Slight of hand – Government playing trick on Judge Biggers with Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions

Hopefully, Judge Biggers will catch the slight of hand trick when he reads the Government’s Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions – admittedly, I missed it on my first read and only read it again after catching Patsy Brumfield’s story on NEMS360.com this morning: Feds insist Scruggs request ‘reckless’ to question key figures under oath.

Prosecutors say Zach Scruggs’ request to take sworn statements from 11 key judicial-bribery case witnesses is “reckless, speculative and legally ineffective.”

Their motion filed late Friday argues that the only people the court should subpoena for live testimony should be Scruggs’ four original co-defendants in the 2007 judicial bribery case that rocked Mississippi’s legal community…

Here’s the trick – the Government wants to substitute affidavits given to counter Zach’s Bar Complaint against his former attorney, Anthony Farese, for the depositions Zach requested in his Motion for Depositions.  While the names may be the same – Langston, Dawson, Sanders, and Norman – Zach’s Motion goes much further than his complaint against Farese.  Not only that, the Government tosses in the affidavits of Oxford attorney Kenneth Coghlan and former Langston law partner Ron Michaels – both supporting Farese in the matter before the Bar, to make the slight of hand trick more believable to Judge Biggers.

However, there are far more significant issues before the Court than those addressed in Zach’s Bar Complaint against Farese – and the Government’s response ignores those issues all but in total.  For example, the Government’s position is Judge Lackey should be given a free pass (another one!): Continue reading “Slight of hand – Government playing trick on Judge Biggers with Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions”

Zach Scruggs files the mother of all motions – Motion for Deposition of all Scruggs defendants and key players UPDATED

Update: Patsy Brumfield reports on Zach’s motion in the Sunday edition of NEMS360What may they say, if Zach Scruggs questions key players?

Skipping the legal argument of Zach’s Motion for Depositions (below in Scribd format) and going straight to what everyone has always wanted to know:

“The following states the name of each person whose deposition is requested, along with illustrative (but not exhaustive) information explaining the discoverable information that person is likely to provide. For the sake of brevity, each entry incorporates the knowledge stated for prior witnesses”.

Sidney Backstrom:

Mr. Backstrom was a co-defendant in this case, who worked in the Scruggs Law Firm across the hall from the Petitioner. Mr. Backstrom has discoverable knowledge concerning the Scruggs Katrina Group and their assessment of the Jones case, whether Petitioner ever knew about an alleged bribery scheme or whether there was any such bribery scheme. This Court has previously suggested that Mr. Backstrom would surely have discussed a bribery scheme with Petitioner (see Petition, D.E. 303 at 33), and Mr. Backstrom will put such speculation to rest. Specifically, Mr. Backstrom can provide context to the November recording, testifying as to whether Petitioner was present during key moments. Mr. Backstrom is also a witness regarding the existence of certain alleged conversations and emails, about which Timothy Balducci has testified falsely.

Mr. Backstrom can also testify to whether Petitioner ever did anything to join the conspiracy, in support thereof, or to conceal the same, along with the state of mind of the Petitioner regarding Judge Lackey’s order compelling arbitration. Mr. Backstrom also has knowledge of exculpatory discussions he had with federal authorities concerning Petitioner both before and after he became a cooperating witness, as well as about the existence or absence of any documentation of such discussions, which should have been disclosed to Petitioner. Mr. Backstrom will also impeach testimony and representations previously given to this Court by both Government witnesses and the Government itself. Mr. Backstrom presently resides in Texas, outside the civil subpoena power of this Court, making a deposition the only practicable way to get his testimony for this Court…(citations omitted)

Richard Scruggs

Mr. Scruggs was the primary defendant in this case, and has discoverable knowledge about the foregoing issues. Mr. Scruggs is also in the best position to testify about who created the alleged bribery scheme, when, and how, and most importantly, whether Petitioner was ever told about that alleged bribery scheme. In addition, Mr. Scruggs knows whether Petitioner was ever informed about the $40,000 and $10,000 payments to Mr. Balducci, or whether Petitioner was informed that the legal work assigned to Mr. Balducci on a Hurricane Katrina case was a mere sham, as the Government alleges, to provide cover for reimbursing the alleged bribery funds.

Mr. Scruggs can also testify to whether Petitioner ever did anything to join the conspiracy, in support thereof, or to conceal the same. This testimony will also serve to impeach testimony and representations previously given to this Court by both Government witnesses and the Government itself. Mr. Scruggs resides in a Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Kentucky, outside the civil subpoena power of this Court, making a deposition the only practicable way to get his testimony for this Court…(citations omitted)

Zach also seeks to depose Steven Patterson,Timothy Balducci, Judge Henry Lackey, William Delaney, Joseph Langston, Anthony Farese, Tom Dawson, Judge David Sanders, and Robert Norman – specifics below the jump. Continue reading “Zach Scruggs files the mother of all motions – Motion for Deposition of all Scruggs defendants and key players UPDATED”

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!”

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”

Flipping the wig on “whiggocracies”

“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi”

When I need words to explain something “Mississippi”, I reach for the last work of the late (and great) Willie Morris, “My Mississippi” – and what words I find! Some, such as those of Faulkner, come as quotes from other Mississippi writers.  The most telling, however, are those words that show the depth of this understanding of this place he called “home”:

“It has been remarked that Mississippi has produced so many fine writers because the state is such a complicated place that much interpretation is required.”

