. at 16 (S.D. Miss. Sept. 29, 2003). In granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Judge Lee found that the alleged predicate acts did not meet the “continuity” requirement because they were all alleged to be “pursuant to a single effort to effectuate a single wrong against no one other than” Wilson and Luckey...

The plaintiffs’ allegations of racketeering activity are composed of nearly identical claims Continue reading “Breaking News! Judge dismisses RICO suit against Dick Scruggs and SMBD”

Jackson New Media and the effort to unseal records from State Farm v Attorney General Hood

In April 2009, Jackson New Media,  publisher of the Mississippi blog Y’all Politics, filed a Motion to Intervene in State Farm’s suit against  Jim Hood, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Mississippi.  Three television stations joined Jackson New Media as plaintiffs in the case:  WLBT (Jackson), WLOX (Biloxi)  and WDAM (Hattiesburg), now collectively “New Media”.

According to the Motion, New Media had “no forum within which it may seek to protect its free press and free access rights…under the Constitution of the United States and Mississippi Constitution of 1890, and free access rights under the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983”.

SLABBED responded in a post supporting the removal of seals from all documents filed in Katrina-related litigation:

The public’s First Amendment right to access relevant court materials does not begin and end with State Farm v Hood. In fact, in the context of Katrina litigation, the case pales by comparison to the relevant court materials that have been sealed since the 29th of August, 2005, when Katrina blew apart homes and families, neighborhoods and communities…

Later in the post, SLABBED added, “Asking to unseal a single document will cause some to question the motives of this worthy effort…” and followed with a reference to State Farm’s use of sealed documents in a case current at the time the post was written. Continue reading “Jackson New Media and the effort to unseal records from State Farm v Attorney General Hood”

Recuse in the Scruggs news

A coincidence, perhaps? Northern district Judge Shannon Aycock (Wilson v Scruggs) and southern district Judge Sul Ozerden (Young v Scruggs) each recused from a case involving Dick Scruggs in Orders dated October 15, 2009.

Wilson v Scruggs was filed in federal court in North Mississippi and assigned to Judge Neil Biggers.  Shortly after Scruggs’ co-defendant Steve Patterson filed his Motion to Dismiss, Judge Biggers recused and the case was reassigned to Judge Shannon Aycock.

However, Judge Aycock filed a Waiver of Judicial Disqualification with the Clerk:

Unless a waiver is obtained from all parties and all counsel, Judge Aycock intends to disqualify in this proceeding because of these circumstances:

Judge Aycock’s Courtroom Deputy, Ginger McDaniel Sullivan, worked as a
paralegal with the Wm. Roberts Wilson, Jr. P.A., law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, from June 2001 to February 2005. In that position, Sullivan worked under the direction of William Roberts Wilson, Jr., Charles M. Merkel, III, and Roberts Wilson, Jr. During her employment, Sullivan was familiar with and worked on issues in the lawsuit Wilson vs. Scruggs, et al, First Judicial District of Hinds County Circuit Court. This litigation was pending when she began her employment and was not resolved as of the date she left the firm…

If a waiver is not received from all parties and all counsel, this Notice and any responses will be kept under seal by the clerk and not shown to the judge, nor will the judge be informed of the identity of any party or lawyer who declined to waive the disqualification. If the disqualification is not waived, the case will be reassigned to another judge.

Apparently waivers were not received from all parties as Judge Aycock recused and issued a related Order dated October 15, 2009. Continue reading “Recuse in the Scruggs news”