Victoria Pynchon’s recent piece on Mississippi earwigging and Zach Scruggs was the impetus for my calling on Willie.  SLABBED considers Pynchon a friend.  In fact, we hold her  in such regard that the link to her “Settle it Now” Negotion Blog has been a constant on our blogroll and will remain so despite the “h” she inserted in “earwigging” or her need for “interpretation” of  the practice in this “complicated place”.

Here in this “complicated place”, perhaps because so many once lacked the skills to read and write, “earwigging” is not a reflection of a “whiggocracie” but is, instead, an art — a form of the storytelling that, like the run-on sentences often found in “our literature…and music” that boggies all night long — that doesn’t know when to stop.  Yet, it too, was grown “directly out of land and the sense of place – the mark of the land… the love of narrative:

One sees this at some times directly and at other times through a vivid concreteness and emphasis on detail, as in the stories we love to tell…We are talkers.  We talk about ourselves, each other, our ancestors, events, the funny and quirky and bizarre things people do — true stories, more or less, and the richer and more plentiful the detail, the better…Like storytelling, art of whatever form plays a communal role: it draws people together, helps them understand themselves and their common humanity…”

Pynchon’s article focuses on Zach Scruggs’ Motion to Vacate his conviction for Misprision of a Felony, his failure to report the earwigging of Judge Lackey in the case of Jones v Scruggs.  However, in a March 2008 post, Earwigging — A Mississippi Tradition, Steve Eugster wrote of the earwigging by the Plaintiff’s attorney [Grady Tollison] in the Jones case: Continue reading “Flipping the wig on “whiggocracies””

Speaking of Judges – Pasty Brumfield finds Judge Lackey while looking for Wendell Blount

Ordinarily, there would be no reason for SLABBED to pick up the  north Mississippi story of Wendell Blount on the run.  However, there is nothing ordinary about the connection Patsy Brumfield made between Blount and the so-called-hero of USA v Scruggs, Judge Henry Lackey.

Background on Blount’s current caper is not of particular interest.  The “devil”,  so to speak, is in the details of his past:

Blount’s legal past is easy to follow at the federal level. He was a party to 33 bankrupty cases, 14 civil lawsuits and five criminal actions…Through the years, Blount has been involved with numerous business ventures in Calhoun County, some successful and others not.

One such business – Medical Concepts Inc. – was established in 1989 with Henry L. Lackey, who in 1993 was appointed a circuit judge by Gov. Kirk Fordice. Lackey is set to retire at the end of the year.

Lackey could not be reached for comment. State documents show Lackey resigned as the business’ agent for process in July 1990 just before it merged with a Nevada company.Earlier records show Lackey in an attorney’s role filing incorporation papers for Blount with the Mississippi secretary of state’s office.

Earlier records from an Adversary Proceeding filed in one of Blount’s bankruptcy cases show Lackey’s role was more than just that of an attorney filing incorporation papers. Continue reading “Speaking of Judges – Pasty Brumfield finds Judge Lackey while looking for Wendell Blount”

Mark you calendar – Tuesday ethics panel at UM Law

Judge Henry Lackey – who needs no introduction here – will join Oxford attorney Tom Freeland and Judge Michael P. “Mike” Mills in a discussion of judicial ethics hosted by the University of Mississippi School of Law. The panel discussion will be held in room 108 at 4:00 on Tuesday. (h/t folo for the reminder)

Freeland, not to be confused with his brother who also practices law in Oxford, is the popular NMC of folo-fame whose father practiced law with Judge Lackey. Mills, by the way, is also a talented writer and author of Tombigbee Tales.

The discussion offers a “live demonstration” of judicial ethics, as well as what’s certain to be an interesting and lively conversation – definitely no “bull” much less a mention of beef! Freeland represents indicated Georgia businessman Robert Moultrie in USA v Moultrie that will be tried in Judge Mills courtroom in August.

If you’re in the area, be there or be square – or better yet, be there and then go to the Square and enjoy Oxford.

Schema of Judge Lackey trumps any meme about his conduct

Any meme suggesting Judge Henry Lackey may be something other than a pillar of judicial integrity is more likely a different schema of Judge Lackey.

A schema (pl. schemata) is a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world… People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding…

However, schemata can influence and hamper the uptake of new information (proactive interference), such as when existing stereotypes, giving rise to limited or biased discourses and expectations (prejudices), may lead an individual to ‘see’ or ‘remember’ something that has not happened because it is more believable in terms of his/her schema:

Schema is a theory of learning – therefore, schemata are either taught or caught. In the case of Judge Lackey as the hero of USA v Scruggs, the schema was both taught and caught.

New information that falls within an individual’s schema is easily remembered and incorporated into their world view. However, when new information is perceived that does not fit a schema, many things can happen. The most common reaction is to simply ignore or quickly forget the new information. This can happen on a deep level — frequently an individual does not become conscious of or even perceive the new information. However, when the new information cannot be ignored, existing schemata must be changed. Continue reading “Schema of Judge Lackey trumps any meme about his conduct”